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Photograph by Paul Martinka/Newscom.

Stadium Fillers

Smokin’-hot summer-concert alert: Multiple Grammy winner and recent Kennedy Center Honoree Billy Joel (photograph above) takes the stage at Nationals Park on July 26 for his first solo show at the stadium. Indie-darling band (and Oscar nominee for Her) Arcade Fire follows on Joel’s heels with a stop at the Verizon Center August 17.

More DC on TV

The success of Homeland and Scandal has inspired a flurry of series with female Washington characters whose off-hours feature more intrigue than their day jobs. NBC has greenlighted a pilot for State of Affairs, starring Katherine Heigl as a CIA attaché who informs the President on global incidents while trying to untangle her complicated personal life. Téa Leoni, meanwhile, plays the title role in Madam Secretary, a pilot for CBS in which a “maverick” Secretary of State juggles international diplomacy, office politics, and, yes, a complicated family life.

Designs on Tysons

This spring, the area’s inaugural Saint Laurent store is set to open in Tysons Galleria, adding one more chichi name to the mall’s top designer boutiques—which include Chanel and Versace—and coming on the (high) heels of Washington’s first Prada store, slated to open this spring in the same place.

Direct from San Francisco

Tadich Grill—at 165, one of the oldest continuously serving restaurants in the US—is set to debut its first sister restaurant in the former TenPenh space in DC’s Penn Quarter. Local guests can expect the San Francisco seafood grill’s mahogany-paneled interior, servers in white coats, and abundant specialties, such as crab Louie, mesquite-grilled fish, and Bloody Marys made from a Tadich family recipe. 

Women’s Voices

A dearth of plays by female dramatists has spurred Washington theaters to action. In the fall of 2015, 44 local companies will stage world premieres by women playwrights. Among the offerings in the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival—the brainchild of Signature Theatre’s Eric Schaeffer and Arena Stage’s Molly Smith—are plays by Yaël Farber and Heidi Thomas.

La Vida Local

Hoping to try all the restaurants popping up on DC’s Capitol Riverfront this summer? Make your last stop Vida Fitness’s 30,000-square-foot health club, planned for the Twelve12 development at 1212 Fourth Street, Southeast. The new Vida—one of six in DC—will include a rooftop pool for “Penthouse” members.

FLOTUS Memoirs of Record

Literary agent Andrew Wylie estimates that Michelle Obama may command as much as $12 million for her memoir, or more than half the $20 million advance Wylie guesses President Obama’s would bring. Reported advances for recent First Ladies’ autobiographies: My Turn by Nancy Reagan, $2 million; A Memoir by Barbara Bush, $2.2 million; Living History by Hillary Clinton, $8 million; Spoken From the Heart by Laura Bush, $1.6 million.

Photograph of Joel by Paul Martinka/Newscom; Photograph of Heigl by DVS iPhoto/Newscom; Photograph of Tadich courtesy of Tadich Grill; Photograph of VIDA courtesy of Bulldog Public Relations; Photograph of Obama by Chuck Kennedy/White House.

This article appears in the March 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 01:06 PM/ET, 03/05/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Set here or not, a number of recent top films, including some Academy Award nominees, can be traced to Washington gumshoes, blackguards, and bureaucrats. Spoilers ahead. By Rebecca Nelson
Some Washington figures, such as the characters in Gravity (above) and American Hustle (below) are only vaguely reminiscent of their real-life counterparts. Photograph of Gravity courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Gravity. Despite its departures from fact, Discover magazine’s Corey Powell says George Clooney and Sandra Bullock’s characters have “definite resonance” with astronauts Mike Massimino and Megan McArthur, who spacewalked to fix the Hubble telescope. “Massimino had that swagger,” Powell says. “And because it was McArthur’s first mission, there was a protective attitude toward her.” But the film’s real stars, he says, are at the Air and Space Museum, where “a lot of fragments that went into the movie are scattered.”

Dallas Buyers Club. As Ron Woodroof, an HIV-positive Texas electrician, Matthew McConaughey denounces the FDA’s favored AIDS drug in the 1980s, AZT. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says Woodroof was right: The drug wasn’t effective on its own. But Fauci notes that the FDA eventually came up with a better remedy, and he defends the agency’s effort to save lives. AZT, Fauci says, “was the only drug we had.”

The Monuments Men. As so many Washington efforts do, the events portrayed in the movie started as a commission, created by President Franklin Roosevelt to find a way to spare cultural artifacts in the path of World War II. George Clooney’s Frank Stokes, an Army lieutenant in charge of art experts, is based on George Leslie Stout, but it was chief justice (and National Gallery trustee) Harlan Stone who prevailed upon the President, not Stout, as the movie has it.

Other local connections, such as the Yellow House in 12 Years a Slave, have been erased by history. Photograph courtesy of the Everett Collection.

12 Years A Slave. Upon waking one day in Washington, the movie’s hero, Solomon Northup,finds himself in a dungeon underneath the so-called Yellow House—a.k.a. 800 Independence Avenue, Southwest, now the site of the Federal Aviation Administration. A slave trader in the film and in real life, James Birch, owned a booming slave operation at 1315 Duke Street in Alexandria, today the Freedom House Museum.

Philomena. Though the title character travels to Washington looking for the son she was forced to give up for adoption—Michael Hess, a real-life lawyer for the RNC who lived with his partner in the Wyoming, a building in DC’s Kalorama—the actual Philomena never sought him in DC; it was Hess who traveled to his birthplace in Ireland looking for her, which the movie does note.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler. The watchful White House steward played by Forest Whitaker takes his story from that of Eugene Allen, a Scottsville, Virginia, native who served in the executive mansion as Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, attended a state dinner as the Reagans’ guest, and celebrated at Barack Obama’s inauguration.

American Hustle. “Some of this actually happened,” says the film’s opening title card. That “some” includes the six congressmen and one senator videotaped by the FBI accepting bribes, most at a rented house on Georgetown’s W Street, in a late-’70s anticorruption operation known as Abscam.

Photograph from American Hustle courtesy of the Everett Collection.

This article appears in the March 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 02/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus more happenings, announcements, and rumors to know about.
Photograph of Metro car by Larry Levine/WMATA.

That New-Car Smell?

Metro shifts to a fresher look when new rail cars (pending testing) debut later this year. The 7000 series (pictured above) features more comfortable seats, wider aisles, and digital display telling riders how many stations they are from their destinations. Better still, the fleet ditches gunk-prone carpeting in favor of no-slip rubber floors. By 2018, half of Metro’s fleet will be new.

Degas Times Two

Art inspires a different kind of art at the Kennedy Center in October, when Little Dancer has its world premiere. The musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime) is based on Edgar Degas’s sculpture “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” and is set backstage at the Paris Opera Ballet, where a teenager named Marie attempts to conquer the dance world. Tony Award winner Susan Stroman directs.

Degas devotees don’t have to wait till October, though: In May, the National Gallery of Art unveils “Degas/Cassatt,” a potential blockbuster exhibit exploring how the French painter and American impressionist Mary Cassatt influenced each other. The National Gallery is the only venue worldwide to host the show, overseen by the museum’s associate curator of French paintings, Kimberly A. Jones.

Kate and Her Neighbors

As the first phase of CityCenterDC inches toward completion, the megadevelopment north of Metro Center finally has a retail outlet open: the luggage purveyor Tumi. Rumors abound about other stores that may or may not be opening (see ya never, Apple Store and Topshop), but a permit recently issued for a Kate Spade branch at 825 Tenth Street, Northwest, seems promising.

Split Those Eights!

In December, MGM Resorts won a contentious bidding war for the right to build Maryland’s sixth casino. The company’s plan for a $925-million, Vegas-style resort at National Harbor features 3,600 slot machines, 140 table games, and a 300-suite, 18-story hotel overlooking the Potomac. The downside: Maryland gaming law prohibits comped drinks.

Sweet Deal for a Bitter Pill

When Time published Steven Brill’s article “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” last March, the 24,000-word dissection of the American health-care system became the longest story by an individual writer ever published in the newsweekly. Now it’s getting longer: Random House is publishing a book spinoff later this year.

Olé, José!

For five years, a sign on DC’s Seventh Street, Northwest, announced that Wagamama, the inexpensive Japanese noodle chain from Britain, was “coming soon.” Never mind: In 2014, the space finally gets a restaurant—José Andrés’s China Chilcano, offering Chinese-Peruvian fusion dishes such as ceviche, dim sum, and maybe even noodles.

Photograph of Little Dancer poster by Fraver; Photograph of Bags courtesy of Tumi; Photograph of MGM Resort rendering courtesy of MGM National Harbor; Photograph of Andrés by Aaron Clamage .

This article appears in the February 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 12:14 PM/ET, 01/31/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
One Direction, “Captain America,” and more happenings, announcements, and rumors to know about.
Photograph courtesy of One Direction.

Story of Their Life

The British boy band One Direction (pictured at top) touches down in Nationals Park on August 11. Given the group’s ardent tween fan base, it’s safe to expect a sold-out crowd for floppy-haired Harry Styles and company.

Soldiering On

Chris Evans reprises his role as the most patriotic Avenger in the second Captain America movie, opening April 4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier—costarring Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Robert Redford—filmed several scenes in DC under the code name Freezer Burn. Watch for local landmarks being obliterated.

Three Guys Walk Into a Bar . . .

Denizens of Range, Ripple, or Velvet Lounge will see some familiar visages at Seven Faces Barroom, opening in DC’s Shaw in the next few months. The venture is from bartenders Owen Thomson, Patrick Owens, and Ashley May, so while details are sketchy, odds look good for the drinks menu.

Lincoln Logs

Sidney Blumenthal, the journalist and former adviser to President Clinton, has wrapped up a three-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. The first installment, A Self-Made Man—to be released by Simon & Schuster in 2015—explores how “a ragged, ill-educated boy who thought of himself as a ‘slave’ became the man we recognize,” Blumenthal tells Washingtonian. While researching the book, the author found new material he describes as “startling,” including details about Lincoln’s assassination that will be revealed in the final book, due in 2017.

KenCen Welcomes the World

Delivering on its commitment to showcase arts from around the world, the Kennedy Center will host World Stages, an international theater festival, in March. Companies performing include Paris’s Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company—one of the creative forces behind the Tony Award-winning play War Horse—and England’s Bristol Old Vic.

Feeling Crabby

Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, an offshoot of the Miami Beach mainstay, is to open a DC outpost January 31. It’s setting up shop in the old Union Trust Bank building at 15th and H, Northwest.

Mr. Fixit Goes to Maryland

When Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser steps down in August, he plans to take his arts-management institute to the University of Maryland. But the man known as the turnaround king for his rescues of ailing arts organizations may have one more salvage job to do: helping manage UMD’s planned partnership with the cash-strapped Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Back to the Future

With 1,175 rooms, the $520-million Marriott Marquis Washington, DC will be one of the area’s biggest hotels when it opens in May across the street from the Washington Convention Center. While it will cater primarily to out-of-towners, longtime Washingtonians will cheer its Hot Shoppes restaurant, the chain that birthed the Marriott hospitality empire.

Photograph of Bristol Old Vic in association with Handspring Puppet Company by Simon Annand; Photograph of Lincoln courtesy of the Library of Congress; Photograph of Kaiser by Nikki Kahn/Getty Images; Photograph of Captain America courtesy of The Everett Collection; Photograph of rendering of hotel courtesy of Marriott International.

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of The Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:27 AM/ET, 01/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The shutdown should have been a dream come true for DC’s weary road warriors. It barely made a dent. Welcome to the new Washington. By Carol Ross Joynt
The layoff of most of the nearly 400,000 civilian federal staffers in the area sounds apocalyptic—and certainly the region couldn’t withstand a long shutdown. But October’s commuter traffic signaled the deep economic and demographic changes taking place in Washington. Photograph of Metro by Marlon Correa/Getty Images.

The glum mood that followed the federal shutdown made the District’s streets feel a little empty, prompting some to recall the “ghost town” the city became during the last furlough, in 1996. But traffic monitors and veteran commuters say there’s no comparison.

“It’s a tale of two cities,” says Bernard Demczuk, who worked for DC mayor Marion Barry 17 years ago. (Now he’s George Washington University’s assistant vice president for DC government relations.) Then, Demczuk says, population was dropping and visitors were scarcer. “We had a crime rate that was going through the roof. We had neighborhoods that were virtually sterile because people were leaving for Northern Virginia and Maryland.” Nowadays, nightlife and tourism put more people on the roads, and at all hours.

More important, says Stephen Fuller, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, an influx of corporate jobs and a boom in downtown law firms have put thousands more private-sector workers on the roads. (More lawyers may explain why the Palm steakhouse has been packed despite the shutdown.) “We are a global business center,” Fuller says. “The percentage of the District’s economy tied directly to the federal government has declined. It’s still the major driver, but less important.” Those businesses also fill more seats on Amtrak and the airlines, whose passengers join the throng.

The effect of the furloughs didn’t go unnoticed. Because federal workers’ mass-transit costs are subsidized, they tend to ride the rails; overall, Metro ridership was down by about 20 percent during the shutdown. Car traffic, on the other hand, was prone to an uptick—thanks in part to recent efforts to reduce it. “Private-sector workers who carpool with furloughed federal workers were driving their own cars into town, creating more traffic,” Fuller says.

Gridlock, in short, has become Washington’s byword. WTOP’s director of traffic, Jim Battagliese, recalls that in 1996, after agreeing to reopen the government, the feds kept offices closed an extra couple of days while a snowstorm blew through. Says Battagliese: “I’m not sure if they would do that now.”

This article appears in the November 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:26 AM/ET, 10/24/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Burnett received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. By Carol Ross Joynt
The cast photo for the 2013 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Honoree Carol Burnett in the middle, with Rosemary Watson, Lucie Arnaz, Tina Fey, Tony Bennett, Bruce Vilanch, Vicki Lawrence, Maya Rudolph, Tim Conway, Julie Andrews, Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, and Martin Short, as well as family and show producers. Photographs by Carol Ross Joynt.

Hollywood and Washington got together for some laughs at the Kennedy Center Sunday night on behalf of Carol Burnett, one of the legends of American sketch comedy. The 80-year-old Burnett was awarded the 16th Mark Twain Prize, which has been given in the past to Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, and George Carlin, among others. Those who came to sing her praises included colleagues, friends, and a younger generation of women comedians, many of whom are graduates of Saturday Night Live and who consider her one of their pioneers. Tina Fey opened the show; Amy Poehler did a routine as her “assistant” with the help of half a dozen dogs; Rashida Jones and Maya Rudolph told anecdotes and introduced clips from Burnett’s enduring moments on television and in movies.

David Rubenstein, the chairman of the Kennedy Center board, was the warmup act, though he didn’t dare try to do comedy. Not in this company. He came onstage to thank the show’s underwriters and producers, and appeared later to introduce Burnett. The concert hall was nearly packed, with Burnett sitting prominently in a red-draped box adjacent to the stage with her husband, Brian Miller, and daughters Jody and Erin Hamilton. In the President’s Box were House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and DC Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. The room had the lights, cameras, and other trappings of a TV show, because it was being taped by WETA for broadcast on PBS on Sunday, November 24.

Lights, camera, action: a standing ovation for Carol Burnett as she is introduced onstage by Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein.

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Posted at 10:59 AM/ET, 10/21/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The annual event hosted by local female news anchors brings together survivors of the disease. By Kastalia Medrano
The Newsbabes and the Newsmen in Pink. Photograph by Caroline Volz.

Dress codes can be tricky.

When I was asked to cover last night’s Newsbabes Bash for Breast Cancer charity event, I studied the press release, which featured a photo of several shiny-haired local female newscasters, all in cocktail dresses of varying shades of pink. The image raised some questions: Were only the anchors supposed to wear pink, since they were the stars of the event? Or would everyone be expected to? Did you actually have to be wearing pink to be allowed in? (That last was, I now realize, was kind of stupid.)

The Newsbabes Bash, which has been held each year for the past five, is part silent auction, part tapas bar (and open bar), and part PR for breast cancer research. It’s also a platform from which to recognize outstanding individuals whose accomplishments span both broadcast journalism and public awareness of breast cancer. The Newsbabes themselves are 21 of the DC networks’ most vibrant female anchors. Having set aside the inter-network competition they may face during the day, at events like these they make for an engaging and friendly group united by a bigger cause. And, it seems, they all looked good in pink.

After a lunch-break trip to Nordstrom Rack, I arrived at the Hamilton a few hours later wearing what I hoped was enough pink to keep me from getting pinched (or something like that). I may have overthought it. The room had the lighting of a nightclub but the decor of a baby shower, with a soundtrack that was accordingly bipolar. Strobe lights bounced off platters of Georgetown cupcakes while caterers roved with large platters of tiny food. (I tried a mini taco, which was delicious, and a mini crabcake, which I balled up in my napkin like a child.) All told, about half the crowd wore pink, the more fabulous examples of which included a shockingly bright fascinator that would have gone over well at the Kentucky Derby.

The music and chatter eventually quieted for the introduction of the guest of honor, JC Hayward—DC’s first female anchor and a 40-year veteran of WUSA 9—who underwent treatment for breast cancer a year ago. Hayward, clad, of course, in pink, said to the crowd, “You know, you’re [picking out] your outfit, and you think you look okay, and then you get where you’re going. And there’s a hussy that’s got your dress on—and she’s in a size two . . .”

To laughter from the audience Hayward indicated weeknight anchor Lesli Foster, also of WUSA 9, who was indeed wearing the same dress. (Foster, Hayward says, is like a daughter to her—the two hugged onstage while the laughter died down.) Like Hayward, Foster is a Howard University alumna—“just a few years apart,” says Hayward. Howard University Cancer Center, represented last night by alumnus Dr. Wayne Frederick, is the benefactor of the charity, which included a silent auction.

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Posted at 11:05 AM/ET, 06/28/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
President Obama's home state celebrated his second term at the Marriott Renaissance in downtown DC. By Shane Harris

Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel mingles with guests at the Illinois State Society Inaugural Gala at the Marriott Renaissance Washington. Photograph by Shane Harris.

Illinois, the state that first sent Barack Obama to Washington, celebrated his second inaugural Saturday night at the Marriott Renaissance downtown. On hand for the Illinois State Society gala were Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, congressman Aaron Schock (who serves as the society's president), representative Tammy Duckworth, and former White House chief of staff Bill Daley

The walls of the hotel's large ballroom were transformed into a silhouette of the Chicago skyline. And portraits of former Illinois governors ringed the reception hall where guests bid on silent auction items, including a framed photograph of President Obama greeting the 2010 National Hockey League champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, at the White House.  

Perhaps in keeping with these austere times, food and drink were modest in proportion and ambition. While guests mingled and munched on mini mushroom quiches and hummus, First Lady Michelle Obama was across the street at DC's convention center, participating in a concert for military families featuring Usher and Katy Perry. At the gala, guests were invited to sign a large banner offering well wishes to military service members.  

Posted at 09:25 AM/ET, 01/20/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The man behind the “Sarah Palin movie” talks finding sources, working for Tom Hanks, and which Republican hopeful he thinks would make a good movie character. By Carol Ross Joynt

Screenwriter Danny Strong with Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin, on the set of Game Change. Photograph courtesy of HBO.

Danny Strong may be from California, but he has a gut feel for the cinematic potential of Washington politics and its many characters. He wrote the acclaimed HBO film Recount, about the 2000 presidential election, and also penned the new HBO political film, Game Change, adapted from the bestseller about the 2008 presidential race. The film is focused almost entirely on Sarah Palin and her national rise as John McCain’s running mate (read our review here). Palin is played by Julianne Moore.

Strong is a native of Manhattan Beach, California, and a graduate of the University of Southern California; he’s also an actor, and has appeared in episodes of Mad MenGilmore Girls, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among other shows. Acting, though, has taken a backseat to his writing, and that’s not likely to change. He just signed on to write the screen adaptation of The Lost Symbol, the third installment of the Dan Brown thrillers, the movie versions of which feature Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon. Hanks is also the producer of Game Change.

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Posted at 11:02 AM/ET, 03/06/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Julianne Moore gives human dimension to Palin in the film based on the bestselling political book. By Carol Ross Joynt

Ed Harris as John McCain and Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin in Game Change. Photograph courtesy of HBO.

Loyalists from the Sarah Palin camp, including current and former aides, have complained about the upcoming HBO film Game Change, because they say it is not an accurate or flattering portrayal of the former GOP vice presidential candidate. Reportedly not one has seen the film. I have, and I think they should see it before commenting further. In the capable hands of Julianne Moore, Palin becomes more than the caricature often painted of her; she is given flesh and bone dimension. Whether it’s flattering is not the issue, really, but it is sympathetic in the context of an altogether engaging political film about a landmark race for the White House.

It should be noted early that for fans of the John Heilemann and Mark Halperin bestseller about the 2008 presidential race, this is not that Game Change. In fact, this film could be called, or at least subtitled, The Sarah Palin Story. It is the campaign through the arc of the Alaska governor’s selection, seemingly out of nowhere, as the running mate for John McCain, through to the end of the race and their loss to Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The film has no Hillary or Bill Clinton, for example, and no Democrats really, except for Obama in news footage. Moore is onscreen for most of the two-hour film, which debuts on HBO Saturday, March 10.

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Posted at 10:31 PM/ET, 02/23/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()