- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005

How dull would Washington be without the impossibly blond and beautiful Rima al-Sabah, wife of Kuwaiti Ambassador Sheikh Salem al-Sabah? No one entertains like Rima.

No one says “no” to Rima.

Whatever Rima wants, Rima gets, and Tuesday night, she got an A-List crowd at her fond and fabulous farewell party for popular Swedish Ambassador Jan Eliasson, complete with a group of ABBA impersonators in white go-go boots, masses of blue and yellow flowers in honor of the Swedish flag, lobster salad, herb-crusted lamb and little edible chocolate frames with a photo of Mr. Eliasson and his wife, Kerstin, who flew in especially from Sweden, where she serves as deputy minister of science and education.

Mr. Eliasson is off to New York to become president of the United Nations General Assembly. “It’s a big task. I face it with humility,” he said, admitting that his feelings were bittersweet about leaving Washington after five years en poste.

One beau geste deserves another, especially on Embassy Row, so it was only fitting that after the faux ABBAs appeared in Swedish costume to rekindle the spirit of the ‘70s with the group’s most famous hits, the dashing diplomat and his wife of 36 years would take to the the floor for a lively jitterbug to “Dancing Queen.” “People thought we had practiced,” Mr. Eliasson said later, “but it was absolutely spontaneous.”

NON-DANCER: Intelligence czar John Negroponte, who did the Beltway Bolt before the floor show ended. (Several jaws dropped, as he was seated on Mrs. al-Sabah’s right, but the hostess had granted dispensation for early leave.)

BEST DRESSED: Gale Hayman in a crimson silk faille couture creation by Pierre Balmain, circa 1962; Alexandra de Borchgrave in a turquoise Ralph Lauren silk organza skirt and lime green top worn with bijoux by Kenneth J. Lane; Mary Ourisman in a white scalloped Oscar de la Renta skirt, simple low-cut top and eye-popping new diamond ring; and Mrs. al-Sabah in a long black Dolce & Gabbana sheath.

WORST DRESSED: Actress and Kennedy Center trustee Bo Derek, who insists on wearing gray pants suits to major parties. Bo, you’re still a “10.” We know you’re a serious working girl now.

BEST DINNER PARTNER: Former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, fresh off the “Deep Throat” talk-show circuit, still the sexiest man who could keep a secret.

ABSENT DINNER PARTNER: Larger-than-life composer Marvin Hamlish, who showed up after most of the guests had gone to beddy, ate in the empty dining room and regaled stragglers with witty anecdotes.

Earlier, there were serious jewels, Brioni ties and many familiar faces in the crowd: Justice Stephen Breyer; Sen. Thad Cochran; Cabinet members Norman Mineta (transportation) Carlos M. Gutierrez (commerce), Michael Chertoff (homeland security), Alphonso Jackson (housing and urban development) and Samuel W. Bodman (energy); Chief of Protocol Donald Ensenat; Sam Donaldson; Kathleen Matthews; C. Boyden Gray with Lally Weymouth (who chair-danced and knew every word to “Dancing Queen”); Debbie Dingell; Bill and Ann Nitze; Steve and Cate Wyatt; Jim Hoagland and Jane Stanton Hitchcock and Diane Williams.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT: Definitely the Swedes’ showstopping dance routine.

As Mr. Eliasson classily noted apres-party, “Diplomacy is always part choreography.”

Stephanie Mansfield

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