Two Washington institutions celebrated anniversaries this weekend. Both count the city’s most powerful among its patrons, with bragging rights to some of DC's most powerful real-estate. One is a household name; the other provides a household necessity.
The first, the Four Seasons Hotel, celebrated its 35th anniversary on Pennsylvania Avenue in Georgetown Friday evening in its own ballroom. The turnout would have been estimable even if only the denizens of the hotel restaurant’s weekday “power breakfast” club had showed up, as they did: BFFs superlawyer Vernon Jordan, Fannie Mae CEO James Johnson, and Kennedy Center Honors impresario George Stevens, plus CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf, two other breakfast-time regulars.
Presiding over the party was the founder and chairman of the Four Seasons chain, Isadore Sharp, and the Washington hotel’s current general manager, Dirk Burghartz. Ward 2 City Council member Jack Evans, spotted talking with both, came armed with a city proclamation honoring the hotel.
The other honoree this weekend was Wagner Roofing. Who? Take a look at the firm’s list of clients, easily a match for the Four Seasons roster: the White House, the US Naval Academy, the Maryland State House in Annapolis, DC’s Old Post Office Building, Lincoln’s Cottage, the Mormon Temple, the Smithsonian Castles, and the Washington National Cathedral. We could go on, but do we really need to?
Chuck and Sheila Wagner hosted a party on Saturday night at Congressional Country Club to mark 100 years since Wagner’s grandfather, Otto, founded the company in Northeast DC. (It is now based in Hyattsville, Maryland.)
Looming over the gathering was an elaborate metal ram’s head. We asked Chuck Wagner about its provenance. He explained that when Wagner Roofing did a complete renovation of the mansard roof of the Beaux Arts Folger Building on 15th Street, Northwest, the metal adornment—one of a few—was basically surplus, so he claimed it for himself. Where does it hang now, when not in a party room at Congressional? “On my house, overlooking the garden.”
It’s not often that a Saturday-night country club party also features a display of tools. But this one did, including mallets, hammers, stakes, cleats, and soldering irons. Oh, and cocktails and sushi, too.
When chef Daniel Boulud opened his new DBGB DC restaurant on Friday night, he got upstaged by a baby. It was his son, Julien, who arrived with mother Katherine after dark, as the crowded party hit maximum capacity and volume. it was only a matter of minutes before the whole family, including Boulud’s daughter, Alix, were pounced upon by photographers. Julien, in red bow tie and red-and-white-striped socks, appeared to take it in stride, as if this is what happens whenever he goes out with his famous father.
Boulud has restaurants in nine cities around the world, including New York, Singapore, and London, but DBGB DC is significant because this new venture is a kind of homecoming. Boulud started his career in the US in Washington, in the early 1970s, when he arrived from France to be chef to the French ambassador to the European Union. From DC it was off to New York, and the acclaim and awards followed. He has eight restaurants in Manhattan.
DBGB DC, a bistro concept that intersects French and American fare, is located at the new CityCenter complex in downtown near the Convention Center. It opened to the public on Saturday, but Friday evening was the “grand opening” party for 350 invited guests. They were welcomed with house cocktails and buffet tables of Boulud specialties, ranging from pâtés and sausages to hand-carved roasted lamb with couscous and an assortment of cheeses. Servers passed Boulud’s signature hamburgers (a version with crabcakes topping the beef patty), plus fried calamari, cheese gougères, and smoked salmon canapés.
Also on hand to wish Boulud well were chefs Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington, Mark Furstenberg of Bread Furst on Connecticut Avenue, and chef/television personality Carla Hall, who lives in Washington; as well as media, publicists and notables of Washington’s food community, including La Piquette owner Francis Layrle, who has known Boulud since the early days in DC, when Layrle was chef at the French Embassy.
Find Carol Ross Joynt on Twitter at @caroljoynt.
It plays like a mixtape of the greatest hits, failures, and disputes of the past half century of American wars, but the sobering part of a new documentary, American War Generals, is its undeniable relevance to right now.
The two-hour film, which airs on the National Geographic Channel September 14, had its Washington premiere Monday at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue. Among the invited audience of 700 were many of the Army generals featured in the film, including Barry McCaffrey, who commanded the 24th Infantry in Desert Storm, former ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark, and David Petraeus, the former CIA director who was also commander of the US Central Command.
Produced by husband-and-wife team Peter Bergen and Tresha Mabile, the film devotes most of its time to Afghanistan and Iraq, citing sobering statistics on American and Iraqi deaths (4,489 and more than 150,000, respectively) and the cost to US taxpayers (more than $2 trillion). Violence in Iraq in 2014, the film claims, is at its highest since 2008.
But there are other names of wars that are familiar and chill the soul—Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert Storm—and that, even when seemingly successful, came at a high cost. “The cost of war is something, as a leader, you can never allow yourself to forget,” says former Iraq War commander General George Casey as he’s shown walking among the graves of his soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery.
Not at the party was retired General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of US forces in Afghanistan whose resignation was demanded by President Obama after McChrystal gave a too-candid interview (for one thing, mocking Vice President Biden) to Rolling Stone in 2010.
In the film, McChrystal, in a sports shirt, talks about the episode. “I read the article. As soon as I read it, I knew the import. I knew this was going to take off.” He was immediately called to Washington and the White House, where the President accepted his resignation. Fifteen minutes later, “in the car I’m thinking, what just happened? My career just ended. Everything I believe in me is in question.”
McChrystal is no less candid in his assessment of the overall Iraq war effort. “The invasion of Iraq, I don’t think, can be judged any other way than as a mistake,” he says, recalling the loss of American, Iraqi, and other lives. “If we looked at the distrust that it created, or the loss of trust, around the world for America, I don’t think a rational person would ever have said, ‘We’ll do that.’”
Bergen cited Barry McCaffrey as also particularly “unedited” in his interview remarks. McCaffery recalls the initial invasion of Iraq and spares no blame. “I think taking down Saddam was actually the right thing to do,” he says. “Screwing up the military operation was not. So I have a permanent sense of hatred for what Secretary [Donald] Rumseld [did], in particular.” We asked Bergen whether it was easy to get these powerful and often guarded military men to talk. “No,” he said, “but if it was easy we wouldn’t do it, would we?”
Bergen posed for pictures and mingled for a while with guests, which included National Geographic executives, members of Congress, diplomats, and a group the guest list identified as “elite media,” including Ed Henry of Fox News, Jim Avila of ABC News, Jonathan Martin of Politico, Eleanor Clift of Daily Beast, and Frances Townsend and Brianna Keilar of CNN.*
*This post has been updated from a previous version.
The birthday card was splattered with messages that almost obscured the image of a fedora-wearing, cigar-chomping Kevin Spacey, and the greeting: “Happy Birthday to a man who wears a lot of hats.” Among the scrawls was “Not to mention pants,” from Rachel Goslins, director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, “Happy B-Day,” from White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard, and this from Terry McAuliffe’s friend and fundraiser Peter O’Keefe: “From the Clinton Library opening to your birthday!”
They were among a select group of friends, and current and would-be corporate supporters of Kevin Spacey’s foundation, who gathered on a sunny and breezy Georgetown rooftop Tuesday evening to drink Champagne and sign the custom-made birthday greeting for the House of Cards star, who turned 55 last Saturday.
The fact that Spacey was elsewhere, filming the hit series, didn’t diminish the celebration.
The guests were mostly lobbying insiders, including Heather Podesta, Erik Huey, James Assey, Gerry Harrington, and Melissa Maxfield, who gathered on the Capella hotel rooftop to meet and greet Spacey surrogate Steve Winter, who has worked with the actor for ten years in London and New York and is program director of the four-year-old Kevin Spacey Foundation. Winter was practically dizzy from a whirlwind day that included a first-ever visit to the United States Capitol, where he met the chiefs of staff of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Steny Hoyer. Wednesday, Winter was scheduled for another personal first: a visit to the White House to meet with Bernard, among others.
The turnout at the party and Winter’s access around town is a testament to the power in Washington of Spacey, who has been a political groupie for years, well before helping to create the Emmy-nominated Netflix show in which he stars as Frank Underwood, a devious political animal who begins as Democratic Majority Whip and rises rapidly through the ranks. As far back as Dick Gephardt’s 2004 campaign for the presidency, Spacey was spotted on the hustings. Today, according to Winter, the politician he hangs out with is former president Bill Clinton. Since Spacey is a noted crooner and Clinton is a sometimes saxophonist, we wondered if there’d been any duets. Not yet, said Winter, “but that’s an idea.”
Last night, Washingtonian’s annual Best of Washington bash went down at the National Building Museum, offering attendees the chance to sample food from more than 60 of the area’s top restaurants. There were also specialty cocktails, Cirque du Soleil-style performances, a chance to go through the BIG Maze at the museum, and lots more. See what people loved the most in our social-media roundup below.
Patrick O’Connell, chef/owner of the Inn at Little Washington, and Brian Noyes, chef/owner of Warrenton’s Red Truck Bakery, both blew in from rural Virginia Tuesday night despite approaching thunder, lightning, and rain. Todd Gray of Equinox was so intent on being there he raced over in his white chef’s jacket, dappled with raindrops. No one was going to let summer storms get between them and a good party.
The event was at Joe’s Stone Crab to thank those who gave of their time and talent (and food) at last year’s Chefs for Equality dinner, and to set the stage for this year’s gala at the Ritz-Carlton West End on September 23.
As the city’s foodie elite feasted on a trough of crab, oysters, shrimp, and scallops, food writer David Hagedorn, a cohost of the gala, praised “the greatest chef community in the entire country” for supporting the LGBT Human Rights Campaign Foundation, which the dinner benefits. As Hagedorn raised his glass to “the chefs, the mixologists, the pastry chefs, the auction donors,” Marcel’s chef/owner, Robert Wiedmaier, interjected sotto voce, “and the sommeliers.” Hagedorn replied, to laughter, “The sommeliers, of course. Thank you, Robert Wiedmaier, my agent, though I think 20 percent is a little high.”
Other food names in the room included Derek Brown of the Shaw trio Eat the Rich, Mockingbird Hill, and Southern Efficiency; Maria Trabocchi of Fiola, Fiola Mare, and Casa Luca; Ris Lacoste of Ris; Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground; Scott Drewno from the Source; David Guas of Bayou Bakery; and Billy Klein of Joe’s, among others.
One chef who wasn’t there, Michel Richard, still got some buzz. Wiedmaier, a close friend of the owner of Central and the shuttered Citronelle, confirmed that Richard has moved back to Washington from New York, where he has more or less parted company with his two dismally reviewed Midtown restaurants. Wiedmaier said Richard is, for the moment, holding court at Central but hinted at the possibility of a resurgent Citronelle.
Trabocchi, who has been welcoming a long menu of celebrities to her new Fiola Mare in Georgetown, mentioned that actor Pierce Brosnan, who has been in a few times recently (his son is interning in Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey’s office), lived up to his charm as the fictional characters James Bond and Thomas Crown.
But Hagedorn made sure to keep the evening focused on the cause at hand. With Virginia’s contested same-sex marriage ban now in the hands of an appeals court, and marriage equality is “within our grasp over the river,” he said, the theme of this year’s fundraiser will be “Virginia Real.” Expect moonshine.
Nearly 500 people gathered at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Saturday evening for a gala celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Humane Society of the United States and the tenth anniversary of Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS.
Since its inception in 1954, the organization has helped make animal cruelty a felony in all 50 states. In the past decade years, HSUS has been responsible for passing nearly 1,000 anti-cruelty laws. And on Saturday night alone, more than $500,000 was raised to continue the fight.
“Over these 60 years, we’ve established ourselves as the real thought leader, and the biggest impact organization in the field of animal welfare,” said Pacelle in remarks at the gala. “I’m excited that so many people of conscience have gathered together to decide that collectively, we’re going to do something about animal cruelty, and create a better society for animals and for people.”
The evening began with a cocktail reception, complete with a silent auction and opportunities to mingle with notable animal lovers. HSUS chairman Eric Bernthal was in attendance, accompanied by his three sons, one of whom, actor Jon Bernthal, is known for his role as Shane on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Congressman Jim Moran, a staunch supporter of animal rights, also visited with guests.
“We’re in the trenches every day,” said Eric Bernthal. “It’s wonderful to be able to have a night where we’re among friends and celebrating all the great accomplishments of HSUS.”
Jon Bernthal calls himself a “big pit bull guy”—he owns two of them. He spoke passionately about putting a stop to puppy mills and dog fighting. “I just want them to keep doing exactly what they’re doing,” he said of the HSUS. “I think information will breed change and the HSUS is a great organization for getting information out there.”
A vegan dinner—spinach salad, butternut-squash-and-kale lasagna, and chocolate cake—followed the cocktail hour. Guests enjoyed their meals around centerpieces filled with water and floating lilies as two giant screens at the front flashed images of animals and their saviors.
Actor Ben Stein played host for the night, cracking jokes about his fellow animal lovers. Congressman Moran received the evening’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Moran, who retires from office after this term, has been at the forefront of several anti-cruelty laws, including the Humane Cosmetics Act. He accepted the award to a standing ovation.
And as for HSUS’s goals over the next 60 years, Pacelle said the organization is focused on expanding its mission internationally.
In a bold and possibly brave move—given Washington’s passion for US soccer at the World Cup—the German Embassy plans to host a large soccer party at Dupont Circle Park on Thursday for the US-Germany showdown. The Embassy says it expects the gathering to be “the largest public viewing event in Washington.”
Spokesperson Bradford Elder said the party begins at 11:30, with remarks from Ambassador Peter Wittig at 11:40. At noon, the game will be broadcast on two “large, weather- and glare-proof screens.” The party lasts until the game is over—win, lose, or draw.
It’s open to anyone who wants to attend. People can bring their lunch, because no food or drink will be served by the Embassy, in compliance with National Park Service rules, said Elder.
We had to ask, though, what will they do if a riot breaks out should Germany win? The spokesman got very serious. “It remains to be seen what the breakdown of fans will be, but we expect as many supporters of the US as Germany, a balanced fan base.”
Where will you be watching the game? We’d love to hear in our comments section, especially if you have a clever way to score a two-hour lunch break.
STK kicked off the AT&T Best of Washington season with a happy hour on Tuesday, June 17. With a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, party-goers enjoyed a Cucumber Stiletto signature cocktail and STK’s famous mini burgers, mac-and-cheese bites, tuna tartare, and basil-marinated tomatoes. Guests were able to purchase discounted tickets to the main event—the AT&T Best of Washington party on July 16 at the National Building Museum. Join us for the next happy hour on Tuesday, June 24, at Lyon Hall in Arlington or on Wednesday, June 25, at Bethesda Row!
Holding a tent party in Washington in June requires a well-developed sense of perspective.“Whoever was responsible for the weather, thank you,” Barbara Shea, board chair of the Friends of the National Arboretum, said over the multitude of floor fans at the group’s annual cookout Tuesday night. A crowd of 550 horticulturists, business leaders, and politicians gathered despite the heat, humidity, and threats of gusty thunderstorms. “We’ve sometimes had dramatic weather for this event,” said Shea. “Heat is the least of our worries.”
Each year, according to honored tradition, the cookout celebrates a different state. This year it was the “Show Me” state, Missouri, and for that reason, almost the entire Missouri congressional delegation was in the tent, including senators William Lacy Clay and Roy Blunt, who went table to table to say hello to friends; and representatives Emanuel Cleaver, Vicky Hartzler, Billy Long, Jason Smith, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Earl Blumenauer, and Tom Petri. Representing DC were council members Kenyan McDuffie and Tommy Wells, who was there with his wife, Barbara.
As part of the state recognition, the Arboretum Excellence Award was presented to Peter H. Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden and a recipient of the US National Medial of Science. He has a long résumé of public garden development, scientific research, and published works, among them Butterflies and Plants: A Study in Coevolution and the textbook Biology of Plants. When she introduced Raven, Barbara Shea recalled that earlier in the day he had participated in a public “conversation” about his work. “Most of our interns came to that event because they wanted to see the man who wrote the book they learned plant sciences from.”
Raven, who just turned 78, was gracious and appreciative in his acceptance speech, but seemed, too, to be keenly aware of politics, given the mix of elected officials listening to him. He talked about global warming. “Liberals love to say that global warming is happening and that everybody should shut down everything.” On the other hand, he said, “Conservatives are still hanging on to the outmoded view that it isn’t really happening at all.” His opinion? “Global warming is merely a consensus of the world’s scientific community arrived at by a rational process.”