What: The 33rd Annual Ambassador’s Ball, hosted by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s National Capital chapter
Where: Ritz-Carlton, 1150 22nd St. NW
When: Wednesday, September 14, 6:30 PM
Who: A primarily political crowd was on hand. Lisa Collis and Amey Upton, the event’s co-chairs, attended with their respective husbands, Virginia senator Mark Warner and Michigan representative Fred Upton. Senators Kay Hagan and Johnny Isakson, along with representatives Barbara Lee and Kevin McCarthy, were all honored for their work on the Congressional MS Caucus. In addition to a slew of ambassadors, Dennis Kucinich sat at a table in the back corner of the ballroom with his wife, Elizabeth, while Senator Roy Blunt and representatives Henry Waxman and John Dingell circulated. Norah O’Donnell, CBS News’s chief White House correspondent, served as the evening’s emcee.
Food and drink: Until dinnertime, the evening was alcohol-soaked: no hors d’oeuvres were available, but multiple bars serving rail drinks and Diageo wines (the most popular choice) were scattered throughout the auction rooms. The three-course dinner consisted of seared tuna accented with a deconstructed guacamole and soy vinaigrette; a smoky-smelling grilled filet mignon and sweet potato gratin topped with a double-bacon jus and crispy onions; and, for dessert, an ultra-rich triple chocolate tart. A coffee-and-tea station was available while guests waited in a thick cluster to pick up their auction items.
Scene: Upon descending a staircase into the Ritz-Carlton’s basement ballroom, attendees immediately began scanning about 250 items up for auction, including dinners at various embassies, a trio of guitars signed by Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Lady Gaga, and—most adorable of all—a 14-week-old Golden Retriever puppy who sniffed, nuzzled and licked potential bidders from the arms of an event volunteer (an effective strategy, as the puppy from Potomac Kennels ended up going for $3,500.) Attendees used iPod Touches equipped with a wireless bidding program to peruse the auction’s catalog during small talk and get alerts when they were outbid.
Members of The Wright Touch, the evening’s brass band entertainment, played in a small ensemble before trumpeting a call to dinner. Most people seemed more focused on chatting and tasting their tuna appetizer than paying attention to the Indian and Turkish folk dancers performing during the meal.
O’Donnell struggled with crowd control during the official program—she and the evening’s honorees shared stories of friends and family members diagnosed with the disease, which could barely be heard over a crowd that just wouldn’t stop talking (this could be attributed to the surplus of alcohol and lack of food for the first hour and a half of the event).
After the auction and dinner concluded, many guests stuck around to dance to jazzy renditions of ’60s and ’70s hits, like the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” for a couple of hours before picking up their swag bags and a complimentary Crumbs cupcake and heading home.
Boldface names: 2 out of 5.
Swankiness: 3 out of 5.
Food and drink: 3 out of 5.
Exclusivity: 3 out of 5.