The weeks of early autumn are a social bonanza in Washington, even with the distraction of a presidential campaign. Pick any night, especially Tuesday and Thursday, and it’s possible to find a party in almost every quadrant of the metro area. Why Tuesday and Thursday? On the official end, those are nights when Congress is in town. On the practical end, they are nights that don’t interrupt the precious weekend, which is often reserved for family time or an opportunity to get out of Dodge. Thursday is especially popular, because who doesn’t want to go out the night before TGIF?
Take last night. To use only a few examples, it was possible to have dinner with the Queen of Sweden in Georgetown, check out an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, and attend a benefit at Arena Stage with Red Hot Patriot star Kathleen Turner. That said, the best party in town may have been at Nats Park, where the Washington Nationals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to clinch a berth in the playoffs, the first time a Washington baseball team has made it into the postseason in decades. Rather than manners, causes, and culture, that was a party of pure jubilation.
We managed to hit both the black-tie dinner for Queen Silvia of Sweden and the baseball game, and as we headed from one part of town to the other, the thought occurred that it was too bad the Nats weren’t playing Kansas City, because then this story could be about bouncing from royals to Royals. (That’s how writers think while stopped at a red light, inching out of a cocktail-appropriate outfit and into a baseball-appropriate one.)
The elegant VIP reception and dinner for Queen Silvia and her daughter Princess Madeleine was at the Four Seasons Hotel. It benefited the Mentor Foundation, a nonprofit that works to connect young people with the professional world through partnerships with governments and major international corporations. In the receiving line, the Queen and her daughter were joined by Saudi Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Talal bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud and his wife, Princess Sara Bint Saud bin Sa’ad al Saud, as well as Swedish ambassador Jonas Hafström and his wife, Eva. A line of women in evening gowns and men in black tie waited their turn to say hello, including Washingtonians Clarissa Bonde and her daugher, Sophia, Alan and Kate Novak, Nina Pillsbury, Evelyn di Bona, Linda Webster, the evening’s host, Shawn Yancy, Mentor Foundation head Yvonne Thunell, Esther Coopersmith, Philip W. Pillsbury Jr., and Susan Blumenthal.
The Mentor Foundation’s board of trustees is heavy with royal representation, including, in addition to the Swedish and Saudi royals, Queen Noor of Jordan, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, and Crown Prince Felipe of Spain. Which brings us to the issue of the curtsy. One of the event staffers, an American, was alarmed that in the pre-briefing, organizers advised all that they were to curtsy to the royals. “We don’t do that in this country,” the staffer pointed out, recalling the 1981 incident in which the Reagan administration’s chief of protocol, Leonare Annenberg, notoriously curtsied to Prince Charles, causing a media firestorm and an embarrassment for Reagan. Truthfully, any American who wants to curtsy to a royal may do so, but it’s not expected or required. The curtsy is not in America’s DNA.
For what it’s worth, as we observed the receiving line we saw no curtsies from anyone.
The dinner menu, accompanied by Chardonnay and Merlot wines, was suited to a formal evening: a salad of goat cheese, poached pear, Belgian endive, and frisée; and miso-glazed sea bass with grilled scallion risotto, baby green beans, and a sauce of Thai basil, shiso, soy, and lime. The dessert was a lemon mille-feuille with raspberry sorbet. There was a live auction conducted by Simon de Pury, a video presentation, musical performances, and a keynote speech from the Queen.
But by the time the speeches happened we were at Nationals Park, taking in the crack of Bryce Harper’s bat and the swell of joy among the more than 30,000 fans. Baseball stadiums are a happy place to be to begin with, but add to that a gorgeous evening, a winning score, and a landmark event. One of the better parts of the evening was hanging out for a few minutes with Stan Kasten, who is currently the president of the Dodgers but who for five years had that same job with the startup Nationals and was responsible, in part, for signing Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and many of the other players who have earned the team the winningest record in the National League. Wouldn’t he be happy to see the Nats win a playoff berth? “No way,” he said. “I’m a Dodger now.” But we discerned a little twinkle in his eye as he looked out over the field and stadium while the crowd sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Kasten, who watched the first six innings from the box of the Lerner family, the team’s owners, said this particular game was his first time back at the stadium since he left the Nationals organization in 2010 after his five-year commitment ended. He became president of the Dodgers in April of this year in a partnership with Magic Johnson, Peter Guber, and the owners of the investment company Guggenheim Partners. While it’s clear California agrees with him, he’s a pro who knows past relationships matter. “We get a long great,” he said of the Lerner family. “Better than ever. We were just together in Aspen” at a meeting of Major League Baseball owners.
Apart from Kasten’s Dodgers, there was only one other loser last night: former President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Not only did he once again not win the fourth-inning Presidents Race, he came in a miserable last. Apparently no one at Nats Park got the message that Senator John McCain is not happy with Teddy’s consistent losing streak. Maybe that will change in the playoffs.