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