- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cast party

Diners at Oyamel in Penn Quarter were all atwitter Monday night after Jack Nicholson walked in and was ushered to the back room, where he joined a private cast party for the James L. Brooks romantic comedy being filmed around town. Shortly thereafter, lovebirds Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal swept by the bar to meet up with Mr. Nicholson and other members of the crew.

Mr. Gyllenhaal wore a button-down plaid shirt, somewhat reminiscent of the character he played in Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain.” The very petite Miss Witherspoon was dressed casually as well, in dark blue skinny jeans and an off-the-shoulder black shirt. That’s all we could gather from our glimpse; they were walking rather briskly, as celebrities often do.

Family ties

Sunday will mark the 30th anniversary of the untimely death of Philippe Cousteau Sr., the adventurer son of French ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

The 38-year-old Cousteau was destined to carry on the family legacy until he crashed his PBY Catalina flying boat into the Tagus River near Lisbon, Portugal, in 1979. Mr. Cousteau’s American wife, Jan, was pregnant with the couple’s second child at the time of his death.

Now living in the Washington area and active on the D.C. social circuit, Mrs. Cousteau, her 33-year-old daughter Alexandra and 29-year-old son Philippe Jr. will return to the river for the first time since the tragedy.

We hear the trip was arranged by the youngest Cousteau, who runs the local nonprofit EarthEcho International and is a correspondent for Animal Planet, as a therapeutic way for the family to honor Mr. Cousteau’s memory.

Speaking of famous family names, we ran into an Eisenhower this past weekend, as in Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, on the Sequoia, the legendary presidential yacht.

Although the Sequoia was decommissioned in the 1970s by President Carter as a government spending cut, the boat is still used for special functions, and in this case was anchored at National Harbor for a fundraiser for Luke’s Wings, a local nonprofit that flies family members of wounded soldiers abroad to be with their loved ones while they convalesce.

Ms. Eisenhower, who is an expert on U.S.-Russian relations and is president of the consulting firm the Eisenhower Group, seemed right at home on the boat. After all, she said, “I have been on the Sequoia a number of times - during the Nixon years at a cruise they gave for Prince Charles and Princess Anne and on several other, informal evenings over the years.”

But on this night, Ms. Eisenhower was not there to brush shoulders with royalty or high rollers, but with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan whose families have been helped by Luke’s Wings.

“I try to do anything I can to support our troops. All of us need to do what we can to thank them for their commitment and their sacrifices,” she said.

Ms. Eisenhower did, however, ruffle some feathers last year when she left the party of her grandfather and endorsed then-candidate Barack Obama for president.

“I was in Normandy when the president spoke. I talked to him then,” she said of her contact with the commander in chief.

Could an Eisenhower be joining the administration, perhaps? What would the general think of that?

Jazzin’ up

They said it couldn’t be done, but jazz artist Marcus Johnson is blazing trails with his new contemporary jazz album, “Poetically Justified,” produced locally by his label, Three Keys Music.

“People said you couldn’t have a successful label out of Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Johnson told us at his release party at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown. ” ‘What are you thinking?’ ‘Who do you think you are?’ ‘This is not a music town.’ It seems like every step of the way there was someone with a little discouragement for us.

“D.C. has a stigma as being a conservative music town,” Mr. Johnson added. “The jazz coming out of D.C. has been traditional. The largest jazz festival on the East Coast is here - the Capital Jazz Fest - and we have the Silver Spring Jazz Festival in September. We’re just overcoming the fact that D.C. used to be purely a government town. When we go on the national scene, people are definitely watching, looking at how are we doing this.”

Perhaps artists don’t need to relocate to New York or Los Angeles to be successful, after all.

• To contact Stephanie Green or Elizabeth Glover, e-mail undercover@washingtontimes.com.

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