News & Politics

A Book Party Among the Knives and Caskets (Slideshow)

A celebration for the memoir “Double Life” took place at the Harman Center for the Arts amid some . . . unusual decor.

Authors Alan Shayne and Norman Sunshine with Hilary Rosen. Photograph by James R. Brantley.

Some parties have internal magic, which helps lift them
above the routine–a sweetness and authenticity outside the borders
of the same old, same old. That’s exactly what it felt like
Monday evening in the Founders Room at the Harman Center for the
Arts, even though the guests–a mix of power gays and social
elite–were making merry between walls that brandished mayhem and

Michael Kahn, the director of the Shakespeare
Theatre Company, was the host. We stood and talked by one wall covered
with swords, sheaths,
shivs, knives, hatchets, and daggers, all props from the
company’s productions. “Can you imagine if Margaret Truman were still
with us?” he said, recalling the presidential daughter who was
also a popular writer of Washington murder mysteries. “One
of the knives would be missing, there’d be a victim, and that
would be the plot of her next book. She’d already be writing
it.” He waved his hand toward the other side of the room,
saying, “Over there are a lot of caskets.” Yes, indeed, in all shapes
and sizes. Hmmm. Fodder for another mystery.

Kahn gave the party in honor of his friends
Alan Shayne and
Norman Sunshine, who released the memoir
Double Life, which chronicles the 50 years of their romantic relationship both in and out of the closet. “We’re celebrating Shakespeare’s
birthday and the publication of
Double Life,” Kahn said, praising all three men for having “extraordinary lives.”

There was a beer and wine bar, a buffet of canapés and
sandwiches, and a remarkably upbeat vibe. The crowd was mostly men,
with a few women sprinkled throughout. “Sure we’ve had gay
parties in Washington for years,” said one partygoer, “but think
of the freedom this represents. It’s a mix, and everybody is so
comfortable.” When Shayne and Sunshine read from several letters
they’d received from readers, especially parts that dealt with
their years together, coming out, and being able to marry,
several of the male couples held hands, or put arms around each
others’ waists, or put their heads together. One man patted
his partner’s rear end.

The guests included Kahn’s cohosts,
Eden and Jerry Rafshoon,
Kevin Naff,
Dorothy and Bill McSweeny, and
Peter Rosenstein; also City Council member
David Catania, former council member
Carol Schwartz, WRC’s
Tom Sherwood, political commentator
Hilary Rosen, arts patron
Riley Temple,
Conrad Cafritz,
Robert Higdon,
David Deckelbaum,
Quinn Bradlee and his wife,
Pary Williamson,
Brad Luna,
Sally Quinn,
John Hill, Dwight Morteman,
Kyle Walton,
Joey DiGuglielmo,
Ann Pincus,
Will and Danielle Neville-Rehbehn,
Paul Hazen,
Martin Rosol,
Steven Mazzola,
Polly Kraft,
Dorothy Kosinski,
Pamela Sorenson,
Jason Kampf,
Gene Lawson,
Scott Sterl,
Luke Frazier,
Robert Pullen, and the book’s publisher,
Donald Wise of Magnus Books, who specialize in writings by and about gay men and women.

For more on
Double Life, read our earlier report and interview
with the