Monday, December 21, 2009

Drinking Oasis but not the Kool-aid at Tackle Box

Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the ominous White House party crashers, may be getting their own reality show; but guests of The Georgetown Dish after party were drinking their family wine. “Oasis” was offered compliments of Yeas & Nays’ columnist Nikki Schwab who picked up a bottle over the weekend. Consensus: No offense to the family business, but we don’t blame Tareq for the troubled vineyard.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler at Teatro Goldoni by Pamela Sorensen

Dec 8

The Secret Service Revealed

They (whoever they are) say that “timing is everything”. There’s no doubt in my mind that New York Times best selling author and multiple award winning journalist Ronald Kessler agrees with that.  Fresh off the press, his latest/18th non-fiction work, called In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with the Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect was an instant NYT Best Seller and has spent 8 weeks on the hot list.

Kessler was the special guest at the author media meet & greet series that Janet Donovan of Creative Enterprises International, Christine Warnke of Hogan & Hartson and soon to be launched The Georgetown Dish’s Beth Solomon hosted on Monday evening.  He and his wife Pamela talked with local media attendees at the reception, addressed the group prior to dinner being served, then patiently answered journalists’ questions before he bit into his dessert.  The book openly and with no shame, tells accounts of the real deal – what really goes on behind the scenes with the overworked, understaffed agents whose job is to take a bullet for the POTUS.

The problem is not the agents, shared Kessler. It’s the management.  He was emphatic in putting money back into the Agency. There’s nothing more important than protecting the President of the United States. If there is an assassination, there is no democracy. Because of budget cuts, these agents are working way too many stressful hours, straining their ability to do their job to the fullest.
On a lighter note, look for entertaining anecdotes of past (and current) Presidents and their families. Who was nice?  Who was naughty?  Who did what in public, yet was actually deceitful?  Washington loves a great Tell All.

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler at Teatro Goldoni by Jessica Rettig

State Dinner Crashing Could Lead to Secret Service Improvements

Corrected on 12/09/09: An earlier version of this article misstated the president who Ron Kessler says was least respectful to his secret service agents. He says it was Carter.

By Jessica Rettig, Washington Whispers

If there's one person who thinks the media attention on the Salahi-state dinner gate-crashing incident was a good thing, it's Ron Kessler, author of the recently published book In the President's Secret Service. The longtime journalist and writer of 17 other nonfiction books said that media scrutiny of the Secret Service is absolutely necessary, since corner-cutting has become the norm among the agents. The agents themselves are honorable men, all college-educated and well screened, and really would take a bullet for the Obamas, he says. But he claims that they are poorly managed and overworked, causing low morale and lots of slack in the system, such as letting unknown blondes in saris walk through security checkpoints when pressure is high.

The whole force, which protects not only the president but many of his staff, operates under a budget of $1.4 billion, about half of what it costs to build a single Stealth bomber. Kessler says that the conditions are detrimental to democracy itself.
At a dinner Monday at Washington's Teatro Goldoni, Kessler gave media representatives a preview of what's in his latest book. During his research, he was able to build up many sources, encouraging past and even current agents—more secretive than even FBI or CIA agents, he said—to open up about the people they protect.

His book gives the scoop on all the first daughters: how Jenna Bush would run through red lights to elude the agents, how Chelsea Clinton got into the most trouble of them all. How Jimmy Carter was a phony with the press—he'd carry his own (empty) luggage to seem more like the rest of America. How Lyndon B. Johnson would regularly strip naked on Air Force One. And how, long before the days of Monica Lewinsky, Johnson had his Secret Service agents install a buzzer to alert him when his wife was coming into the Oval Office. That was after she discovered him having sex with one of his aides.
As for our current president? Kessler says he's much more respectful to his agents than past presidents. (Carter was the least, he says.) He and Michelle even have special dinners for the Secret Service. The only dirt that Kessler found is that Obama still smokes from time to time, despite saying he's stopped. When asked if he thinks Obama is safe, Kessler replied, "No." He says that, especially after the party crashers, the president needs to fire Mark Sullivan, the director of the Secret Service, and at least double the agency's budget if he wants his family and staff truly out of harm's way.

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler at Teatro Goldoni by Patrick Gavin


Author Ronald Kessler just penned "In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect," so he's been closely following the case of Michaele and Tareq Salahi.

POLITICO caught up with Kessler at Teatro Goldoni Monday night, where he was being feted with a dinner party in his honor. Click the above video to hear Kessler's thoughts on the Salahi case, whether it will inspire imitators and whether Social Secretary Desiree Rogers deserves some of the blame.

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler at Teatro Goldoni by Jennifer Nycz-Conner

Jennifer Nycz-Conner

Ronald Kessler dishes about the Secret Service, and Beth Solomon dishes about Georgetown

Tuesday, December 8, 2009, 2:53pm EST
Ronald Kessler
Monday night, The New York Times best selling author Ronald Kessler entertained three dozen or so dinner companions at Teatro Goldoni with tales from his new (and his 18th) book, "In the President's Secret Service." Kessler has become a familiar face on the talking head circuit lately thanks to the continuing saga of the Party Crashers Who Shall Not Be Named. As an added course, one of the evening's hostesses, Beth Solomon, had some media news of her own to share. But more on that in a minute.
Kessler recounted tales of everything from which presidents really measured up to the personas they wanted to project (after all, who knows that truth better than the people protecting them 24-7?), to Jenna Bush's attempts to ditch her agents at red lights, to a frank discussion about a stagnant budget leading to too much corner cutting.
A second course of information came from Solomon, a former congressional speechwriter, current headhunter and yoga instructor and soon-to-be publisher of TheGeorgetownDish, a new news and social media site focusing on, well, all happenings Georgetown. Solomon has lined up numerous columnists known in Georgetown and social circles, including Mary Bird, dermatologist Tina Alster and Patty Ivey of Down Dog Yoga.
Beth Solomon
Look for the new neighborhood pub to launch Dec. 16 with a feel that's a cross between The Huffington Post and Washington Life, Solomon says.
And if all goes well, this is just the start of a larger neighborhood of publications: Solomon has already reserved the URLs for other potential dish's, including McLean, Old Town, Newport, Palm Beach and the Hamptons.

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler at Teatro Goldoni by Christine Delargy

FishbowlDC - Where Politics & DC Media Mesh

Kessler Dishes on Secret Service, Salahis and His New Book

Kessler at Teatro Goldoni.
"An author's life is a roller coaster. Sometimes you write a book that no one really cares about, but this one is quite the opposite," Ronald Kessler said of his latest "In the President's Secret Service" to a small dinner of journos last night.

Consider the timing- Kessler's book came out just before the Salahis party-crashing story broke. He says that the stories in his book actually exceed this White House security breach. And that the fault lies with the Secret Service's management.
The dinner at Teatro Goldoni was hosted by Janet Donovan, Christina Warnke and Beth Solomon, whose Georgetown Dish launches next week.
Joining them was: CBS' Steve Chaggaris, Pamela's Punch Pamela Sorensen, Bisnow's Patrick Dowd, Yeas & Nays' Nikki Schwab, Washington Whispers' Jessica Rettig, Washington Life's John Arundel (with mags hot off the press in hand), Bill Press, Fox's Catherine Herridge and The Hill's Christina Wilkie.
With late appearances by Time's Jay Newton-Small and Bobby Ghosh, Politico's Kiki Ryan, Tim Burger and Christina Sevilla.
More photos courtesy of the lovely Pamela Sorensen after the jump...

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler by Christina Wilke, The Hill

Author Ron Kessler on the 'trouble' with the Secret Service

E-Mail (will not be published) (required)
December 8, 2009, 10:32 am by Christina Wilkie
Best-selling author Ron Kessler spoke about his new book, "In the President's Secret Service," at a dinner Monday at Teatro Goldoni hosted by publicist Janet Donovan, "Georgetown Dish" publisher Beth Solomon, and Hogan & Hartson lawyer Christine Warnke.

The guest list reflected a broad spectrum of D.C. media personalities, ranging from Fox News Channel's homeland security correspondent, Catherine Herridge, to social chronicler Pamela Sorensen of Pamela's Punch.

Kessler's in-depth look at the executive protection agency was released early this fall and rose to the top of the non-fiction bestseller lists; but little could have prepared him for "Crashergate."

Ever since the White House state dinner security breach on Nov. 24, Kessler (pictured here with his wife, Pam Kessler) has appeared nearly non-stop on cable TV talk shows, sharing his observations on how the culture and management of the Secret Service might have contributed to the security breakdown.

Kessler told ITK he doesn't think individual agents are to blame for the Salahi breach; rather, it's a Service-wide culture that glorifies restraint, frugality and stoicism, even if sometimes it comes at the expense of a  mission. "The trouble is that the agents are admirable, but the management is derelict," he explained.

Can the battered Secret Service be restored to its former glory? Kessler believes it can, but only through a major shake-up at the highest levels. One person Kessler thinks might be able to set the U.S.S.S. back on track is the  director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, who is set to retire from his post in two years. "They need an outsider," said Kessler. "Someone with fresh blood to inject into the operation."

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler by Nikki Schwab, Yeas & Nays


[Print]  [Email]        

Secret Service cutting corners, spilling secrets

By: Nikki Schwab and Tara Palmeri
Washington Examiner
12/09/09 6:00 PM EST

Journalist Ronald Kessler said he wasn't surprised when it was discovered that two wannabe socialites had slipped through the Secret Service to attend last month's state dinner.
"I had been expecting a major calamity for a long time," said the author of "In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect."
While researching the project, Kessler was able to get agents to talk about what he viewed as "corner cutting" at the agency, starting when it became part of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, and got them to reveal a handful of anecdotes about the current president.
For one, President Obama is no quitter.
"He's continued to smoke on a regular basis," Kessler revealed to Yeas & Nays and a handful of other Washington journalists gathered at K Street restaurant Teatro Goldoni on Monday night. The president has said he's "95 percent" cured of his smoking habit.
Also, the now-president secretly met with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., smack in the middle of the controversy surrounding the preacher's inflammatory rhetoric. Agents purposely drove Obama to the meeting in a minivan instead of his regular Suburban so they would go unnoticed, Kessler's book notes.
But for Kessler, the Washington correspondent for, the juiciest and scariest stuff still comes down to security. In one instance, Kessler said, the Secret Service didn't use magnetometers on the full crowd for an appearance by Vice President Biden.
His take-away: "I can't imagine anything more shocking," he said. "It's like letting passengers into an airplane without metal detection."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The more the Merryer........

Bob Merry is a happy camper, as well he should be.  His latest tome, A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent, is movin' on up, currently ranking as high as #191 on the best-seller lists; as high as #22 in history books; and #1 in 19th century history. Not bad for a kid who grew up in a little fishing village in Washington state and not bad for a president that most people don't remember.  Therein lies the genius.

Merry takes readers on a four hundred and seventy-seven page journey into the life of the 11th President of The United States, long considered “our most underrated president.”   As a third grader briefly living in Charlottesville, Virginia, the author absorbed the rich history that surrounded him and acquired a taste for this period, perhaps ultimately the impetus for the book. 

"I portray James Polk, the mastermind and driving force behind this expansionist wave, as a smaller-than-life figure with larger-than-life ambitions. He achieved all his goals, but the efforts of this relentless politician sapped his strength and health, and within four months of his leaving office he died in his sleep at age 53."
If the number of book parties being held in his honor is any indication of his success, Merry is a winner.  The latest party was at the home of Audrey Cramer where former CQ colleagues David Rapp, Keith White, Loesje Troglia
joined columnist and commentator Mark Shields, MSNBC contributor and on and off again presidential contender Pat Buchanan and what seemed like at least another hundred and fifty.

Merry, who is the author of three other books, has been a journalist and publishing executive for over thirty-five years, including a decade as a Wall Street Journal correspondent and a dozen years as president and editor in chief of Congressional Quarterly, Inc.
"I had two wonderful career segments," said Merry, "covering Washington for one of the country's leading newspapers; and leading a fine news organization with the hallowed mission of lubricating the wheels of American democracy with ongoing flows of highly valuable civic information."  

After thought: Run, don't walk to get your copy:
After thought 2 (jus' sayin'): There are 98 pages in the notes and index, hope the researcher was well compensated.

After thought 3: Photo is not a "self pimp", my camera battery was dead. Credit Loesje for this one.


Mirror, mirror, on the wall.............

“I stuttered all through high school,” revealed Vice President Joseph Biden, the keynote speaker for Washington’s Lab School’s Twenty-fifth Anniversary at the National Building Museum.  “People think you’re not very smart,” he continued, praising Lab School, the first of its kind in the nation as a model for success in helping students overcome learning disabilities.  “It sapped my confidence.”
He said he didn’t mean to compare his stuttering with the handicaps some of the students faced, but in struggling against it (he stood in front of a mirror and recited poetry to get control) he gained an understanding of the efforts they made.

“Don’t let it define you,” he urged.  “My parents told me that being different is no barrier to success. It is not a reason for shame.”

Founded by the late educator Sally Smith, students from kindergarten though twelfth grade are prepared for success and future schooling through an innovative, tailor-made curriculum that includes art and creative projects.

This year’s honorees were Bill Milliken, the founder of Communities in Schools; motivational speaker Jonathan Mooney, author of “Learning Between the Lines,”; and  actress Lara Flynn Boyle, who was unable to attend.          

Comedian Ali Wentworth shared the master of ceremonies stint with her husband, George Stephanopoulos, who is currently rumored to replace ABC’s Diane Sawyer when she moves up to the anchor slot after Charlie Gibson takes a bow.

Laughter ensued when George mentioned he could always get good quotes from Joe Biden, (probably because the loquacious vice-president has so many of them). Biden shot back that he hoped to keep that tendency in check: “I’m trying like hell, but it’s difficult. I’ve never had a boss before.”

Honorary chairs were Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee. Co-chairs were Nancy and Alan Bubes and Angus and Sissy Wentworth Yates.

Will the real Housewives please stand up!

“Am I going to be on the hot seat?” was the first question Simon van Kempen of Real Housewives of New York asked Carol Joynt when he agreed to be interviewed on her Q and A Café series at the Georgetown Ritz Carlton.  “It will be a warm seat,” she admitted.
The dapper Aussie, famed for his sartorial styles, is the general manager of Murray Hill’s Hotel Chandler in New York both in life and on the show. He got there after climbing the ladder in his native Brisbane from night bellman, through kitchen duties and accountant’s tasks, ranging from London, Paris and New York, as well as acting as hotel consultant in six countries.  His wife, Alex McCord, is a real NY housewife on the show.

With the Real Wives franchise presently covering NYC, New Jersey, California’s Orange County and Atlanta, producers are honing in on the much anticipated Washington series. They are being cagey with the casting, having kept us up in the air since May, when a sample slice-of-DC-life was filmed at super lobbyist Juleanna Glover’s home. 

Georgetown modeling agency president Lynda Erkiletian seems already pegged for one spot.  Present at the luncheon and considered shoo-ins for the show were Mary Amons (mother of five and founder of the District Sample Sale) and style arbiter Paul Wharton, of Evolution Look.

Simon spoke of the book he and Alex have written.  Urban Parenting: Tales from a Real House in New York City is based on experiences with their two sons, Francois and Johan, who appear on the show with them. He was insistent on the importance of giving children time and attention. “I was only five years old when my father died, he said, “and I want to be the father to them that I didn’t have.”

Questioned after the show, he admitted: “I had fun.” Nevertheless, he artfully dodged some of Carole’s more probing questions regarding the show’s feuds,  like the Ramona-Mario hassles with Simon and his wife Alex. 

Also there were Sophie LaMontaigne and Katherine Kallinis who are having a phenomenal success with their trendy Georgetown Cupcake shop, (selling 1,000 per day at $2.75 a piece).  They will be Carol’s Q and A’s Café’s guests on December 9th, explaining how a pair of 20-somethings with an idea made it all happen. 

Item submitted by HOP contributor Donna Shor

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Me and Orson Welles: The kids stay in the picture. D.C. Premiere with Zac Efron and Claire Danes

Pamela's Punch! Third Anniversary Party.

 Prosecco flowed at Dupont Circle’s chic and eco-conscious Hudson’s Restaurant and Lounge on M Street when 50 of DC’s hippest helped Pamela Sorensen celebrate the third anniversary of Pamela's Punch.

Her social networking blog chronicles local events and markets, signaling what to follow, wear, eat and where to do it. “satisfies your thirst for the latest juice on the coolest places,” says Pamela.

Guests included a cross section of well-wishers from the media, social and financial worlds, including WJLA’s Rebecca Cooper, PR hotshot Victoria Michael, publisher John Arundel, The Hill's Christina Wilkie, AOL co-founder Jim Kimsey, Sofitel’s Pierre-Louis Renou and his wife Stephanie and The Washington Times' Stephanie Green of Green & Glover Undercover column.

Hudson’s managing partner, Alan Popovsky , orchestrated the seated dinner, which saw executive chef Ryan Arnold sending out truffled endive salad, Natural Angus New York strip steak and Arnold’s version of a fluffy cod brandade, which he Americanized by butter-browning into Gallic-accented,
crisp New England codfish balls.

The wines paired for each course included a flowery Alma Rosa Chardonnay, and a mellow, California-styled and intriguingly titled Menage a Trois, Folie a Deux Napa Cabernet.

Item by HOP contributor Donna Shor
Photo: Rebecca Cooper, Jim Kimsey, Pamela Sorensen
Photo credit: Janet Donovan

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Knock Out: Robin Givens vs. Mike Tyson

Heavyweight Champion of the World Mike Tyson has been called a lot of things, starting with his real name: Michael Gerard Tyson. From there he moved on Kid Dynamite, then  to Iron Mike to The Baddest Man on the Planet and finally to wife abuser - the latter a title no one wants to win.

Knock Out Abuse Against Women benefits victims of domestic violence founded in 1994 by Cheryl Masri and Jill Sorensen.

It’s been estimated that it takes 8 or 9 attempts to leave an abusive relationship.  The events' headliner, Robin Givens, agreed.  “That’s about right,” she said.  Would she ever be in an abusive relationship again?  “Absolutely not.”

Some recent studies reveal that nearly 50 percent of women are impacted by domestic violence in their adult lives.   “Abuse has several tag lines, but it’s always the same story,”  she said.

Don’t be part of the story. Run, don't walk to:

"Ich bin ein Berliner," again

NBC stalwart Tom Brokaw marched into the Newseum this week to a sold-out forum with PBS legend Robert MacNeil commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago.  “It was as though the people of Venus had come to Mars,” Brokaw said, remembering the joyous demolition that pulverized the Cold War era and spawned a flowering of democracy across eastern Europe.

The first time Brokaw saw the structure, he was "struck by its sinister quality." Being confined by The Wall (on the East, at least) was “worse than being at Alcatraz,” he said.

MacNeil said Germans were shocked when The Wall was built right through their towns. “People before had worked on either side, they had relatives on the other side."

"There were two men," he said, "who lived on either side of The Wall, one was a tailor and the other a bureaucrat, and they had never met. But every morning, for many years, as they went off to work, they waved at each other. And when The Wall came down, they held each other in a warm embrace.”

Who says Germans are stiff?

When Newseum VP and moderator-in-chief Susan Bennett finally called the discussion to an end the audience sighed with regret, hoping for a few more minutes of the journalists' memories.  Brokaw offered: “Today, eastern Germany is still an open wound. It is not doing well economically, and not surviving. Many people there believe that communism would be better. And West Germany thinks the Eastern half is a drain on the German economy.”


Posted by HOP contributor Beth Koralia
Photo credit: Jeff Malet

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Losing the News?

Twisting handkerchiefs over the future of news didn’t stop a great party for Alex Jones’ new book, “Losing the News,” at Mary and Don Graham’s last week.

Media heavyweights Jim Lehrer, Mark Shields and Judy Woodruff of the NewsHour, Andy Glass of Politico, Bloomberg’s Al Hunt, BBC’s Rome Hartman and GWU’s Frank Sesno jammed the spacious Cleveland Park home to celebrate their former colleague, who covered the media for the New York Times and won a Pulitzer before going to Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

“Losing the News” rightly worries about the erosion of what Jones calls the “iron core” of journalism – the “values and reporting” that serve the public.  Jones was literally surrounded by people who built that iron core as he spoke to the gathering of 150.

Jones sounded pessimistic, but Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker characterized his views as a “coffee cup half full” in Sunday's paper.

Jones says the prognosis is mixed. “My optimism comes from believing that we’re going to be able to solve” the problem of splintering audiences and declining circulation. “It’s too important not to solve. But it could go the other way."

Jones vehemently disagrees with the view that the print newspaper industry has contributed to its own demise by not moving faster to adopt new technologies and distribution methods.  

Media giant Gannett, on the other hand, has moved aggressively to attract online audiences by luring them through non-traditional information sites like and Gannett’s online advertising revenue soared 80 percent in its latest reporting, while print advertising – still the bread and butter for the behemoth – declined almost 25%.

That doesn’t cut the mustard for Jones. “If these organizations save themselves by getting out of the news business, I don’t care what happens to them. I fear that they’re gong to become like local television, programming calculated to attract an audience.”

But the author isn’t all doom and gloom, and he’s written a book with broad appeal. “The title of the book is losing the news, not lost the news,” he says. “It’s the public mission we have to save.”

Item by HOP contributor Beth Solomon.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Mind, body and spirit goes to K Street.

Out of Time?  Thought so.

Before the arrival of an exquisite hazelnut tort prepared by chef Enzo Fargione of Teatro Goldoni, author and motivational speaker Deepak Chopra already had guests mesmerized at an intimate dinner in his honor hosted by Christine Warnke of soon-to-merge law firm Hogan & Hartson and publicist Janet Donovan. 

The master of understanding the mind, body and spirit emphasized a belief widely held in the East -- time is an invention of the mind. "People who are running out of time frequently drop dead of a heart attack," he said.  Oh my, could have been a disastrous dinner party considering many of the guests were columnists trying to make their deadlines.  "But," he added,  "if your relationship with time comes from your soul, you tune into time and have synchronicity with it. It's an attitude that changes the experience -- and the literal condition -- of life."  Sage advice for the lobbyists in the house as well.

In town to promote his new book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, offers "10 breakthroughs – five for the body, five for the soul – that lead to self-transformation," according to Random House.

"Washington feels like an environment in which everyone is playing a game," said Dr. Chopra. "There are mafias everywhere."

His wife Rita said she totally avoided the city during the Bush years and calls herself an Obama "super supporter".  "I feel for Obama, what he's going through."  She has avoided the nation's capital since the Clinton years.

It was an obvious choice to bring up health care currently being hashed out in Congress.  "What we're talking about now is not health care reform, but insurance reform," he said. He bases his latest advice from studies on Buddhist monks, among others. "MRIs showed a positive response in the brain" -- healing ability -- when the brain focused on loving-kindness and joy. These are things Buddhists practice daily. Lo and behold, the studies showed that the brain could create other good by-products during these thought patterns."

"Information gets metabolized, like that clenching feeling when the stock market plummets. On the other hand, we can use our bodies to transcend time. How? Ecstasy, passion, love, he says. Practice it, daily."  Bring it on.

Even, just for a measured split second, there was tranquility on K Street.  We'll have what he's having.

Guests included Ben Bradlee, Sally Quinn, Meryl Comer, Michael Kosmides, Jamie Bennett, Rodney Henderson, Jonathan Capehart, Vicky Bagley, Vinoda Basnayake, Karen Finney and lots of journos who didn’t bother racing home to meet their deadlines: Nikki Schwab, Stephanie Green, Kevin Chaffee, Jessica Rettig, Pamela Sorensen, Christine Delargy, Kiki Ryan, Beth Solomon, Liz Glover,  and Patrick Gavin.

Item by HOP contributor Beth Solomon.
Photo: Sally Quinn, Deepak Chopra, Ben Bradlee, Michael Kosmides
Edit and photo credit: Janet Donovan

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Messenger

It was Sophie’s Choice at Thursday night’s closing of The Impact Film Festival, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization created as a platform for  documentary and narrative filmmaking. Having to choose between the simultaneous screenings of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers and The Messenger starring Woody Harrelson was a challenging call.

Ellsberg was the surprise high level Pentagon defector on Vietnam whose massive  pages concluded the war was based on lies.  After having leaked some 7,000 pages to The New York Times, it generated headlines around the world.  Watergate, Nixon’s resignation and the end of the Vietnam war followed; a must for anyone too young to remember.

The Messenger, starring Woody Harrelson, played across town at the E Street Cinema to a capacity audience.  It’s a powerful story of two men assigned to the Army's Casualty Notification service who display themselves outwardly as steely heroes while revealing their inner fragility with compassion and dignity. Ben Foster (an Ed norton look a like) and Harrelson may be set for Oscar nominations in this portrait of grief, friendship and survival.  

Some odd questions at the Q & A  moderated by Lois Romano.  Seemed like we weren’t at the same screening when she asked why Montgomery’s character didn’t get the girl. Huh? This was clarified later at the after party at Posh where the director Oren Moverman responded in kind: “Well yes, he did”.  As regards a kitchen scene she wondered why the twosome didn’t have sex, huh?  The sexual attraction was intense but why they didn’t was rather obvious. As Moverman put it: “I hope I handled that well.”  He did.  After a brief interaction with guests, he moved in with Hunter Biden’s circle of friends with periodic accessibility.

“Forget the politics. Seeing this film as a film is a must. It is a superb directorial debut that builds an ensemble display of acting that takes your breath away. The nine minutes in the kitchen scene is worthy of adding to your pantheon of cinema bests. Tight shots, in your face, human sadness and, best of all ...reality, ” said Richard Rymland.  And, he should know, he is married to film producer Catherine Wyler (yes, that Wyler).

The whole experience was like walking into other peoples lives; in these cases, you would never want to.

Harrelson, a devoted peace activist, was a curious choice for the part.  “I had to get into a psychological space I had never been in before. I may not agree with the war, but I have compassion for the warriors.”

Above photo: Woody Harrelson and Jonathan Capehart.  Photo credit: Janet Donovan

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baby Love

Baby Love

MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell wafted into the Mandarin Oriental Saturday in a floor-length plum gown to honor the memory of family friend Joan Hisaoka at the Second Annual "Make a Difference" Gala to benefit the Smith Farm Center for Healing and the Arts greeting guests with her husband, restaurant founder Geoff Tracy of Chef Geoff's and Lia's. O'Donnell was the event's headliner.

The Center, which includes the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, blends new and old techniques to transform the experience of illness -- including stress reduction and inner quiet, art-making, supportive listening, and healthy lifestyle choices.

O'Donnell and Tracy said they want to help victims as well as help people avoid cancer in the first place, which was the impetus for their cookbook Baby Love, featuring healthy recipies for infants, to be published by St. Martin's next year. Tracy takes pride in the baby food he's created for their twins, including purées with flax and broccoli. But don't, repeat don't, infer that Chef Geoff's is getting crunchy or exotic. "I don't want to be known as a health-food restaurant," he said. "That would put me straight out of business." (Especially the flax and broccoli, we might add.) "A cup cake is perfectly good," he added. "But have it once in a while."

Honoree Grace Bender, receiving the Hope and Healing Award at the event, is a cancer survivor herself. "We're living in a world when stress, the environment and chemicals in our food are big factors," she said. "It's doing something to our system." She turned her struggle with breast cancer into activism. "I'm a health care advocate," she said emphatically. Bender isn't just talk. She launched, a personal health care and medication organizer to help people track tests, manage medications, and coordinate doctors.

Bender was a friend and supporter of the Nina Hyde Breast Cancer Center at Georgetown University when she read an article in Washington Life about Komen Race for the Cure founder Nancy Brinker, another hit by breast cancer. The article motivated her to get an MRI, which led to a double mastectomy that saved her life.

The experience seems to have strengthened, not weakened her. "I'm going to become a blogger," she said. "I'm going to spend the rest of my life teaching people to be advocates for themselves and their loved ones."

The event felt like a family affair. Wendy Gordon, who became president of Hisaoka Communications, came to support the cause. Hisaoka's brother Bob chaired the fundrasier. Old friends were drafted to help out including Joan's old friend Chris Spielmann who works as a noted architectural and commercial photographer during the week. He stepped in as a volunteer to make sure the red carpet shots came out ok. "Of course I said yes," he said. Even though Joan wouldn't have wanted him to do it for free. Eric Ziebold of CityZen did the dinner with the help of Robert Weidmaier, RJ Cooper and Jeff Buben.

By HOP contributor Beth Solomon, photo by Chris Spielmann

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oktoberfest Rolicks Old Angler's Inn for Diabetes Benefit

Dr. Fran Cogen has a dream. As the nation braces for a tsunami of childhood obesity and related diseases, the pediatrician and diabetes expert is racing to establish a holistic care center at Childrens National Medical Center to treat a growing number of young victims.

"It's like being hit with a sledgehammer when a child gets diagnosed with a chronic, life-threatening illness like diabetes," she said. "They need survival skills, they need education." And they need therapy. Cogen's latest effort is to establish a new Pediatric Diabetes Care Complex at Childrens so that area victims and their families can get the help they need.

That's why Teatro Goldoni's Enzo Fargione and area chefs joined the Washington Nationals and good-guy Ted Leonsis in a rousing Oktoberfest celebration Saturday at Old Angler's Inn in Potomac -- to raise the final $500,000 necessary to build the $2 million complex. In 2007, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation committed $1.25 million in cash and $750,000 in assets.

Fargione's daughter Chiara was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age three. "She didn't know anything, and all of a sudden she had to adjust to insulin and syringes. Her mother was wonderful. We're not married anymore, but we're good friends," he said. "I think it's nice."

Chiara's mother, Potomac native Maury Byrne, smiled with her daughter as they sashayed under a sea of tents between the oom pah pah band, the bratwurst stands, and luxurious food stations provided by Teatro, the Peacock Cafe, D'Acqua, and Jeff Black of Blacksalt and the Black Restaurant Group.

"Enzo was instrumental in getting this together," Byrne said, tossing a compliment back to her ex. They met when Byrne was 22, and Enzo was a sous-chef at Galileo. Both worked across the D.C. restaurant landscape. Not long after they married, daughter Chiara was born. "Then she got sick," Byrne said.

Now 19, the Montgomery College student still needs the care that only Childrens provides. "We're there twice a week," Byrne says. "It can be a three-hour exercise."

Old Angler's Inn owners Sara and Mark Reges and Jeff Black, the parents of diabetic kids, were joined by event chairs Susan and Tom Faries, Mimi and Bob Schwartz, Marla and Robert Tanenbaum, and Judy Weisman to support the planned 6,500 sq. ft. complex.

"Schools are not doing enough" to educate and prevent the obesity that leads to what used to be called "adult-onset" or Type 2 diabetes, Dr. Cogen said. "School lunches should be consistent with moderate food choices," she said. "The fructose in corn syrup," a staple of school cafeterias, "is a disaster." Once obesity leads to diabetes, the illness cannot be reversed.

But there's hope. Dr. Cogen points to Supersize Me, Fast Food Nation, and recent documentary Food Inc. as good sources of the facts. And she won't stop fighting this 21st Century scourge. "This is my life," she said. That's a positive diagnosis.

Posted to HOP by "The Mole" a.k.a Beth Solomon, HOP correspondent

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hook Nets Democrats in Sustainable Catch

Who says Monday nights are quiet? Not in Georgetown. Spotted: baby Senator Al Franken, having dinner with grown-up political consultant Mandy Grunwald, at Hook -- the secret gem of Georgetown dining. Both politicos had appetizers and seafood entrees, no alcohol. No alcohol? Maybe abstinence is a side effect of the health care reform debate.

But kudos to Sen. Franken for sitting down with one of the brightest lights in political consulting. Don't think Hillary wins elections all by herself -- Mandy Grunwald is a longtime, media-savvy, brilliant FOH.

Hook teems with high-power Democrats partly because of its mission -- to serve outstanding cuisine while sustaining the planet. Other Democratic honchos frequent the seafood haunt, which prides itself on serving sustainable catch using cruelty-free products. Rahm Emanuel and Madeleine Albright are regulars.

"They get the fine dining without the $300 price point," of Citronelle or 1789, explains Wendy Gordon of Hisaoka Communications.

But Democrats, don't get too comfortable. Bush heavyweight C. Boyden Gray also came in to dine with a friend, sitting within earshot of Democratic tables. Hook regular Gen. David Petraeus could keep the peace if these waters get rough.

Submitted to HOP by "The Mole" a.k.a Beth Solomon

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tina Brown Outshines Klieg Lights at Newseum

Like Washington's recent weather, the skies produce a constant drizzle over the print media industry -- is it dead, is it dying, is it still alive? Those were the questions drawing a standing-room only crowd to the packed Knight TV studio at the Newseum Saturday, where news junkies craned their necks to see magazine visionary Tina Brown, who, having turned around The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, can speak more credibly about print journalism than almost anyone.

The prognosis? "It's been a brutal 12 months in the magazine business," she admitted. "I believe self-help and service magazines will be exclusively online" in the near future. Weekly news magazines? Mostly gone in five years.

CNN's Frank Sesno, also a professor of public policy and communication at The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, offered the latest newsprint obituary. "105 newspapers have closed as of June this year," he said. "What do you make of that?"

"I think that's overplayed," said Newseum president Ken Paulson, formerly editor of USA Today. "Most newspapers are profitable." But not exactly thriving. The Washington Post recently reported further declines in ad revenue at the paper, following similarly grim statistics industry-wide. (

Some blame the flight of readers to the web. "But it's not just the internet hurting newspapers," Brown said, "It's corporate greed. Hollowing out content, cutting and cutting until there's nothing left" has eviscerated the reporting and writing that made print media big.

About a year ago, Brown came up with her own solution. Her sparkling site -- full of good writing, in-depth reporting and serious analysis -- drew nearly 4 million unique visitors in September, with 35 million page views. "It's very impressive" for a startup, said Paulson. More important, he said: The Daily Beast "has credibility."

Get there fast. Brown is now moving into online books and other ventures. "Books are the new magazines," she announced, because readers want an incisive, quick take on the news or to read a book on the plane. 50,000 words on a Kindle, she says.

The inimitable Brown and Paulson are the latest headliners in "The Future of News," a Ford Foundation-backed 10-part Newseum public TV series hosted by Sesno exploring news and communication in the digital age. Next up: Investigative Journalism: How Will it Survive? with Bob Woodward and Bull Buzenberg Oct. 24.

The series leaves room for nostalgia. "Remember Deadline U.S.A.?" Sesno asked, "One of my favorite movies" in which Humphrey Bogart playes a crusading editor who tries to save his newspaper from being sold to commercial interests.

"HR would come in and say, you can't drink, smoke or swear," and he'd be gone, Paulson retorted.

But real journalism continues to burn brightly as a worthy pursuit, even today. "It's still the best profession," Paulson said sincerely. "The Future of News," produced by the Newseum's Susan Brooks-Kelly with the help of Paul Sparrow, Vice President of Broadcasting, is drawing big crowds to the tapings.

Make no mistake, the dream is still alive. The show's on-air reporter Sonya Gavankar aspires to be a cross between CNN's Christiane Amanpour and NPR's Terry Gross. "I wanted to be a war correspondent," she said. Covering the future of journalism, she's close.

Submitted to HOP by "The Mole" a.k.a Beth Solomon
Pictured above: Tina Brown and Ken Paulson
Photo credit: Bruce Guthrie

Visit for more information.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Redskins PR Advice: Ask the Players

Redskins owner Dan Snyder could use some positive press these days, so it wouldn't hurt to take a peek at his athletes’ PR playbook.

Tuesday night, running back Clinton Portis had Capitol Hill buzzing at an event in support of Becky's Fund, the Juleanna Glover backed domestic violence prevention juggernaut.

Becky's Fund has generated considerable buzz itself: attorney/founder Becky Lee was a second runner-up on CBS's grueling reality show "Survivor." She lasted 39 days on a deserted slab of land in the Cook Islands. Even better: Becky used the prize money to create an eponymous group to push for stronger laws against domestic violence and other crimes against women. (

Portis’ presence drew throngs of people to the rooftop of The Liaison on New Jersey Ave. – as well as local TV cameras and a flotilla of scribes.

The "Walk This Way" fashion show featured Eric Finn men's' clothes worn by John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted and Scott Frederick of Valhalla Partners.

But Portis was the star. “I’m a football fan, and I also wanted to support this cause,” said Gloria Brooks of The People’s Choice LLC. “I know too many women who have had to face this.” Jewel Smith of Amgen echoed the sentiment. Gayela Bynum of Michelle’s Angels added drama to the crowd with her Hollywood looks, introducing her friend Matthew Davis, whose “Best of DC” coffee-table tome was raising funds at the silent auction. Jewelry designer Christine Haynes literally added sparkle.

Monday night at Morton’s in Georgetown, other Redskins offered their time to mingle with fans and show the human face of the ‘Skins. Rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo, who at 23 just graduated from UT Austin in the spring, perched by the front window nibbling shrimp cocktail while nursing a chardonnay. His refined appetite belied some stunning facts: Orakpo bench presses 515 pounds and squats 600. Despite his 263 pounds on a 6’3” frame, he runs a 40-yard-dash in under five seconds.

What’s the difference between college ball and the pros, besides Morton’s, he was asked? “Everyone is big in the NFL,” he said. “Everyone is big and fast.” But Orakpo doesn’t seem stressed. “I’m living for the moment,” he said. “I still feel like I’m 16.”

Also mingling were Chris Samuels, Marko Mitchell, Colt Brennan, Jeremy Jarmon, Kevin Barnes, Stephon Heyer, Lorenzo Alexander, Reed Doughty, Edwin Williams, JD Solnitsky, Andre Woodson, William Robinson and Fred Smoot.

Receiver Devin Thomas, 22, said in his second year in Washington, he feels more comfortable with the routine and his teammates. The Ann Arbor native who graduated from Michigan State says he likes living near the training center at Ashburn, and is a regular at restaurants nearby. “I don’t cook,” he said. So if it’s pasta, it’s Olive Garden. “That’s a favorite,” he said. Lunchtime is usually Quiznos – a 12-inch sub. Ruth’s Chris for dinner. And, oh yes, Morton’s, Thomas adds quickly.

Food is serious business for these young hulks. “I don’t do protein powder or other fake stuff ,” Thomas said. He can afford to eat right. The 2008 second-round draft pick signed a four-year, $4.8 million contract.

Whatever the numbers, these are polite, even (can we say this?) sweet young men you can’t help but like. The Redskins’ Nancy Hubacher, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, is smart to get them circulating, in this case with an assist by Morton’s Kate Scafidi and Casey Hogan. Linda Roth, never far away from a good restaurant PR hit, has been involved in the Redskins meet-and-greets at Morton’s for years.

Dan Snyder, invite Nancy for a strategy lunch at…

Pictured above: Redskins Devin Thomas and Brian Orakpo - Photo by Jeff Malet

Item submitted to HOP by "The Mole" a.k.a. Beth Solomon

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hollywood on the Potomac by Christine Dalargy for Media Bistro:

Name Game: Who's the Real "Hollywood on the Potomac"
By Christine on Oct 01, 2009 03:06 PM

When the book "Hollywood on the Potomac" was recently released in Washington, long-time DC publicist Janet Donovan bit her tongue. But she's talking now to FBDC...

Donovan writes about celebrities and happenings around town on her blog "Hollywood on the Potomac" and for a Washington Life column by the same title-- she even owns the Trademark rights. So she was a bit surprised, to say the least, when Jason Killian Meath's photo book was published with that name.

Tell us about how you came up with "Hollywood on the Potomac."

When I first came to Washington some of my friends would show up on movie sets as extras to make some money. Occasionally I went with them. I think I even showed up in something with Burt Lancaster but probably ended up on the cutting room floor. Because I live in Georgetown, many films have been shot here including right outside of my old house on O Street. The amount of work that goes into these shoots is staggering and it was fun interacting with the crews. I have always had a great respect for the movie industry. Imagine life without Sesame Street for children, old Betty Davis movies for folks in retirement living, Disney family night at the cinema...

Around 2000 I started thinking maybe there is Hollywood on the Potomac and started following it. Now, of course, it is a mega attraction for the industry, not only in the film business but lobbying for various causes. Ironically, all of my children ended up in this creative world. My oldest son became a film producer, my youngest went to USC Film school and is now on staff there, my daughter went to journalism school at NYU and is Senior Product Director Interactive One LLC, a Radio One Company.

What makes you "Hollywood on the Potomac?"

I got there first. I also took it to the conventions a few elections ago where I did a daily column for CQ and covered the stars in Boston and New York.

Donovan photograph by Patrick Ryan and with Matt Drudge.

Continued after the jump...

How are you going to defend and protect your trademark from now on?

My lawyer has a "cease and desist" letter ready to go whenever I say so. It's really quite thorough and we have already passed around a few. Because I own so many of the "Hollywood on the Potomac" domain names, people are now using something else as the domain with Hollywood on the Potomac directly under it. That is a direct violation. I do, with permission, a monthly column for Washington Life called Hollywood on the Potomac. I also write a blog which I intend to enhance at some point, but as for now, I need to keep my day job as a publicist.

Any books titled "Hollywood on the Potomac" or some variation in your future?

No. I gave the author of this book a pass on the trademark and also sure would not like to be confused with it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Hill by Christina Wilke:

Hollywood on the Potomac: Sound familiar?

A new political book filled with photographs of celebrities and politicians was released last week under a familiar title, Hollywood on the Potomac.

So familiar a title, in fact, that the paperback photo book was nearly slapped with a lawsuit by Washington publicist Janet Donovan, who is the owner of the trademarked phrase “Hollywood on the Potomac.”

Donovan has written a column about L.A. celebrities in Washington, called “Hollywood on the Potomac,” since 2002, the same year she filed her initial trademark registration paperwork. The column appears in print monthly in Washington Life magazine, and as a blog at

(Full disclosure: ITK’s editor used to work for Washington Life.)

Reached for comment, the publisher of the book, Arcadia Publishing, shifted blame for the trademark snafu onto the author, former Republican National Committee campaign strategist Jason Killian Meath.

“The author signed a contract confirming that they’ve received permission to use any copyrighted material in the book,” said P.J. Norlander, marketing director at Arcadia.

“But there’s certainly a lot of gray area here,” she said, adding, “We’d be happy to come to a resolution with the owner of the copyright.”

According to Donovan, further resolution won’t be necessary ... this time. “I’m going to give them a pass on this one,” she told ITK. “It’s a book, so what would I do, make them pull the book from the shelves?”

That’s exactly what she could do, according to her attorney, and it wouldn’t be the first time Donovan has had to take legal action to protect her trademarked phrase.

The most recent incident occurred when “Hollywood on the Potomac” appeared at the top of a website called

“My lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter and they pulled it down,” said Donovan.

Meath may have been spared the destruction of his book, but as far as he’s concerned, it was his publisher’s job to make sure the title didn’t violate any laws. “We went through a lot of different titles while we were planning the book,” he told ITK, “and of course, the final decision on that is in the hands of the publisher.”

Friday, September 25, 2009

"The Mole" goes to Hollywood on the Potomac book party

Pictured: Jason Meath, Pam Bailey, Patrick Dorton

By "The Mole"

Jack Valenti caught it. Mike Deaver mastered it. At some point, young Jason Killian Meath, too, got the bug. Struck by a photograph of conservative idol and President Ronald Reagan with a bejeweled Michael Jackson at the White House, political media consultant Meath realized that Hollywood and Washington make a bizarre and weirdly fitting couple. It was 1984, after all. These days, Meath, a partner at Rational 360, has come out with a book with a very rational (if copyright-protected) title, "Hollywood on the Potomac" (Arcadia Publishing 2009).

Gee, where have we heard that name before?

The book is straightforward, sepia-tone photos of Hollywood and Washington stars. Jack Kennedy and brother-in-law Peter Lawford don the cover, appropriately pictured sailing, seriously, off the coast of Maine. Republican strategists and Reagan protégés dotted the launch party of 20- and 30-somethings at Georgetown's George -- Grocery Manufacturer's Association honcho Pam Bailey, a Reagan White House wunderkind herself, looked even better than she did as head of the cosmetics powerhouse Personal Care Products Association. (Hollywood -- call her agent!) Former Clinton adviser and Rational 360 partner Patrick Dorton (son-in-law of Democratic lobbyist Fred Graefe), as well as partner Stuart Stevens, "the only Republican media consultant to have worked extensively on network television," his web bio says -- dutifully mingled to support their partner Meath in the cavernous club.

This book, a photo album heavy on Ronnie and Nancy, is a sweet if mild walk down memory lane. For the juice, there's only

Hollywood on the Potomac also appears in Washington Life Magazine by Janet Donovan