The weeks of early autumn are a social bonanza in Washington, even with the distraction
of a presidential campaign. Pick any night, especially Tuesday and Thursday, and it’s
possible to find a party in almost every quadrant of the metro area. Why Tuesday and
Thursday? On the official end, those are nights when Congress is in town. On the practical
end, they are nights that don’t interrupt the precious weekend, which is often reserved
for family time or an opportunity to get out of Dodge. Thursday is especially popular,
because who doesn’t want to go out the night before TGIF?
Take last night. To use only a few examples, it was possible to have dinner with the
Queen of Sweden in Georgetown, check out an exhibition at the National Gallery
of Art, and attend a benefit at Arena Stage with
Red Hot Patriot star
Kathleen Turner. That said, the best party in town may have been at Nats Park, where the Washington
Nationals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to clinch a berth in the playoffs, the first
time a Washington baseball team has made it into the postseason in decades. Rather
than manners, causes, and culture, that was a party of pure jubilation.
We managed to hit both the black-tie dinner for
Queen Silvia of Sweden and the baseball game, and as we headed from one part of town to the other, the thought
occurred that it was too bad the Nats weren’t playing Kansas City, because then this
story could be about bouncing from royals to Royals. (That’s how writers think while
stopped at a red light, inching out of a cocktail-appropriate outfit and into a baseball-appropriate
The elegant VIP reception and dinner for Queen Silvia and her daughter
Princess Madeleine was at the Four Seasons Hotel. It benefited the Mentor Foundation, a nonprofit that
works to connect young people with the professional world through partnerships with
governments and major international corporations. In the receiving line, the Queen
and her daughter were joined by Saudi
Abdul-Aziz bin Talal bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud and his wife,
Sara Bint Saud bin Sa’ad al Saud, as well as Swedish ambassador
Jonas Hafström and his wife,
Eva. A line of women in evening gowns and men in black tie waited their turn to say hello,
Clarissa Bonde and her daugher,
Alan and Kate Novak,
Evelyn di Bona,
Linda Webster, the evening’s host,
Shawn Yancy, Mentor Foundation head
Philip W. Pillsbury Jr., and
The Mentor Foundation’s board of trustees is heavy with royal representation, including,
in addition to the Swedish and Saudi royals,
Queen Noor of Jordan,
Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, and
Crown Prince Felipe of Spain. Which brings us to the issue of the curtsy. One of the event staffers, an American,
was alarmed that in the pre-briefing, organizers advised all that they were to curtsy
to the royals. “We don’t do that in this country,” the staffer pointed out, recalling
the 1981 incident in which the Reagan administration’s chief of protocol,
Leonare Annenberg, notoriously curtsied to Prince Charles, causing a media firestorm and an embarrassment
for Reagan. Truthfully, any American who wants to curtsy to a royal may do so, but
it’s not expected or required. The curtsy is not in America’s DNA.
For what it’s worth, as we observed the receiving line we saw no curtsies from anyone.
The dinner menu, accompanied by Chardonnay and Merlot wines, was suited to a formal
evening: a salad of goat cheese, poached pear, Belgian endive, and frisée; and miso-glazed
sea bass with grilled scallion risotto, baby green beans, and a sauce of Thai basil,
shiso, soy, and lime. The dessert was a lemon mille-feuille with raspberry sorbet.
There was a live auction conducted by
Simon de Pury, a video presentation, musical performances, and a keynote speech from the Queen.
But by the time the speeches happened we were at Nationals Park, taking in the crack
of Bryce Harper’s bat and the swell of joy among the more than 30,000 fans. Baseball
stadiums are a happy place to be to begin with, but add to that a gorgeous evening,
a winning score, and a landmark event. One of the better parts of the evening was
hanging out for a few minutes with
Stan Kasten, who is currently the president of the Dodgers but who for five years had that same
job with the startup Nationals and was responsible, in part, for signing Harper, Stephen
Strasburg, and many of the other players who have earned the team the winningest record
in the National League. Wouldn’t he be happy to see the Nats win a playoff berth?
“No way,” he said. “I’m a Dodger now.” But we discerned a little twinkle in his eye
as he looked out over the field and stadium while the crowd sang “Take Me Out to the
Kasten, who watched the first six innings from the box of the Lerner family, the team’s
owners, said this particular game was his first time back at the stadium since he
left the Nationals organization in 2010 after his five-year commitment ended. He became
president of the Dodgers in April of this year in a partnership with Magic Johnson,
Peter Guber, and the owners of the investment company Guggenheim Partners. While it’s
clear California agrees with him, he’s a pro who knows past relationships matter.
“We get a long great,” he said of the Lerner family. “Better than ever. We were just
together in Aspen” at a meeting of Major League Baseball owners.
Apart from Kasten’s Dodgers, there was only one other
loser last night: former President
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Not only did he once again not win
the fourth-inning Presidents
Race, he came in a miserable last. Apparently no one at Nats
Park got the
that Senator John McCain is not happy with Teddy’s consistent
losing streak. Maybe
that will change in the playoffs.