A Book Party Among the Knives and Caskets (Slideshow)

A celebration for the memoir “Double Life” took place at the Harman Center for the Arts amid some . . . unusual decor.

By: Carol Ross Joynt

Some parties have internal magic, which helps lift them above the routine--a sweetness and authenticity outside the borders of the same old, same old. That's exactly what it felt like Monday evening in the Founders Room at the Harman Center for the Arts, even though the guests--a mix of power gays and social elite--were making merry between walls that brandished mayhem and death.

Michael Kahn, the director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, was the host. We stood and talked by one wall covered with swords, sheaths, shivs, knives, hatchets, and daggers, all props from the company's productions. "Can you imagine if Margaret Truman were still with us?" he said, recalling the presidential daughter who was also a popular writer of Washington murder mysteries. "One of the knives would be missing, there'd be a victim, and that would be the plot of her next book. She'd already be writing it." He waved his hand toward the other side of the room, saying, "Over there are a lot of caskets." Yes, indeed, in all shapes and sizes. Hmmm. Fodder for another mystery.

Kahn gave the party in honor of his friends Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine, who released the memoir Double Life, which chronicles the 50 years of their romantic relationship both in and out of the closet. "We're celebrating Shakespeare's birthday and the publication of Double Life," Kahn said, praising all three men for having "extraordinary lives."

There was a beer and wine bar, a buffet of canapés and sandwiches, and a remarkably upbeat vibe. The crowd was mostly men, with a few women sprinkled throughout. "Sure we've had gay parties in Washington for years," said one partygoer, "but think of the freedom this represents. It's a mix, and everybody is so comfortable." When Shayne and Sunshine read from several letters they'd received from readers, especially parts that dealt with their years together, coming out, and being able to marry, several of the male couples held hands, or put arms around each others' waists, or put their heads together. One man patted his partner's rear end.

The guests included Kahn's cohosts, Eden and Jerry Rafshoon, Kevin Naff, Dorothy and Bill McSweeny, and Peter Rosenstein; also City Council member David Catania, former council member Carol Schwartz, WRC's Tom Sherwood, political commentator Hilary Rosen, arts patron Riley Temple, Conrad Cafritz, Robert Higdon, David Deckelbaum, Quinn Bradlee and his wife, Pary Williamson, Brad Luna, Sally Quinn, John Hill, Dwight Morteman, Kyle Walton, Joey DiGuglielmo, Ann Pincus, Will and Danielle Neville-Rehbehn, Paul Hazen, Martin Rosol, Steven Mazzola, Polly Kraft, Dorothy Kosinski, Pamela Sorenson, Jason Kampf, Gene Lawson, Scott Sterl, Luke Frazier, Robert Pullen, and the book's publisher, Donald Wise of Magnus Books, who specialize in writings by and about gay men and women.

For more on Double Life, read our earlier report and interview with the authors.