- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2006

Apres the doldrums, the deluge.

Engraved invitations. Silk Versaces out of plastic and tuxedos freshly dry-cleaned. Cufflinks and cummerbunds back into play, bling on display. As anyone on the city’s “Most Wanted” list knows, the dreaded lull of summer has turned to September, when official Washington rinses out the sand and gets back to the business of surfing the social circuit.

“It’s exhausting,” said Jacqueline Leland, wife of financial adviser Mark Leland. “We’re terrible. It’s quite amazing. We have at least three parties a week, sometimes every day.”

Mrs. Leland said she already has bought “seven or eight” new dresses. “I buy too many things.”

And yes, she said, many faces do look surprisingly younger come September.

“That’s true. If you were to have something done, summer would be the right time,” she said.

Balls and galas are crucial events in a unique city such as Washington, where socializing is a job requirement, whether in business, politics, the arts or the press.

“Just hang a pork chop in the window and they’ll come,” legendary Washington hostess Pearl Mesta said.

These days, it’s veal roulade, salmon mousse and chocolate bombes, washed down with $75 Napa Valley chardonnay and double-malt scotch as well as the parting “goody bags” stuffed with Tiffany trinkets, massage certificates and canvas makeup kits.

The gates swing open tomorrow evening with the John F. Kennedy Center’s National Symphony Orchestra Season Opening Ball.

“The season’s beginning with a bang,” former White House Chief of Protocol Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt said.

Then there’s the Ambassadors Ball at the Grand Hyatt, the Pen/Faulkner Awards, Tudor Place Tribute to Three Benefactors, USO Gala at the National Building Museum, Washington Design Center Preview, Atlantic Magazine’s 150th Anniversary at the Mandarin Oriental, Washington International Horse Show, Charity Works Dream Ball, Meridian House Ball, National Italian American Gala, Best Buddies Ball, Lombardi Gala, packed in between big-name book parties, embassy receptions, awards dinners and charity fashion shows.

It’s enough to cause gala glut.

“Let’s say there’s a lot,” said jewelry designer Ann Hand, who is on the top of every party list with her husband, lawyer Lloyd Hand. “You could be out every single night. There’s a gaggle of invitations, and all are juicy and wonderful and you’d like to do every one.”

Officially, the whirlwind ends after the Kennedy Center Honors on Dec. 3, when the party animals go into hibernation until the next spring.

“The fall gets you all revved up,” said Patricia O’Kelly, who works in the Kennedy Center’s press office.

Rima Al-Sabah, the glamorous wife of Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah, is currently the city’s No. 1 hostess and always-in-demand guest.

“I really enjoy Washington in September,” she said. “It’s nice to be back in the groove of things. It’s good to see everybody and touch base after the holidays.”

She said the euphoria lasts until December. “Then it starts getting exhausting.”

In the offices of Design Cuisine, an upscale caterer, the phones are trilling.

“After Labor Day the calls were coming in like crazy. We’re in the thick of it right now,” Chief Executive Officer Kathy Valentine said.

They’re so busy, she said, that many parties have moved to January for lack of available space during the frenzied fall season.

So, no rest for the bleary.

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