COLUMNS

Clues to End of Kosovo Conflict Served Up at Hungarian State Dinner

  • Capital Connections ®
  • |
  • June 09, 1999

by Karen Feld

Full house at the Clinton’s B & B last night. Vocalist Judy Collins and her husband, Lewis Nelson, designer of the Korean War Memorial, were “first” houseguests following her inspiring performance at the State Dinner for President of the Republic of Hungary and Mrs. Arpad Goncz. Also spending the night at The White House– author Bill Styron and his wife Rose, who slept in the Lincoln bedroom.

Author Susan Sontag, a close friend of the Hungarian President who translated her work, said: “I make him smile now and then, and he makes me smile.” President Goncz is extremely cultivated and loves literature. He taught himself English while in prison and not only translated President Kennedy’s speeches, but also the works of William Styron and Susan Sontag, both of whom were at the dinner last night. His plays have been performed in the U.S. That explains why many of the 180 guests were connected with the arts or letters: Tony Curtis, who not only acts but paints; and Ragtime author E. L. Doctorow, both of Hungarian descent.

The buzz at both the President’s and First Lady’s tables centered on Kosovo. At one point during the dinner, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Sandy Berger, came over to speak to President Clinton. Then General Joseph Ralston, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a discreet but early exit leading some to speculate as to early morning breaking war news. “The President hopes Milosevic will surrender,” said Susan Sontag. “We’re not going to let them win,” he said while enjoying the pecan crusted lamb.

Ms. Collins has been an inspiration for Bill Clinton for many years. He first heard her sing when he was an 18-year-old college student at Georgetown University. It was her song, “Chelsea Morning,” which inspired the Clintons to name their daughter “Chelsea.” No word yet as to whether Ms. Collins’ lobbying President Clinton to sign the landmine bill was successful. She has been actively involved in supporting UNICEF’s landmine awareness programs.

Etiquette maven, Martha Stewart, a guest of Dr. Charles Simonyi, Microsoft’s chief architect, stood out in a pale pink capri pants suit. Fashion Designer Adrienne Vitanni was back for her third State Dinner. Janine Lowy, wife of Westfield Corporation Co-President Peter Lowy, wasn’t the least embarrassed to prance through the receiving line with a Pentag camera bag over her shoulder and actually stood up and took flash pictures during the dinner. What did Martha think of this amateur paparazzi?

On the subject of Hillary Clinton’s likely New York Senate race, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) predicts “she’ll beat (Rep.) Rick Lazio who’ll defeat Giuliani” for the right to run as the Republican nominee. New Yorker Susan Sontag said, “I don’t want Hillary to be humiliated. I wouldn’t want her to run if she couldn’t win. I want it to be a certainty.”

President Clinton, who played golf in 95 degree heat yesterday afternoon, looked more rested than his wife, who wore a gunmetal grey Pamela Dennis gown. The two of them danced to “Run Around Sue”after dinner before heading upstairs.

And once and possibly future tenants of the White House both took leaps this week. President George Bush commemorated his 75th birthday by parachuting almost 13,000 feet (free-falling over 4,000 feet) onto the grounds of his Presidential Library in Texas. Governor George W. Bush, Jr. leaps into the fray of presidential politics with his first campaign trip for the Republican nomination, no doubt hoping for as smooth a landing as that of his father.

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