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What: 18th annual celebration of manhood known as Fight Night, benefiting the nonprofit Fight for Children.
Where: Hilton Washington Ballroom.
When: November 8, 2007, 6 PM until late.
Who: A few thousand of developer Joe Robert Jr.’s closest male friends, from the usual Washington gala-goers such as Jim Kimsey and Mark Ein to boxing legends Jake “Raging Bull” Lamotta and “Smokin’ ” Joe Frazier, rock musician Ted Nugent, comedian Chris Tucker, producer Quincy Jones, and, at Robert’s ringside table, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia and former Joint Chiefs chair General Peter Pace. Nearby were three generations of DC mayors: Adrian Fenty (who made it through his entire time onstage without checking his BlackBerry), Tony Williams, and Marion Barry.
Price: $1,000 a ticket (if you could score one to the sold-out event) but up to $28,000 a table for ringside seats.
Food: Steak, naturally. And apple pie, just to underscore that it was an All-American evening.
Beverages of choice: Red Bull and vodka (to make it through the long night), Cognac, Maker’s Mark, and even some wine.
Scene: The concept for Fight Night couldn’t be more simple, masculine, or guilt-free: Put on a tuxedo, hang out with the guys, drink heavily, eat steak, ogle women, smoke cigars, and watch live boxing.
Each year, a local businessman steps forward to chair the event, which this time raised—thanks to a last-minute $500,000 donation from an Abu Dhabi business group—more than $2 million for the charity Fight for Children. This year, Chuck Kuhn, president of JK Moving & Storage, did the honors, breaking all previous records in the process, but the night truly belonged to developer Joe Robert Jr., who founded the event 18 years ago.
Signs throughout the hotel warned that smoking was allowed only in the main ballroom—now that DC is smoke-free, Fight Night, where cigars are a central part of the evening and handed out to each guest, had to get a special waiver from the city—but cigar smoke still permeated the building. Men happily puffing strode up and down the escalators, through the lobby, and, of course, ringside through the boxing and entertainment. Many a Washington tuxedo no doubt spent the night airing out on the back porch.
Fight Night drips in patriotism of a kind more reminiscent of a small-town fair or VFW hall than a Washington gala, what with a presentation of colors by a Marine Corps color guard and a ceremony honoring soldiers wounded in Iraq. General Pace took the stage with Robert to receive a special American flag flown over a half-dozen US bases in Iraq from September 11 through 13 of this year. The flag, later auctioned, raised more than $100,000 for survivors of those who died in Iraq.
The ballroom of the Hilton Washington has seen a lot of renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” but none quite like that done by Ted Nugent, who was, in his own words, full of “piss and vinegar” for the performance, having just returned from visiting troops in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His amplified guitar performance kept people clapping and cheering for a good ten minutes.
Aside from the cocktail waitresses, cigar-selling Hooters girls, and calendar-hawking Redskinettes, there was hardly a woman to be seen—although DC Council member Carol Schwartz did work the room later in the evening. Each table was assigned a cocktail waitress, who fetched a seemingly endless number of drinks for the guests.
After a live auction, including Ritz-Carlton hotel getaways and a private dinner for ten with chef Eric Ripert, boxing—the evening’s main event—finally got under way at about 10:30. After four bouts, it was time for those with any stamina left to cross town to the after-party at the Ritz on M Street.
Gift-bag contents: Fight Night T-shirt, cigar, mini-boxing glove, and matches. Few of the cigars made it out of the building intact. The Redskinettes calendars sold for $50 apiece, but the Redskinettes themselves would sign it for you—and there were no shortage of takers.
Ratings (out of 5):
Boldface names: 3 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 4 (out of 5)
Food and drink: 3.5 (out of 5)
Exclusivity: 4 (out of 5)
Total score: 14.5 (out of 20)