- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Most Washington charity benefits are fairly sober affairs, featuring gray-haired philanthropists, earnest speeches and a crowd that starts slipping out the door soon after the coffee is poured.
The Reptilian Cotillion, a black-tie fund-raiser for the SEED Foundation, does not fall in that category.
The 700 guests mostly between the ages of 25 and 40 who attended Saturday's party at the National Press Club were, by tradition, far more interested in having a good time than pushing a good cause even if organizers expected to raise about $30,000. The money goes to the SEED School in Southeast, the first urban public boarding school in the nation.
The event, co-chaired by Winston Bao Lord, Yardly Gray and Susan Strawbridge, included several free-flowing bars and quite a few plunging necklines.
"Tight" and "shoulder-baring" would best describe most of the dresses, the most stunning of which was designed by Wendy Pepper of Middleburg. She came to the cotillion with a friend, Michelle Lawrence, who served as model for one of the designer's hand-crafted works: an elegant silver gown open nearly to the navel, where it was just barely held together by a small dragonfly clasp.
"I'm the bait for the reptiles," Miss Lawrence joked.
The $80-a-ticket romp had more than a passing resemblance to a fraternity party, albeit with expensive clothes and sponsorship from the Ritz-Carlton. It was the sort of affair where a woman in a black cocktail dress sipped from a bottle of Bud Light and her male counterpart smoked clove cigarettes with his buddies, flicking his ashes on the carpet. A Motown cover band, Johnny White & the Elite, played "Disco Inferno" and "My Girl," inciting some energetic dancing. Because the popular event tends to draw cheapie party crashers, a burly security guard was at the door to turn away freeloaders.
Inflatable plastic dinosaurs drove home the reptilian theme, chosen by the organizers 15 years ago quite simply because the word rhymes with "cotillion." "I love that, it's so stupid," said Martha Rooney Webb, director of development for the SEED Foundation. Her husband, David Webb, was one of the founders, "a group of guys who wanted to have fun," she explained.
The cotillion has developed a reputation for being a spirited (in more ways than one) pre-Thanksgiving kickoff to the holiday party season, not to mention a choice opportunity to meet unattached, attractive and often well-connected members of the opposite sex.
That's why, according to an amused Mrs. Webb, "People call and say, 'Are you sure singles will be there? How old are the guests?' Nobody asks about the SEED Foundation."
No matter. Rajiv Vinnakota, the young co-founder (with Eric Adler) of the SEED School, said he's grateful for the party throwers' philanthropy, which will help boost enrollment from 230 to 300 students next year.

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