Marlene Dietrich to Be Honored at Fall Dinner of Current and Former Spies

The actress’s daughter, Maria Riva, plans to attend the OSS Society gala.

By: Carol Ross Joynt

The post-summer social season feels a long way off, as it should, but in truth party planners and caterers and numerous hosts are busy planning, positioning, and sending out “save the dates.” One that got our attention is from the OSS Society. If you’re not familiar with the group, the Office of Strategic Services, created during World War II, was the CIA before there was a CIA. The OSS Society is a club of spies and former spies, and other key figures in the intelligence industry, who gather each fall for a glamorous black-tie dinner and the presentation of the William J. Donovan Award. Donovan was the visionary and first leader of the OSS, which he modeled on the British Secret Service. Last year the society honored Ernest Hemingway. If it’s possible to top that, this year’s event may—the October 26 evening is to be dedicated to Hemingway’s good friend Marlene Dietrich.

There’s so much possibility for drama and glamour in that theme, and the OSS Society already has announced that Dietrich’s daughter, Maria Riva, will attend and make a traditional martini toast to her mother. There will also be a toast to Hemingway, and a band will perform some of Dietrich’s songs, including those she recorded for the OSS to be used as propaganda—the most famous being “Lili Marlene.” Really, all that’s needed now is to have Madonna—who routinely channels Dietrich—jump out of a cake. Though that’s not likely, the society is importing Colin Field, the head bartender at the Paris Ritz’s Hemingway Bar, named so because the author was a devoted patron. Forbes magazine has called Field the “world’s greatest bartender.”

Receiving the Donovan award at the dinner will be Admiral William McRaven, who was in charge of Operation Neptune Spear, the Navy SEAL raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. For security reasons, the OSS Society can’t say whether members of that SEAL crew will be at the dinner, but they do expect a number of current and former SEALs to be among the approximately 800 dinner guests at the Ritz-Carlton West End. If you’ve got that James Bond thing going on, or Dietrich or Hemingway, you may want to be there, too.