2010 Signature Chefs Auction of D.C. Supports The March of Dimes

July 26, 2011

This year’s Honorary Chef Ris Lacoste hosted a VIP reception on Oct. 26 at her acclaimed restaurant highlighted by Chef Geoff Tracey and media spouse Norah O’Donnell signing Baby Love: Healthy, Easy, Delicious Meals for Your Baby and Toddler. The main event was a stone’s throw away at the Ritz-Carlton where over 20 of our area’s best chefs served samples of their signature dishes accompanied by offerings from breweries, wineries and local bartenders. Live and silent auctions included unique dining packages, event tickets, hotel stays and weekend getaways. Proceeds support local March of Dimes programs to reduce premature births and infant mortality. – Mary Bird [gallery ids="99450,99451,99452,99453,99454,99455" nav="thumbs"]

Happy to Have Ris — and Madigan and Trehan Back

On Oct. 21, The Georgetowner hosted a happy hour at Ris, celebrating the launch of chef and restaurateur Ris Lacoste’s new column, “Across the Cutting Board with Ris.” The evening was also in honor of the return of The Georgetowner’s much beloved column, “The Player,” in which Veena Trehan teams up with WTOP’s Bob Madigan to interview a diverse array of prominent members of the DC community. Ris catered the event with delicious choice samplings from the acclaimed kitchen, including Gruyere puffs, tuna tartar and veal terrine. Keep an eye out for both columns in The Georgetowner. — Ari Post [gallery ids="99465,99466,99467,99468,99469" nav="thumbs"]

Junior League of Washington

The Junior League of Washington (JLW) launched its 52nd Annual A Capital Collection of Holiday Shops at the Marriott Wardman Park with the Meg Graham Scholarship Breakfast on Nov. 19. The late Rev. Margaret “Meg” Graham was a past President of the Association of Junior Leagues International, former Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown, and co-founder of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. In l982 the JLW established an annual $10,000 Meg Graham Scholarship awarded to graduating seniors of DC public and charter schools who have been accepted to an accredited post-secondary institution and who demonstrate a strong academic record and significant volunteer service. [gallery ids="99569,104840,104829,104837,104834" nav="thumbs"]

Follies Comes to the Kennedy Center

Believe it. “Follies” is no folly. It’s a big deal.

It’s a big deal for the Kennedy Center, where a ground-up, full-blown revival of the groundbreaking Stephen Sondheim musical is now on stage at the Opera House through June 19. It is the culmination of four years of planning, effort and work.

It’s a big deal for director Eric Schaeffer, the artistic director of the Signature Theater, who is practically a Stephen Sondheim godson when it comes to all things music and staging of the reigning monarch and legend of the American musical.

It’s a big deal because “Follies” was a big deal for Sondheim; he took a giant step forward in his creative control for this show, not only writing the lyrics, but composing the music. The net result was a string of musicals that have made Sondheim a giant and innovator of the American musical theater.

It’s a big deal because the content-and-concept laden “Follies,” first staged by Harold Prince in 1971, was a uniquely Sondheim kind of musical, with its story of members of a former Zigfield-type follies reuniting on the eve of a theater demolition, past theater glory, and what happens to divas and stars when the spotlights shut down. It is a musical driven as much by the characters as the music. The original featured song and dance man Gene Nelson, movie star Alexis Smith and Dorothy Collins. The musical received seven Tony Awards, including Sondheim’s first for best original score.

Ron Raines stars as Benjamin Stone, and longtime Washington favorites Terrence Currier and Frederick Strother grace the stage in this production.

It’s also a big deal for Lora Lee Gayer who plays Young Sally and Christian Delcroix who plays Young Buddy.

Everybody’s heard and read about the ladies of “Follies,” mainly Bernadette Peters, Janis Paige and Jan Maxwell.

You may not have heard of Gayer and Delcroix, but they’re also critical elements of the show, a connection to the past for the main characters, alter egos that drift in and out of the show, sometimes sharing the stage with them.

For Delcroix, the process was probably filled with less angst than facing Gayer. “Danny and I had already worked together in ‘South Pacific’ at the Lincoln Center, so we knew each other, had been on the stage together before,” said Delcroix, who grew up in Pittsburgh and lives in New York. “So we could talk about the parts, who they were, what a young Buddy might be like. We had a pretty good rapport right off the bat. That’s an advantage.”

Delcroix acknowledged that playing the small part of the professor at Lincoln Center in the original cast of the smash hit revival (a touring company played the Kennedy Center’s Opera House this winter), was a big break. “That was a wonderful experience and chance for me. Now I’m in this terrific musical by Stephen Sondheim. You can’t get much luckier than that.”

For Gayer, who plays young Sally, the challenge was a little different. “Bernadette Peters is a legend. She’s one of the biggest stars in Broadway history. So yes, I didn’t know what to expect initially,” she said. “I was a little intimidated, sure. But she is really wonderful to work with. She’d make suggestions about the character, about what she might have been like. She is the expert when it comes to Sondheim”

Gayer graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with a BFA in Musical Theater. “I did Rapunzel in ‘Into the Woods,’ so that helped in dealing with Sondheim’s music, which is very difficult and challenging to sing,” she said. Gayer has played Roxie in “Chicago” and Mrs. Gottlieb in Sara Ruhl’s “Dead Man’s Cellphone.”

For the Kennedy Center, Michael Kaiser and Schaeffer, “Follies” marks a return to the works of Sondheim, by whom they’ve done very well. “Follies” was one of the few missing entries in the hugely successful Sondheim festival several summers ago, which included “Sweeney Todd,” “Company” and “A Little Night Music.”

Schaeffer put himself and the Virginia-based Signature Theater on the map with a smash production of “Sweeney Todd” years ago, and he and the theater never looked back, gaining a national and international reputation as interpreters of the Sondheim songbook and playbook, while forging a permanent presence with productions of edgy, sharp, contemporary musicals, including the works of Kander and Ebb as well as new shows like “Glory Days.”

“Follies” not only features legends in the flesh as characters, but in some ways it’s a bittersweet tribute to the musical stage. The irony is—as is sometimes the case with Sondheim—the original production had a relatively modest run of 522 productions. But this show, with songs like “Broadway Baby,” “I’m Still Here,” and “Too Many Mornings,” acquired—as is often the case with Sondheim—a sure footed afterlife with concerts and successful revivals, including a 1985 Lincoln Center Concert version, a 1987 West End production, a 2001 Broadway revival, another West End revival and a New York City Center Concert in 2007. The Lincoln Center concert starred Barbara Cook as Sally, George Hearn, Mandy Patinkin, and Lee Remick, and also included Carol Burnett, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Liliane Montevecchi, Elaine Stritch and Phyllis Newman—one of those wish-you-could-have-been-there casts.

“Follies” runs at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House through June 19.

Girls inc Gala

Girls inc Gala was held October 28th. [gallery ids="99470,99471,99472,99473" nav="thumbs"]

Special Birthday Girl at Peacock Cafe

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton celebrated her 63rd birthday at Peacock Cafe, Oct. 26, with her husband. President Bill Clinton had a veggie burger, and his wife, salmon with spinach. “What a great night at Peacock, taking care of President and Mrs Clinton,” Shahab Farivar wrote on his Facebook
wall. “The way they interacted with everyone and the staff was amazing. Thanks, Chelsea, for the recommendation.”– Robert A, Devaney

Capitol File Fetes Its 5th at the Corcoran

Capitol File celebrated its fifth birthday at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Oct. 20, and saluted fashion guru Tim Gunn, who is on its current cover. Niche Media boss Jason Binn was on hand as well as Cap File’s new editor Kate Bennett.– Robert A, Devaney

Elizabeth Taylor’s Washingtonian Legacy

Ah Hollywood…Ah Washington. How the denizens of these two cities yearn for each other.

The recent death of Elizabeth Taylor, pre-pixel Hollywood’s last great star, and its coverage around Washington highlighted the nurture-torture nature of this relationship, like an electric wire was connecting the cities. People remember her here; just ask the senator, the gossip writers, theatergoers and the folks at the Whitman Walker Clinic.

She was, heart and soul, a child of Hollywood, since her violet eyes and pitch black hair made their first impact on screen as one of MGM’s child stars in “National Velvet,” when she was just twelve years old. She was a movie star long before she ever aspired to become an excellent actress.

People, of course, still have trouble taking a really beautiful woman seriously, and Elizabeth Taylor was astonishingly beautiful in her youth. As such, it’s much easier to give the wrong kind of credit than to credit the right things. People focus on her numerous marriages, the drama and the diamonds. They focus on her adulteries that broke up first the marriage of Debbie Reynolds, America’s sweetheart, and then her own and those of husband Richard Burton’s.

The local obituary seemed to me curiously snarky and petulant, going out of its way to offer quotes disparaging her acting abilities. The front-page photo showed her in her famous white swimsuit from a scene in Tennessee Williams’ “Suddenly Last Summer,” in which she shared top billing with Katharine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift, two of the finest screen actors of the time. “Despite Oscar nods,” the caption read, “she was not always taken seriously an actress.”

They could have said it the other way around: “Despite not always being taken seriously as an actress, she won two Oscars—for “Butterfield 8” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (Mike Nichols’ film adaptation of the Edward Albee play, now enjoying a satisfying production at Arena Stage), opposite then husband Richard Burton.”

It’s fair to say that she was often used for her looks—one of those cases of “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” But those looks could be used to heartbreaking effect: Check out that scene when Montgomery Clift (again) first sees her in “A Place in the Sun.” You could see ambition rise in him like a sour soaring, and you could see him hold his breath. The film is one of George Stevens’ finest works, part of what he saw as an American trilogy that included “Shane” and “Giant,” the latter also starring Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean, who completed filming and promptly was killed in a high-speed sports car crash.

For someone not highly regarded, she apparently had the regard of directors like Stevens and Nichols, two very serious-minded men who made classic and serious films. I would expect that even Meryl Streep, our most serious and darling film actress, might have liked to have films like “A Place in the Sun,” “Giant,” “Suddenly, Last Summer,” “Reflections in a Golden Eye” and “Cat On a Hot Roof.” Even “Cleopatra,” in spite of its excess and on-set drama, which almost ruined 20th Century Fox and boss Daryl Zanukc, ended up making money.

She was legendary, larger than life, and lived in the public eye. No need to go into details too much. Like the Kennedys, a political institution, she experienced more than anybody’s share of triumph and tragedy, heaven on earth and hell on wheels all at the same time.

One thing everybody knew: she made friends, and kept them beyond death. She nurtured the troubled and gifted Clift through car wrecks, addictions and emotional troubles. She stood up for Hudson and still loves Burton. If she was at times over the top and with a certain carnal vulgarity, especially in the two bouts of marriage with Burton, well…she was entitled. That doesn’t make her the godmother of Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan.

Her stays in Washington were memorable: she married Senator John Warner of Virginia, the kind of marriage that should probably never happen. Imagine the fights in front of the mirror. But Warner remembers her with affection.

She appeared twice on stage in Washington, both times at the Kennedy Center, to mixed success and reviews. The first was as Regina in Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes,” which underwhelmed local critics, as I recall.

Then there was the time when then Kennedy Center President Roger Stevens thought that movie stars might pack ‘em in for theater. This brought us Liz and Dick in “Private Lives,” something this writer won’t ever forget. This is Noel Coward’s sophisticated play about a divorced married couple on honeymoons with new partners who run into each other at the hotel where they’re staying. Sparks fly in familiar ways. But in the middle of the play, Taylor’s Amanda says off-handedly: “You know, I’ve always been afraid of marriage.” This line brought the house down with laughter in a way that had everything to do with Taylor, not the show. Old pro Burton rode out the laughter wisely, and then ignited it again with a drawn out “Yes.”

That’s show biz. That’s legend.

She became, in a very real and practical way, the patron saint in the fight against AIDS, in the public’s recognition of what a dangerous disease it was, and the people it affected. She spoke up for Rock Hudson and everyone else who suffered from it, and she lent her name to the Whitman Walker Clinic. By contrast, the silence in Washington AND Hollywood in the early, devastating years of the disease was deafening. The Reagan, whose roots were in the Hollywood community which was being hit hard by AIDS, offered grief and condolences over the death of Hudson, while not mentioning AIDS at all, as if he had died of some peculiar strain of the common cold?

She opened minds and changed them, and her presence rose above that of the fundamentalists who called the disease the punishment of God at Gay Pride parades. She never wavered in this, and she did it out of life, not boredom or publicity seeking.

God bless her for that, and have no doubt that he and she will.


The annual NIAF Gala in Washington, DC is an opportunity to recognize and honor Italian Americans and Italians in business, science, sports, entertainment and philanthropy who have made enormous contributions to our society.
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Keith Lipert Gallery Showcases “The Gardens of Kabul”

Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large in the Office of Global Women’s issues, was unable to attend the Oct. 28 reception and cultural exhibition celebrating the talents of Afghan women at the Keith Lipert Gallery on Oct. 28. She was superbly represented by Peggy McKean, Senior Exec. Asst. in Amb. Richard Holbrooke’s Office, who spoke eloquently of the efforts to recreate the traditional crafts of Afghanistan. Keith Lipert Gallery on M Street was the obvious venue as a bevy of his savvy shoppers enjoyed a collection of beautiful hand crafted scarves and jewelry from Afghanistan where Artizan Sarai works to support gender equality and fair trade. Kate Spade will be producing specialty items to further the cause of Afghan women. – Mary Bird [gallery ids="102544,102545,102546,102547,102548,102549" nav="thumbs"]