News & Politics

A Feast of Desserts at Esther Coopersmith’s Post-Thanksgiving Holiday Party (Photos)

The popular hostess is famous for her connections and her annual get-together.

DC mayoral candidate Jack Evans with Esther Coopersmith at her annual post-Thanksgiving dessert party at her Kalorama home (left). The dessert buffet at 2 PM, soon after the beginning of Esther Coopersmith’s dessert party on the day after Thanksgiving (right). Photographs by Carol Ross Joynt.

If being connected is as important in Washington as having a big title (and we’re told it is), Esther Coopersmith is in the upper ranks of power in the nation’s capital. Here’s a measure: Where some people have a vanity wall, Coopersmith has a vanity room—a large, red room in which every surface holds a photograph of her posing with famous politicians, celebrities, heads of state, and royalty. Another measure is her annual post-Thanksgiving party, which features plenty of recognizable faces— Jack Evans, Capricia Marshall, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, to name a few—plus an eye-popping dessert buffet. It’s a extravagant display for those still ruing second helpings of pumpkin pie.

Guests began to arrive at Coopersmith’s sprawling Kalorama home promptly at 2. By 3, there was a line in the upstairs drawing room to greet the seated hostess, easy to spot in a bright pink jacket. Jack Evans, the DC council member and mayoral candidate, made a beeline. “I want to get my picture taken with Esther,” he said, adding that she’s been very helpful to him and his campaign.

Coopersmith has had an official title in the past—she was a public member of the US delegation to the UN during the Carter administration—but her unofficial role is welcoming new appointees and dignitaries, especially ambassadors, to Washington. She hosts parties, makes introductions, and connects friends. She also raises money for causes and politicians she supports. She is often compared to that Washington “hostess with the mostest” of an earlier era, Perle Mesta. If Coopersmith’s politics had to be defined they would probably be bipartisan Democrat, and she is close to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Coopersmith’s library contains photos of her with Presidents Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush. The other shots inscribed to her are too many to list, but a quick glance notes astronaut and former senator John Glenn, House minority whip Steny Hoyer (“Esther, a terrific friend”), former senator Birch Bayh, and Laura Bush. While the library is packed with images of the powerful, mostly family make it into the frames in the kitchen and dining room. A widow, Coopersmith has two sons: Jonathan, who lives in Texas, and Jeffrey, who lives in Seattle.

But back to the desserts. One of the servers said the sweets came from a range of bakeries. The table is so long and dense with sweets a sugar high can be achieved by eye contact alone. You name it and it was on the table, including large chocolate turkeys. It was not a day for Weight Watchers.

Still room for one more piece of pie. The dessert buffet an hour into Esther Coopersmith’s post-Thanksgiving dessert party.
With former chief of protocol Capricia Marshall leaning over her, Esther Coopersmith greets other friends lining up to say hello.
Jeffrey Coopersmith, a Seattle-based lawyer, chatting with former chief of protocol Capricia Marshall and Albert Baker Knoll, the executive director of government affairs for Sunoco.
Esther Coopersmith’s library, which is loaded with photos and mementos of her friendships with the famous and powerful.
In the Coopersmith kitchen, Albert Baker Knoll of Sunoco with DC council member and mayoral candidate Jack Evans.