We often talk about what The Daily Truffle would be like if it were in Washington DC; What are the parties and who are the people we would care about …? With the Tuesday election coming up we thought it would be a good time to delve into the idea with a round-up of need-to-know parties and people in DC.
One key thing to know about DC nightlife is that it’s all about the ‘black-tie event’. There are two gala seasons in DC, one in the fall which is considered the first gala season even though it’s at the end of the year, and the other is the spring gala season which is considered to come second.
Most everything in DC that is not a black-tie fundraiser of sorts that is worth doing, happens at one of 4 hotels (the Jefferson, the Four Seasons, the Hay Adams, or the Mayflower), or at one of 5 bars (Cafe Milano, The Quill Bar at the Jefferson, the bar at Bourbon Steak inside the Four Seasons, or for super-duper preppy people: George (just “George”) and Bo Blair’s Smith Point, or one of a handful of people’s homes such as Jane & Calvin Cafritz, or David & Katherine Bradley, or of course, the residence of the Irish Ambassador which is a whooooooooole other thing to get into. Today The Irish Mafia essentially runs DC and the Irish Embassy is their HQ headquarters for parties, meetings and whatnot; the Irish are one of the most powerful and allied Washington sets.
To break it down a bit further, there are various groups in DC. One thing about Washington to note is that there are two distinct sectors; those from DC and those who move to DC.
There are those who grew up in Washington, who went to fancy schools ie. Sidwell Friends (where the children of Theodore Roosevelt, Clinton, Nixon, Biden, Gores, and Obama all went but beyond that it’s where the famous DC alumni went and is the Harvard of DC private schools) and St. Albans which is just for boys, and are from super old fancy Washingtonian families, and then there are those who work on the Hill who moved for government jobs and are kind of plebeians. Breeding, pedigree and your degree are definitely important.
Here are the best DC schools:
Sidwell Friends – the hardest to get into, Quaker school
St.Albans (boys) – super elite boys school
National Cathedral School (girls) – super elite sister school
Maret – a bit liberal, a bit artsy, but still fancy
Georgetown Day School – very progressive, the kind of place were you refer to your teachers by their first name, and can walk out of class when you’re board.
Hotlon Arms (Girls) – Rich BETCH School in Bethesda, MD
Landon (boys) – Huge emphasis on Sports, super jocky, Bethesda MD
The Hill people (meaning those who both live and work on Capitol Hill) are insulated; they pretty much stay there and only commune with each other. Capitol Hill, which resides in a neighborhood area called ‘Southeast,’ use to be very rough (rougher than South Central; think 1980s Downtown L.A.). Today the Hill has become gentrified and really quite preppy and full of people who don’t have time for much else that their immediate co-workers and their jobs … whereas a lawyer living in Georgetown may venture to Martin’s Tavern, where Jack Kennedy proposed to Jackie Kennedy (Bouvier at the time), and every girl wears pearls and is looking to land a husband. A good bar for Georgetown students is the Tombs, where St. Elmo’s Fire was based; located under 1789, a restaurant, and across the street from house where the movie The Exorcist is set. Nicer families live in Glover Park, Spring Valley, Cleveland Park, and Chevy Chase while the very affluent live in Massachusetts Heights, Kalorama, Embassy Row, and Wesley Heights.
For the general election night, coming this Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, both of the candidates plan two parties in their hometown where events for both a victory and defeat must be planned (Obama in Chicago, Romney in Boston); there is nothing too overwhelming in DC worth noting except maybe look out for Grace Bender‘s Election Night Party. Romney’s Boston party will be held at the Boston Convention Center and Obama’s will be held at McCormick Place in Chi-Town. As a side note, Obama cast an early vote this year a few days ago and is now traveling because of Hurricane Sandy but will eventually land in Chicago by Tuesday evening.
Depending on who is inaugurated, the social scope in DC will change to some degree. There are the tried and true Washingtonians but there are those that come and go with the current regime. Obama has brought in a more Hollywood tone to DC that did not exist during the Bush era. Come January, most every state will have its own gala celebration, or Inaugural Ball, to celebrate the new president. When Obama came into office, there was a ‘home-state’ ball for Illinois at the Washington Convention Center but the big fun party was the Youth Inaugural Ball where Kanye West came, and MTV was covering. An after party was held at the Washington Hilton. (JAN)
As for the rest of gala season all year, here’s what you need to know from a DC native perspective, and reflects the opinions of what a born and raised Washingtonian would find relevant …
Fall Gala Line-Up:
- Jane & Calvin Cafritz Welcome Back From Summer Party: This is a hometown party where you would only get an invite if you are part of a super old fancy Washington family. It is held in September when everyone gets back from Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, or the Eastern Shore if you’re really old-style … though most people in Washington opt for Nantucket. (SEPT)
- During the Bush administration, George W. was close with Kuwaiti Ambassador Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah and his wife Rima Al-Sabah who has become quite the social star and managed to remain on top of society during Obama’s 4 year run. The Kuwait Consulate hosts a ton of events and Rima has been part of the DC elite for the last ten years hosting parties for Lauren Bush and getting constant mentions in the fashion press. Washington society LOVES Rima. She has a huge insane bash every other month. (EVERY OTHER MONTH)
- Susan G. Komen 3rd Annual Honoring the Promise: This one is huge. HUGE. Held at the Kennedy Center where the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Washington Ballet often perform. The Kennedy Center is run by a White House appointed board; the appointees discuss different fundraising techniques and invite various ballet companies to come perform; ie. one year they brought in the St. Petersburg’s Kirov Ballet or The Mariinsky Ballet based in Saint Petersburg, originally known as the Imperial Russian Ballet. (OCT)
- Fight Night: Joe Roberts, who died of cancer in his late 50s and was best friends with Quincy Jones and a billionaire at one point, started this event which has become one of the most well-attended and important events of the year. (NOV)
- Kennedy Center Honors: This is a big big event that honors two different performers each year. Last year it was Oprah Winfrey and Paul McCartney. It is held at the Kennedy Center with a big after party. It’s not amazingly fun but more of prestigious thing to be invited to, and be seen at, and to say you went. (DEC)
- Nels Olsen’s Christmas Party: Washington is big on Christmas parties. Everybody who is anybody in Washington has a big fancy Christmas party; you could go to five a night for the three weeks leading up to Christmas. One to note is that of Nels Olsen, who does a great summer party in Nantucket as well, and is the man you talk to when a politician coming out of a job in Washington wants to parlay him or herself into TV by getting a high-brow job in media. His is basically an agent for politicians. Everybody attends his Christmas party if you are anywhere between the ages of 30 to 50. It’s very Less Than Zero and it’s very awesome. (DEC)
- Ben Bradlee’s New Year’s Eve Party: Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Post, and his journalist wife, Sally Quinn, host a big New Year’s party every year. It’s the kind of thing where you have to be “a friend of Ben and Sally” to go. (DEC)
- Jeté Society Mad Hatter Party: Jeté is the young steering committee for the Washington Ballet which you can pay to be on. Held at a different place each year, the young professionals event raises money for the ballet and has emerged to be one of the more festive and fun galas of the year. It’s well-attended by the Ballet board members who put on their own event in January that is the major Washington Ballet fundraiser and is called the Alice in Wonderland Ball held at the Mellon Auditorium. Both are excellent; the latter being a must on every lady-who-lunches gala season calendar. Elizabeth Bagley chaired the Alice in Wonderland gala this past April; she is one of the strongest members of the Irish mafia and was married to Smith Bagley, heir to the RJ Reynolds fortune, who died last year. (APR)
- ‘Washington Life’s’ Young and the Guest-List: This is not a big power scene but is important to note on a list of parties such as this because it is where the young 20 and 30-year-old die-hard party hoppers head, who are dying to get into society magazines. Here you will also find nepotists sons and daughters of notable Washingtonians. Washington Life, a decent society magazine, hosts the party. (FEB)
- St. Patrick’s Day Party at the Residence of Irish Ambassador: Notable DC people attend along with the entire Irish mafia. Think: Joe Biden, Chris Matthews, Mark Shields, Kirsten Gillibrand, Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, and future congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III, etc. (MAR)
- Refugees International Gala: Known as the “RI” gala, Matt Dillon and Sam Waterson are spokespeople and Queen Noor has taken it in as one of her primary causes, traveling with them for all their galas. It’s always a nice, tasteful event, the people are always pretty serious and it’s a really nice group of people. (MAR)
- The Helen Hayes Awards: Held at the National Theater by theatreWashington (who also has a gala in the fall) each year with an after-party across the street at the JW Marriot. Last year the event was hosted by Kevin Spacey who few realize is head of the performance arts scene in London. (APR)
- White House Correspondents Dinner: The best known event out of DC, after the Inaugural Ball, is the White House Correspondents Dinner. But much like the Oscars in Los Angeles, the even hotter tickets are the private pre and post games. Tammy Haddad hosts a brunch the day before while John McLaughlin‘s throws a ‘morning-after’ brunch at Hay-Adams Hotel each year. Then there is also two must-attend after parties; the Bloomberg After party and the Vanity Fair After party. (APR)
- The Opera Ball: This epic event is held by a different embassy each year. Last year it was the Chinese Embassy and the year before, Sam & Susan Lehrman donated a million dollars for the party when it was held at the Russian Embassy. An ice rink was laid down inside the embassy, the brought in snow and the Bolshoi Dancers were flown in and danced on the ice in skates; there was vodka and caviar everywhere. (MAY)
- The Phillips Collection Annual Gala: The Phillips Collection is an important private art collection owned by the foundation housed inside the the former home of Duncan Phillips. Because it is housed in someone’s home, like the Frick in New York, it has a historical, privee aire about it. The gala is held at the neighboring Anderson House. (MAY)
Off to Nantucket now for the summer …. Tah! See you in Sept! xoxo