When: Thursday, November 8, 6:30 PM to very, very late.
Who: More than 700 fabulous-looking women dressed in their finest South Beach evening attire. Knock Out Abuse Against Women cofounders Cheryl Masri and Jill Sorensen basked in the limelight with KOA chair and BET head Debra L. Lee, who later introduced Andrea Wong, a fellow television power and KOA’s honoree for the evening. KOA director Ellen Blankenship was present along with former chairs Holly Muldoon Boggs, Holidae Hayes, Ann Walker Marchant, and Norma Ramsey. Several token males were scattered about, including one of The Washingtonian’s 2007 Best-Dressed Men, Clinton Portis; actor Isaiah Washington; and BET executive vice president Stephen Hill. A few hundred men arrived at the Ritz after attending their own gala, Fight Night, at the Hilton Washington, eager to mingle with the ladies and even more pumped to cheer on rock star Lenny Kravitz.
Drink: The silent auction was far from silent as women gawked at designer bags and spa-trip brochures while sipping Champagne, wine, mojitos, cosmopolitans, and other creative cocktails they dreamed up. Beer was brought out postdinner “for the men,” as one bartender explained.
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Scene: Guests were greeted outside the Ritz by a toned—but very cold—lifeguard in flip-flops, red board shorts, and a white T-shirt that read “I Rescue Knockouts.” An army of handsome tuxedoed men was on hand to escort women down the grand staircase—a smart move given the height of most high heels. Several additional lifeguards directed traffic at the base of the stairs. When not flexing their muscles toward the coat room or bar, they were attentive to women’s fashion, blowing their whistles when appropriate: “Are you going to take off that scarf? This is South Beach!” Or perhaps when not appropriate: “Tweet! Your dress is too hot! Take it off!” Lifeguard and model Charles Bailey really got into his role, commenting, “I might run in slow motion later.” Fortunately, Bailey didn’t have to go Baywatch-style to be a hit at the gala—he raised $800 later in the evening simply by removing his shirt.
Dinner tables were cleared and hefty gift bags stashed away as the gentlemen from Fight Night began to arrive. Many were at least slightly inebriated, smelling of cigar smoke, and ready to party. Both ladies and gentlemen eagerly awaited Kravitz with drinks in one hand and purple glow sticks in the other. The Grammy winner didn’t disappoint, delivering a mix of new singles and old hits, including “American Woman.”
Perhaps Debra Lee summed up the evening most appropriately: “This is such a stylish, fun, unusual event for Washington. I’ve gotten hooked on it.” Apparently, so has everyone else.
Boldface names: 3 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 4 (out of 5)
Food and drink: 4 (out of 5)
Exclusivity: 4 (out of 5)
Total score: 15 (out of 20)
Click here to read about KOA's Ralph Lauren charitable shopping event.
Photographer Rachel Cothran also blogs at projectbeltway.com.