It's possible to become cynical about Washington social life this time of year. So many events, so much jockeying to be on the guest list, all the usual suspects. It's refreshing to hear of people who, when having to make the choice, put family before an event, and in this instance they were the event's underwriters. We're referring to Elise and Marc Lefkowitz, executive chairs of Wednesday's packed and festive luncheon and fashion show benefiting the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF).
While almost 400 patrons nibbled on lobster and filet mignon in the cheerfully decorated ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton West End, the Leftkowitzes were in New York at the bris of their new grandchild. The baby was eight days old the day of the event, which is when Jewish custom says the bris has to happen--and Grandma and Grandpa weren't going to miss it, no matter what.
They had several other boosters to fill the void: Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder; Norah O'Donnell, the CBS News White House correspondent; Nancy Corzine, a furniture and textile designer and president of the ADDF; Ronald Frasch, president of Saks Fifth Avenue; and fashion designer Carolina Herrera, who accepted the organization's Great Ladies award on behalf of former First Lady Nancy Reagan and also showed a selection of looks from her fall 2012 collection. Reagan was not there but sent a letter of thanks that was read aloud by Herrera. President Reagan suffered from Alzheimer's and went public with his diagnosis. "For ten years, Nancy Reagan was her husband's principal caregiver," Herrera said. "She lived her love."
Lauder commended the guests who bought tickets for the event, noting, "One hundred percent of the money you give goes to research. Not to overhead. Not to expensive parties like this. Feel good that the money you have given flows to drug discovery. We only do drug discovery. That is our game, and we're good at it." He ended brief remarks with optimism. "The cure is on the horizon. There is prevention on the horizon. That's our mission."
When Lauder introduced O'Donnell, he used the moment for a plug. "She's wearing a Carolina Herrera dress and Estée Lauder lipstick," he said. O'Donnell, in a red dress, confirmed as much, though she had a moment of brain freeze regarding the lipstick. "I can't remember what color it is, but it's beautiful." She then launched into a call to arms for the foundation's goals. "Every 69 seconds, someone will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's," she said. "This is a national crisis. Let's do something about it." She urged people to give generously in contribution envelopes on the tables and to shop enthusiastically at a Carolina Herrera boutique that was set up after the luncheon.
Earlier, most of the guests gathered in another room to hear a lecture, "A Progress Report," from Dr. Howard Fillit, the ADDF's executive director. They also looked through items offered in a silent auction, which included two puppies, an Imperial Shih Tzu and a Yorkshire Terrier. Both pups appeared overwhelmed by the fanfare, and the Yorkie seemed to want only to snuggle in the crook of his handler's neck, a substitute--for the moment--for his mother. She said he was four weeks old, though the program said he was born February 11. Regardless, he didn't weigh more than a pound and a half. The dogs were brought out onstage and passed among some of the guests; both sold, the Shih Tzu as a door prize and the Yorkshire Terrier for $1,500. In my opinion, we should stop having dogs, puppies especially, at loud, crowded events. Nothing wrong with offering them for sale, but can't a picture or a video be shown, letting the buyer pick up the little angel later from the seller?
O'Donnell called the fashion show a "special treat for Washington." The pace was brisk, and some of the sparklier numbers drew applause, though with the exception of a gown in rose satin and another in robin's egg blue, most of the dresses and suits were in somber shades--navy, black, aubergine, and gray. Worth noting: None of the models, nor Carolina Herrera herself, wore platform stilettos. Maybe that trend is, at long last, gone round the bend. The models wore wedge heels and the designer a pair of tasteful beige pumps. A few outfits were shown with elbow-length black gloves, elegant and very "ladies who lunch." Will that look fly in DC? We'll see come fall.