- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 14, 2004

Something funny happened on the way to Fight Night. The ladies took over.

“I don’t know if we’ve eclipsed them, but who wants to stand around in a room full of smoke and ring-card girls,” said Knock Out Abuse founder Jill Sorensen Robert. “Tonight is the ultimate girls’ night out.”

Fifteen years ago, her former husband Joe E. Robert, Jr. threw a fund-raiser to benefit Fight for Children featuring smelly cigars, skimpily dressed “hostesses” and a real live ring complete with sweaty boxers. And then there were the pugilists. Guests were told to leave their spouses at home.

The former Mrs. Robert (a onetime fashion model) threw a counterpunch in 1993, organizing her own party of 30 supporters at the Cafe Milano to benefit abused women. The twin parties, held on the same night, have become the Washington sports and business world equivalent of a stag and bachelorette booze-off, with both teams claiming victory.

Both charity events began with cocktails at 6:30 p.m., the 2,000 men in black tie at the Hilton Towers; the women (their number now 750 guests at $350 a head) in snazzy cocktail attire at the Ritz-Carlton.

The night offered a unique litmus test of why the battle of the sexes is still a draw:

What the women drank: White wine, Cosmos, champagne, Perrier.

What the men drank: Red wine, Chivas neat, beer from the bottle, vodka shooters — and all to great excess.

What the women smoked: A few bad girls in Ralph Lauren snuck Marlboro Lights.

What the men smoked: Cigars. Duh. But not all the way. Most were props to aid swaggering. Some brought their own breath spray.

What the women ate: Girly bites of artichoke hors d’oevres, pumpkin ravioli, balsamic chicken.

What the men ate:Crab cakes, 16-ounce sirloin steaks.

What the men missed: Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl, Czech model Veronica Varekova, 27, on her first visit to Washington, wearing a cleavage-bearing black dress and looking around at the swarm of women as if she was at the wrong party. “Zer are no men allowed?”

Also:

m Diet Coke commercial hunk and TV actor Lucky Vanous, who thought he was at the right party. “I’ve never seen these odds before. What do they have over there? Cigars. I love cigars, but there’s no question I’d rather be here.”

m Sleek, streaked blondes in BCBG. Handsome volunteer “walkers” escorting the women down the carpeted stairs. “I need one of these for home. I need a man,” said a 33-year old single in sales from Washington. “Maybe hand me a glass of wine.”

m John Riggins, the auctioneer, and ABC News’ Sam Donaldson, the emcee, and what appeared to be a small trapped animal topping his famous balding crown. (We kid because we love.)

What the women missed: Their ex-boyfriends. Ex-husbands.

m Laser show.

m The Wizards’ Brendan Haywood.

• The Redskins’ cheerleaders in white plastic underwear and Nancy Sinatra leather boots hawking $50 signed calendars. (Where do they still find these costumes? Dan Snyder must have a factory somewhere in Malaysia).

m “Raging Bull” Jake LaMotta, boxing legend “Smokin’” Joe Frazier.

m Redskins star running back Clinton Portis, looking like a Mervis diamond ad and sporting a gangsta fedora.

m Redskins media favorite Mr. Nice Guy LaVar Arrington with his Beyonce-looking fiancee, who said, no, she wasn’t the least bit interested in attending the other all-female party across town. “She’s a better Beyonce,” Mr. Arrington said. As for the stogies, he said, “I like a fine cigar. Off-season.”

m Charlie Daniels and his band.

m And “hostesses” in Ross Dress For Less “gowns” waiting on the tables — many of them looking bored.

The women auctioned: Bartending class, a week in Wyoming, tickets to the Grammy Awards, Botox treatments.

The men auctioned: Super Bowl tickets, a Harley-Davidson Softail Fat Boy motorcycle which sold for $80,000. And that didn’t include a bell for the handle bars.

The women took home: pink roses, goody bags with Georgio Armani cosmetics.

The men took home: phone numbers of the hostesses on napkins which hopefully will not be discovered before the tux goes to the cleaners.

The charities took home: an estimated $2.6 million combined.

By 11 p.m., the men began arriving at the women’s party to “dance the night away” to the music of a DJ. The women set up popcorn machines and hot dog stands for their counterparts, who strode into the Ritz ballroom looking like bantam weight contenders.

“The funny thing is, they’re coming over earlier and earlier each year,” noted publicist Linda Roth, who was honored earlier in the evening.

Only one question remains: Who gets the remote when Comcast TV broadcasts the event?

— Stephanie Mansfield

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