What: The 20th black-tie benefit that King (a survivor of quintuple-bypass surgery) has hosted to raise money for his foundation, which pays heart-related medical bills for patients who can’t afford treatment.
Where: The Ritz-Carlton Washington, D.C., 1150 22nd St., NW
When: Saturday, May 3, 6:30 PM
Who: Recognizable VIPs peppered the 44 tables in the ballroom of the Ritz. King and wife Shawn Southwick-King, sitting front and center, bounced on and off the mike all night, introducing everyone from Saturday Night Live comedian Darrell Hammond to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. The honorable Sandra Day O’Connor—no introduction necessary—remained modest in the corner, but mention of her name brought a round of vigorous applause. Las Vegas hotshot illusionist Nathan Burton had the crowd believing in magic, and Grammy winner Seal brought down the house (and the hearts of every woman there) with a passionate performance.
Want to see more photos from Washington events and parties? Click here for Washingtonian.com's photo slideshow page.
Food: Gown- and tux-clad guests snacked on passed appetizers as they browsed the silent auction. Thumbs up—though the glut of mini-latkes with applesauce and glasses of shrimp cocktail had us turning away waiters rather than diving for more. Dinner started with a melt-in-your-mouth smoked-salmon/cream-cheese roll, garnished with shaved apple, dried cranberries, and a bagel crisp. The light sea bass paired with rich lobster cream sauce and lobster-tarragon whipped potatoes left us satisfied but not stuffed. Dessert—a trio of vanilla crème brûlée, chocolate-caramel tart, and a chocolate-dipped strawberry—didn’t sparkle, but on the cab ride home we chowed down on deliciously caloric mini-doughnuts handed to us at the door.
Drink: After a brief open bar during cocktail hour, waiters poured either Danzante Pinot Grigio or Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were good, even if the two fish courses didn’t merit such a full-bodied red.
Scene: The three-hour program was a mix of laughter (Burton hopping into a giant microwave and emerging as a slick-dancing African-American, Hammond deadpanning about political this-and-that, King cracking jokes about how to score with his beautiful and much younger wife) and awed silence, as when Indiana resident and father of three Jeffery Fisher stood thanking King for funding his heart surgery and similar survivor Tanya Cunningham belted “God Bless America” with more heart than any famous singer has. Those two and other speakers, such as eighth-grader Matt Markel, whose dad died three years ago of heart disease and who invented the “Be Smart, Save a Heart” wristbands, reminded us that this night, no matter how glitzy, really meant something. Finally, Seal closed with a mix of upbeat songs and ballads as women flocked to the front of the room—and even got up on stage—to swoon over his soft voice and sexy white pants. The parting gift bag had a Seal CD, and we’ve had it on repeat ever since.
Money raised: Between the silent auction—which boasted items from a dress coat owned by Kenny Rogers to a rafting and camping getaway (wonder which dolled-up power player bid on that)—and a round of “wave the glow stick, donate thousands” between the first course and dinner, the benefit raised $1.2 million for the foundation.
Boldface names: 4 out of 5
Swankiness: 4 out of 5
Food and drink: 3 out of 5
Exclusivity: 4 out of 5
Total score: 15 out of 20