Journalists get the occasional juicy and anonymous letter. Most are titillating but not worth publishing or broadcasting.
The letter in large type about a party hosted by the Washington Post photography staff seemed to fit the second category: It mentioned in paragraph three that Post executive editor Len Downie was “the recipient of a lap dance and breasts in his face” by one of the party’s entertainers—who were drag queens!
Too good to be true?
A second anonymous letter said word had gone out at the Post to kill any pictures of Len’s lap dance.
I started making a few calls, figuring that if such an event had taken place, photos and videos probably would be on YouTube or some other website. If it had indeed taken place.
I got eye witness accounts. I wondered: Could a monthly magazine, with a lead time of several weeks, actually break a story about the Post’s top editor caught in an amusing, if not compromising, situation?
Here’s the scoop:
The Washington Post is not known for throwing lively parties, especially under staid executive editor Leonard Downie.
When the photo department decided to bid farewell to retiring staffers, it did not intend to get racy. Photo editor Joe Elbert booked Perrys, a sushi restaurant in DC’s Adams Morgan, for a Saturday afternoon. Owner Saied Azali promised to do something special because he was friends with well-known Post photographer Lucien Perkins.
Would the something special be free champagne? Special sushi? Not exactly.
Azali invited male dancers dressed as women who perform at Perrys’ Sunday “drag brunches.” Len Downie made an appearance just as the queens began to mingle. According to eye witnesses, one performer sat down next to Downie and wrapped him in a big hug.
Downie seemed at bit shocked, but one photographer says: “He took it in good humor at the time.”
But apparently Downie was less amused by the photos and videos being shot, and he asked that they be kept private.
No leaked pictures, so far, but many of those retired staffers would dearly love a picture of Downie in the embrace of a drag queen.
Please keep those anonymous cards and letters coming. Photos welcomed, to: hjaffe AT washingtonian DOT com.