A Night Out: Kathleen Matthews' Marriott Soiree

As WJLA bids adieu to its long-time anchor Kathleen Matthews, local hotel giant Marriott welcomes its newest executive.

By: Garrett M. Graff

What: Welcome to Marriott reception for Kathleen Matthews

Where: The Ritz-Carlton in the West End

When: Monday night, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30ish

Who: Guest lists don't get much better than this in Washington without the President or a Hollywood star. Everyone from her WJLA colleagues (Gordon Peterson, Maureen Bunyan, Leon Harris, et al.) to local business leaders (Jim Kimsey) to other media friends (Fox's Chris Wallace, CNN's Ed Henry, NBC's Norah O'Donnell) to local publicists, city officials, Marriott executives, and nearly the whole Marriott clan packed the Ritz's holiday-themed ballroom to wish Matthews well after 30 years at WJLA and in her new post as head of communications and government affairs for the locally based hotel giant. Representing the political realm the incoming senate majority leader, Harry Reid, briefly stopped in. Nearly the city's entire social press turned out, from the Reliable Source's Amy Argetsinger to Capitol Leader newcomer Anne Schroeder to the not-really-retired Chuck Conconi.

Scene: There aren't that many events in Washington that require a receiving line. At last night's soiree, though, guests were greeted by Marriott's outgoing  and incoming new PR executives, Charlotte Sterling and Matthews, along with their spouses (i.e. MSNBC's Chris), and Mr. Marriott himself. After an hour of mingling and munching, Sterling and one of the Marriotts took the stage to welcome Matthews, who gave a gracious speech that made it sound like she'd been delivering Marriott talking points for decades. A video of Matthews' career highlights showed her over the years through many hair styles on many continents and also learning the ropes in her new Marriott post.

Food: Plentiful. Would you prefer one of the two Maryland crab cake stations or the two roast beef cutting stations? Perhaps the sweet potato fries or the dessert table and hot fudge sundae bar would be more your style? If you'd prefer to just stand in one place while the trays of snacks were circulated you could dine on coconut shrimp, caviar, or puff pastries.

Drink of Choice: Trays of white wine satiated guests in the receiving line. For pickier drinkers, three open bars and a massive table of coffee options provided beverages.

Interesting Pairing of the Evening: Kimsey and talk show host Laura Ingraham.

Overheard: The discussion among several in the crowd was the main challenge facing Matthews, a stand-out on the local news anchor desk, is that she'll be managing a massive operation with scores of staff in her new gig. In news, she's never been a manager—now she's stepping into a giant role.

The quote of the evening, though, came from one guest eyeing the bountiful trays of dessert with an empty plate and the nearby presence of the Washington Times' gossip columnist: "I need Kevin Chaffee to move away from the dessert table."

Gift Bag: Each guest was handed a plush 15-inch Marriott Bear, which benefits America's Second Harvest.

Ratings:
Bold Face Guests: 4 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 4 (out of 5)
Food/Drinks: 4 (out of 5)
Overall Exclusivity: 3 (out of 5)

Total Score: 15 (out of 20)