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A Night Out: The Ambassadors Ball

The MS Society’s Ambassadors Ball had it all: drinks, dinner, dancing—even a puppy.

Guests danced and twirled at the MS Society's annual gala last night. Photographs by Chris Leaman

What: The Ambassadors Ball, hosted by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Washington chapter.

Where: Hilton Washington, 1919 Connecticut Avenue, NW

When: Tuesday, September 16, 6:30 PM

Ticket price: $500

Who: Congress members were the primary eye candy of the evening. Missouri congressman Roy Blunt attended with his wife Abigail, a cochair of the event, while Lucy Calautti, the other cochair, came with her husband, senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota. Senator Orrin Hatch, one of the evening’s honorees for his work on the Congressional Multiple Sclerosis Caucus, was slated to attend, but a last-minute change of plans prevented him from coming. Congressmen Russ Carnahan of Missouri and Michael Burgess of Texas, cochairs of the House side of the caucus, were honored without him.

The noncongressional types in attendance included Carla Anderson Hills, former Cabinet member under President Gerald Ford; Esther Coopersmith, former US representative to the United Nations; hotel executive David Marriott and his wife, Carrie; and Channel 4 meteorologist Bob Ryan. MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O’Donnell served as mistress of ceremonies.

Food and drink: Several fully stocked open bars bustled during the silent auction and reception before dinner. Red and white wine by Diageo seemed to be the most popular drinks, but Makers Mark, Bacardi Select Rum, sour-apple Schnapps, and more were at the ready. Interestingly—and noticeably—no hors d’oeuvres were served to offset the alcohol. The three-course dinner included an arugula salad with sweet pecans, olives, and tomatoes; a cut of beef tenderloin or a serving of juicy lemon-infused chicken breast; and, the highlight, a trio of desserts with chocolate truffles, airy mousse, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Servers brought around strong coffee and tea to end the evening.

Scene: The doors of the massive International Ballroom at the Hilton Washington opened at 6:30. A silent auction with nearly 200 items—ranging from massages to brunches to dinners with ambassadors—ringed the perimeter of the terrace, a few steps above the dining area. Black-tie-clad guests perused the auction and mingled in groups while sipping cocktails, wine, and beer. One of most popular items up for grabs: a 13-week-old yellow Labrador retriever from Potomac Kennels. Organizers were smart to have the puppy on hand to hug, touch, squeeze, and kiss—she had a handful of bids within minutes.

Trumpeters announced dinner around 7:30, and guests slowly made their way to their seats. Norah O’Donnell welcomed the crowd, while a short video on multiple sclerosis played in the background.

During dinner, kimono-clad Japanese dancers and Irish line dancers performed, but the apathetic applause that followed indicated that guests were more interested in eating than in being entertained.

The silent auction concluded at 9—after the puppy made one more round to work the crowd—and an hour of dancing ensued before the evening concluded.


Boldface names: 2 out of 5
Swankiness: 3 out of 5
Exclusivity: 3 out of 5
Food and drink: 3 out of 5

Total score: 11 out of 20

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