Genius loves company

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • March 22, 2005

by Karen Feld


It was truly a “sentimental journey” at the Kennedy Center Friday evening thanks to the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. An eclectic group of superstars, featuring country great Dwight Yoakam, opera star Harolyn Blackwell, and singing legends Johnny Mathis and Aretha Franklin, along with emcee Joel Grey, who referred to himself as “the anti-Chris Rock,” entertained an equally star-studded audience. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Sens. Thad Cochran and Ted Stevens and former Ambassadors Joe Gildenhorn and Stuart Bernstein got their collective ears full of timeless classics of the forties and beyond. Two of the performers – Blackwell and Franklin – got their start right here in D.C. And no one seemed to mind that both Blackwell and Mathis, in separate repertoires and without comparing notes first, sang “Long Ago and Far Away.” Franklin received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1993, and there was buzz that the others were hopefuls for the coveted award.

Dwight Yoakum during a 1995 performance in Nashville, Tenn.

Singing praises

Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen Schwarzman echoed the sentiments of many of the 170 guests at the post-performance gala supper: “Johnny Mathis [now 70] was a great contribution to my eighth-grade make-out parties, and Aretha was a kick at college mixers.”Le Paradou’s chef Yannick Cam prepared the elegant stuffed quail dinner in the Kennedy Center’s Atrium, transformed into a forties nightclub by a sea of white gardenias hanging from strings of pearls draping the chandeliers. Catherine Reynolds surprised her guests when she introduced Yoakam as “Dwight Baby.” The country crooner is a fave of Reynolds, so her husband Wayne flew him in to serenade the couple on their anniversary last fall.

The diva herself, Aretha Franklin, in concert at the Greek Theatre on September 17, 2004 in Los Angeles, Calif.

The Queen of Soul

The only complaint of the evening came from Aretha, who claimed the air conditioning running while she performed violated her contract. Her 350-pound chief bodyguard – she was accompanied by six – said when he was an NFL pro, he played for the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. And when the conversation turned from the arts to the baseball hearings and steroids, he confided, “everyone in football used to use steroids, but no more.”

Owner for a day

The folks at the Nationals spring training facility in Viera, Fla., were abuzz at Saturday’s game – not only because the new Washington Nationals defeated the Cleveland Indians – but because word spread that Major League Baseball had decided on the new ownership group and they were, in fact, on hand for the game.

Walkie-talkie chatter began after two white stretch limos arrived sporting Nationals flags and a group of well-heeled Washingtonians. The group met in the owner’s box with Nationals management, watched the game from the luxury suite and took a private tour of the dugout and field. Not realizing a curve ball had been lobbed, stadium workers, thinking the group were the new owners, rolled out the red carpet. But the visitors weren’t potential baseball owners, but D.C. business owners on a spring training trip hosted by WMAL Radio president and GM Chris Berry. But the group, which included Washington diamond king Ronnie Mervis, along with Return on Investment Media’s Elliott Dalberg, Long Fence’s Tom Ritter and Gannett’s Marcia Staimer, batted in supportive runs.


Tea for two

Syndicated columnist Gee Gee Geyer and diplomat Phyllis Oakley, whose friendship began at Northwestern University 50 years ago, celebrated their Jubilee birthdays at a Tea Dance on Saturday at the Cosmos Club. Columnist Bob Novak, who emceed the clever program that included humorous songs by the Gridiron choir – “She Knows Dictators Big and Small” – admitted this was his “first tea dance.” “Thank Heaven For Older Girls,” a parody of “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” was a hit with fans that included veteran journalists David Broder, Walter Pincus, Andy Glass, Dick Ryan and Hendrick Smith, as well as former Rep. Charlie Wilson and the Afghan Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad. The two birthday gals – looking smashing at 70 – belted out “What Did We Have That We Don’t Have Now?” and “Thanks For The Memories.” The lavish party concluded with a balloon drop following a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

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