- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

Guests accented their cocktail attire with the occasional pink cowboy hat or fuchsia feather boa and sipped strawberry martinis at the Washington Area Concierge Association’s pink-themed Bubbles on the Potomac II: Code Rose event aboard the Odyssey III, a three-hour twilight cruise on Sunday that raised $37,000 for college scholarships, assistance for fellow concierges affected by serious illnesses, and the House of Ruth (a Washington organization that helps homeless and abused women and children).

Capt. Rick Perri piloted the 253-foot vessel, modeled after the bateaux mouches on France’s Seine River and specially built to glide under the historic bridges spanning the Potomac, before returning to port. Partygoers were treated to a stunning view of the river and the capital’s monumental skyline at dusk.

The nautical evening, featuring a silent auction, raffle, dinner buffet, cocktails and dancing, was an opportunity for members of one of the country’s largest concierge associations (about 350 members) and their associates in the hospitality industry to sit back and enjoy each other’s company and a rare opportunity to be pampered.

“We’re so busy taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves,” noted Ginny Thomason, chef concierge at the Grand Hyatt Washington and WACA’s president.

Shujaat Khan, chef concierge at the Capital Hilton and president of Les Clefs d’Or USA, the American branch of the international hotel concierge association, said guests often expect concierges to work miracles on a daily basis, drawing on every resource at their disposal — within legal and moral limits, of course — to fulfill their sometimes unusual requests.

One guest, for example, once asked Four Seasons Hotel concierge Jeff Morgan to track down a pink 1970s Cadillac limousine on short notice. Mr. Morgan produced the right vintage automobile — although the guest had to settle for powder blue.

Mere hours before arriving, Capital Hilton concierge Ada Gardner helped a guest find and purchase a plastic pig’s snout over the Internet. When asked if she has to remind herself to keep a straight face while fulfilling such requests Ms. Gardner replied, “All the time.”

“We become their counselor, friend and confidant when they’re not in their home city,” added Jack Nargil, head concierge at the Hay-Adams and director of public relations for Les Clefs d’Or USA.

The off-duty evening was an excellent opportunity for the tightly knit group to mix, mingle, share a few “war stories,” and, as Ms. Thomason pointed out, try to rejuvenate away from their posts.

“We work hard when we’re at our desks,” Ms. Thomason said as the ship pulled into port, “but we have a whole lot of fun.”

Anne Malinee

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