DC parties pop, even without Biden


WASHINGTON – Something surreal happened on the Potomac one evening. A large white tent erected in front of the Kennedy Center appeared to be a portal into the past.

Among them, young men loudly demanded to be photographed with Paul Ryan. White House aides worked in tuxedos in front of a crowd. Ballet flats swirled in front of a Supreme Court judge and a flurry of foreign dignitaries. Nobody talked about tweets, FBI investigations, or impeachments. There was hardly a mask to be seen.

It was like this last year of Covid-19, barbed wire and rioting had just been a bad trip. If Proud Boys really had marched into them Streets? Was St. John’s Church set on fire? Was the seat of government actually occupied by a horned mob? Yes, and now the country’s capital wants to spit out the taste of tear gas and pick up a champagne flute.

“You had to have a moment every day where you woke up thinking the world was going to end,” said Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia.

Washington, he said, is ready for “a little bit of sanity”.

Mr. Warner co-chaired this black tie fundraiser that the Washington Ballet sponsored. Dancers performed the grand pas de deux from the third act of “Don Quixote” while the party set got its sea legs. Wasn’t the Senator discouraged from having to put the suit back on and press the money-rich meat? “If I were depressed,” he said, “I would be in the wrong business.”

After posing for photographers, Fox News host Bret Baier said, “It’s a bit surreal going from nothing to everything. But it feels really good. It feels like Washington is back. “

Like a grizzly waking from hibernation, the ruling class comes out of this with an appetite. After inboxes across town were hit by an email explosion from DC impresario Tammy Haddad announcing the reopening of lunch at Cafe Milano, bureaucrats and media people poured into the gaudy Georgetown restaurant . (Cindy McCain, expected to be nominated soon from President Biden to a plum ambassador in Europe, was spotted there on day 1; MSNBC presenter Stephanie Ruhle was there the next day.)

The restaurant’s owner, Franco Nuschese, has also given Juleanna Glover, the advisor and Mughal whisperer, his nearby mansion and its three acres for a series of grand dinner parties. The elites who gnawed at Wagyu beef and lobster salad at various times earlier this month included Suzanne Clark, chairwoman of the US Chamber of Commerce, among Russian olive bushes and Italian columns; Kewsong Lee, the executive director of the Carlyle Group; Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan; and Norah O’Donnell, the CBS newscaster.

As the establishment returns to its playground – some would say swamp – the contours of the new Washington are taking shape.

Washington society is said to have been dying for half a century now. The truth is that the place has suffered a severe image problem since at least 1933, when Jean Harlow in “Dinner at Eight” resisted the prospect of being dragged into this graveyard as the wife of a cabinet member and doomed to roll Easter Eggs on the White House lawn with “a lot of sour meats with last year’s clothes”.

And yet the mood was high and the company was stylish one evening earlier this month in the stately Kalorama home of Justin B. Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media Group. He hosted the first good DC media party of the summer.

Journalists gathered for scallops and lamb toast included The Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg; Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart; Jonathan Swan from Axios; and Abby Phillip from CNN. Also the actress Uma Thurman, who is with Mr. Smith.

Ms. Thurman likes DC “I greeted and was spiritually intrigued by the Cicada that just crawled over my finger“, She said, holding a flute made of pink natural pétillant in her hand.

she has fought against batman, been Shot full of rock salt and buried alive – at least in character – but has she ever seen anything as disturbing as 25 reporters in one place trying to socialize? “Actually, I’m a news lover, I really appreciate people like Kaitlan,” she said, referring to CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins, who was also present.

Right next door, the French ambassador Philippe Tienne is also cleaning his shoes for the Biden years. “We are not fortunate enough to have this beautiful residence for nothing,” he said one morning at breakfast in the residence of the French ambassador, flanked by seven oil paintings from Versailles depicting angels and goddesses.

Mr. Etienne sat in a room where Charles de Gaulle had once toasted with President Eisenhower. “It would be a crime, it would be a professional error,” he said, not to use the residence sensibly.

He has been locked in this gilded cage for a year, reading novels by Philip Roth and John Steinbeck in order to understand his American environment. But the Dust Bowl has little to do with diplomacy, a contact sport.

So next month he’s going to host a series of Bastille Day events with a VIP: the Statue of Liberty ‘s “little sister”, a nine-foot bronze Lady Liberty, based on the original 1878 plaster model by Frédéric -Auguste Bartholdi. was made to shape and scale the Statue of Liberty.

After a nine-day crossing of the Atlantic and an exhibition in New York, this bronze original, one sixteenth the size of her sister, will land on the front yard of the ambassador’s residence.

“The French and Americans are very attached to their freedom, we want to keep it alive,” said Mr Étienne, “and the best way to do this is to do positive things in the world together.”

It’s a good time to be European in Washington. President Biden, an arch-Atlanticist, landed in Britain that morning to try to unleash the spirit unleashed by his isolationist predecessor back in the bottle, and during breakfast both Mr. Etienne’s phones rang.

But even for the French, after the president’s return, it can be a challenge to get him or his top advisors out for a good time. The capital is like a solar system. All planets revolve around the sun, and the sun did not rise during the last few administrations. Mr. Trump has never gone anywhere but his hotel.

Mr Biden never lived in Washington during his 36 years as a senator, and although he moved to the city when he became vice president, he was hardly a party-goer. In the past, the abstinent, yet logorrheic, Mr. Biden, when he stopped by occasionally, generated messages – as if he did cackled with reporters at a party hosted by the Irish Ambassador in 2018, speaking openly about the battle for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and his regrets over the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill hearings in 1991.

More recently, he and Vice President Kamala Harris were on hiatus Surprise lunch in Le Diplomate, that town’s answer to Balthazar, without Page Six beef.

But the “man in the basement” image that Mr. Biden adopted during his belt-and-braces campaign endures. Like a German shepherd running into an electric fence, Mr. Biden cuts himself off if he persists too long. “I’m going to get into trouble with my staff,” he said in such a moment while speaking abroad this week.

Even without the president, parties can break out here as long as someone shows up to beseech the White House. That was called earlier Kellyanne Conway or Ivanka Trump. Now it’s top consultants like Steve Ricchetti and Mike Donilon. But both men hold back; Mr. Donilon was described by David Axelrod as having “the disposition of a parish priest”.

For others in Mr. Biden’s close circle, like his Chief of Staff Ron Klain, there is a “there, done” mentality as described by Sally Quinn in her post-mortem establishment in the Washington Post magazine Last month. The government also wants to project an image of “all-work-and-no-play” as it seeks to lead the nation out of crisis.

If there is one person who can attract the charismatic megafauna, it is Karen Pierce, the British Ambassador. Ms. Pierce, a spark plug who fought with the Russians before the UN Security Council while she was one Feather boa and leather blazer, is ready to party. Like her recently said British VogueIf it hadn’t been for the pandemic, “I would have thrown one every day.”

She has been paralyzed by more than the pandemic. The British Embassy has been under renovation since 2019. It’s a palatial estate designed by Edwin Lutyens that has an Andy Warhol portrait of Queen Elizabeth and is where the Beatles once celebrated. (John Lennon described to Jann Wenner at the British Embassy in Washington here or wherever it was, being “touched and scratched” when a damn animal cut Ringo’s hair. I got out of this cursing and berated them all. “

If Ms. Pierce takes full advantage of the message again – the hope is that it will be ready in time for this year’s Christmas celebrations – it will be like James Bond getting the keys to his Aston Martin back.

In the meantime, it has established itself with small garden parties in the nearby ambassador’s residence. One such soiree was recently held for British director Simon Godwin, whose new film adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” has received critical acclaim.

Ms. Pierce rocked evergreen pumps and took guests, including writer and royal expert Sally Bedell Smith, Sharon Rockefeller, and Jane Harman, to the Pimms Cups bar. Outside, Mr. Godwin’s film was on a projection screen and tea lights floated in a swimming pool.

As Mercutio began the sonnets, prominent Washington attorney Abbe Lowell (former clients: Jared Kushner, John Edwards, President Bill Clinton) sat back in his chair and remarked, “The nice thing about coming out tonight was that I was testing could see if my suit still fits. ”It did.


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