- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

There were no elaborate sets re-creating the glories of Venice, Paris or Budapest at the Folger Shakespeare Library's annual spring gala Friday night. No Doc Scantlin and his Imperial Palms Orchestra blasting out "Puttin' on the Ritz" with feather-covered dancers leading diplomats, dowagers and octogenarian industrialists in a conga line through the New Reading Room. No Royal Guests (Princess Alexandra and Princess Michael of Kent in different years). No masses of roses covering every available surface (as when Lucky Roosevelt was chairman). No Arianna Huffington sweeping in like Cinderella in acres of billowing chiffon.
This year's benefit was decidedly low-key, perhaps because of the solemnity of marking the library's 70th anniversary. Perhaps also because candy mogul Forrest E. Mars Jr. (who co-chaired the $1,000-per-person event with his wife, Deborah) doesn't much care for publicity except where it helps boost the sales of Snickers, Three Musketeers and Milky Way.
The Mars family is "even more press-shy than the du Ponts, which is saying quite a lot," said one guest who preferred not to be quoted. No doubt true but hardly surprising inasmuch as Mr. Mars and his two siblings, John Mars and Jacqueline Badger Mars (who both attended), have a combined fortune estimated at $27 billion on Forbes magazine's Richest Americans list
The co-chairing couple were definitely hands-on as far as food and appointments were concerned. They supervised tastings for the conservative but excellent dinner (Maryland crab, roasted breast of pheasant with foie gras and chocolate-inspired what else? dessert. Different-colored centerpieces of roses (peach, red, and scarlet) and irises turned out to be striking but were "considered a bit racy at first," one organizer revealed.
The Mars family's friends and associates made up much of the guest list along with visiting board members of Amherst College (which owns and operates the library) and a sizable contingent of Folger trustees there to honor Werner Gundersheimer (who is retiring in July, after 18 years as the library's director) and to meet his successor, Shakespearean scholar Gail Kern Paster. The few gala stalwarts from previous years included C. Boyden Gray, Huda and Samia Farouki, David and Charlotte Greenewalt, Mary Weinmann, Dr. LaSalle and Ruth Leffall, Ernest and Betty May, William H.G. and Annelise FitzGerald, Roger and Victoria Sant, and Giuseppe and Mercedes Cecchi.
Compared with the conga lines of yore, the entertainment was notably high-brow: Actress Lynn Redgrave and actors from the Folger Theatre's company quoted the Bard's timeless lines (the non-bawdy ones, that is) in a rapid-fire recitation that had many in the erudite audience lip-synching along.
There were a few famous invectives as well.
"You puny, paunchy, pribbling, plumed, plucked politicians," one young actor shouted as former Sen. Alan K. Simpson's eyebrow arched in amusement.
But no matter. The Wyoming solon will always love the Folger, which he discovered years back while trying to duck an important vote on the Senate floor.
"I changed my mind on the Clinch River Breeder Reactor and [Senate Majority Leader] Howard Baker was trying to find me to get my vote," Mr. Simpson remembered. "I walked over to the Folger, sat down in an armchair and started reading Shakespeare while they were doing the roll call."
It turned out to be the perfect hiding place.
"He never did find me," Mr. Simpson said.

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