The birthday card was splattered with messages that almost obscured the image of a fedora-wearing, cigar-chomping Kevin Spacey, and the greeting: “Happy Birthday to a man who wears a lot of hats.” Among the scrawls was “Not to mention pants,” from Rachel Goslins, director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, “Happy B-Day,” from White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard, and this from Terry McAuliffe’s friend and fundraiser Peter O’Keefe: “From the Clinton Library opening to your birthday!”
They were among a select group of friends, and current and would-be corporate supporters of Kevin Spacey’s foundation, who gathered on a sunny and breezy Georgetown rooftop Tuesday evening to drink Champagne and sign the custom-made birthday greeting for the House of Cards star, who turned 55 last Saturday.
The fact that Spacey was elsewhere, filming the hit series, didn’t diminish the celebration.
The guests were mostly lobbying insiders, including Heather Podesta, Erik Huey, James Assey, Gerry Harrington, and Melissa Maxfield, who gathered on the Capella hotel rooftop to meet and greet Spacey surrogate Steve Winter, who has worked with the actor for ten years in London and New York and is program director of the four-year-old Kevin Spacey Foundation. Winter was practically dizzy from a whirlwind day that included a first-ever visit to the United States Capitol, where he met the chiefs of staff of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Steny Hoyer. Wednesday, Winter was scheduled for another personal first: a visit to the White House to meet with Bernard, among others.
The turnout at the party and Winter’s access around town is a testament to the power in Washington of Spacey, who has been a political groupie for years, well before helping to create the Emmy-nominated Netflix show in which he stars as Frank Underwood, a devious political animal who begins as Democratic Majority Whip and rises rapidly through the ranks. As far back as Dick Gephardt’s 2004 campaign for the presidency, Spacey was spotted on the hustings. Today, according to Winter, the politician he hangs out with is former president Bill Clinton. Since Spacey is a noted crooner and Clinton is a sometimes saxophonist, we wondered if there’d been any duets. Not yet, said Winter, “but that’s an idea.”
Asked about his visit to the halls of Congress and how that environment compared to the halls of Parliament, Winter said, “there were so many people, moving so fast, and so frenetic.” He may find less of that at the White House. “I’m overwhelmed,” but in a good way, he said.
Winter’s main purpose for the two-day stop in Washington was to help raise interest, secure sponsorship, and sell tickets for the Monday, September 29, Kevin Spacey in Concert event at the Harman Center, which will feature Spacey on stage with a big band, singing standards and telling stories, and likely joined—on stage, though not performing—by Hoyer and McCarthy, who are honorary chairs. Winter called them “an interesting bunch.” There will be dinner, too, at Poste restaurant, and an after party.
Tickets start at $100, according to the event’s vice chairman, Lyndon Boozer, who was also one of the hosts of the rooftop cocktail party, along with Ovation network executive Sonia Tower. If this year’s event is anything like his first foundation dinner in Washington, held last year at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, fans can expect a more than satisfying helping of Spacey. Also like last year, patrons can expect to rub shoulders with his costars from House of Cards.
From Winter’s point of view, last year’s dinner was a win, except it didn’t raise the hoped-for funds for the foundation, which supports arts programs, grants, and scholarships in schools in England and the US. Thus, a bigger push and bigger show this year, and a need to reach out to the corporate dollar. At the end of his remarks to the lobbyists and other guests on the Capella roof, Winter winked and smiled. “I’d like to leave you with a Frank Underwood quote to inspire you: ‘generosity is its own form of power.’”