- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

You can't fault the diplomatic set on hosting good parties; but Friday's farewell fling for a popular couple, Greek Ambassador Aleko Philon and his wife, Eleni, set a new standard.
Twelve friends of social and ambassadorial rank combined forces and talents to give a dinner dance for 125 guests at Villa Firenze, home of Italian Ambassador Ferdinando Salleo and his wife, Anna Maria, a bittersweet occasion in a way because the Philons, at his retirement next month, will be living far away in Athens, where he will head his country's foreign affairs office of planning and analysis.
The evening's theme had a sentimental side as well: Some among the 12 had been to India on a study-travel tour this year with Eleni Philon, an Islamic scholar.
Invitations were embossed with a gold elephant that was re-created at the event in novel form from black balloons and chicken wire under Aniko Gaal Schott's guidance. The women who had been on the trip wore saris. Indian ambassadorial staffers adorned all the female guests with multicolored carnation leis.
The elephant was the backdrop for some poignant remarks by French Ambassador Francois Bujon de l'Estang, who surprised many in the crowd when he mentioned that Mr. Philon had served as the best man at his wedding to his wife, Anne, and that the two couples had served together in New York and London and twice in Washington during their long diplomatic careers.
"Even the skies tonight show their sadness that you are leaving," Mr. Bujon de l'Estang said, waxing rhapsodic as the guests crowded in from the terrace on the misty, rain-filled night.
It was not a event where protocol reigned, just "a night for friends," Mrs. Salleo said, indicating the round tables, covered with aromatic candles and scattered rose petals, that allowed for intimate and easy conversation.
The buffet risotto, pastas and other wonderful Italian fare was sumptuous, as was the French contribution of dozens of exquisite cheeses arrayed on a single table in a separate room. "I've seen cheeses before, but never a room full of them," remarked Nina Pillsbury, making her pick after noting that she would be signing on with Mrs. Philon for the next visit to India.
Prodded on what they might miss least about Washington, Mrs. Philon gushed instead about the delights and wonders of the city she said she would miss "dreadfully friends most of all." The thoughtful Mr. Philon was more direct: "No more interviews on television by remote when I have to face only a blank wall."
Former Cypriot Ambassador Andrew Jacovides, recalling his two terms of service in Washington, remarked how "if you are ambassador here, you are in the mainstream. New York is mainly the center of finance and advertising." (Mr. Jacovides knew Mr. Philon when both were bachelors in New York in the 1960s. Both men were assigned at the time to the United Nations.)
"Washington is a small town with big people, and New York is a big town with small people except for some of us," relayed American-born Pamela Jacovides, quoting an unnamed New York City official from the time when Mrs. Jacovides also held a U.N. post.
Many guests stayed on to dance after dinner, with the co-hosting couples doing their best to keep things lively until the midnight hour.
The Salleos and Bujon de l'Estangs joined Mrs. Schott and her husband, Nash; Mandell and Mary Ourisman; Dr. LaSalle and Ruth Leffall; and Jo Ann and John Mason on the dance floor as the disc jockey spun Latin numbers, show tunes and vintage rock 'n' roll hits that inspired the more energetic to kick up their heels on the dance floor, especially Barbara Harrison, Arturo and Hilda Brillembourg, Marie Ridder, Lucky Roosevelt, Ina Ginsburg, Malcolm and Pamela Peabody and, oh yes, British journalist Martin Walker, who got the evening's "crazy legs" award for his fast-paced routine to the Rolling Stones' "Get Off of My Cloud."
Here's who else was there: Johnny and Betsey Apple, Huda and Samia Farouki, Bitsey Folger and Dr. Sidney Werkman, Leo and Grega Daly, Julie Finley, Arnaud and Alexandra de Borchgrave, Tom Korologos and Ann McLaughlin Korologos, William Howard Taft IV and Julia Taft, Jonathan Ledecky and Skye Raiser, Penne Percy Korth, Kay Kendall, Lloyd and Ann Hand, Alfred and Pie Friendly, Marc and Jaqui Leland, Finlay and Willee Lewis, Evelyn Nef, Avis Bohlen, Magda Chrobog, Walter and Didi Cutler, Lloyd Cutler and Polly Kraft and the ambassadors of Great Britain, Mexico, Colombia, Russia, Brazil and India.

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