COLUMNS

“White Glove Treatment at the President’s House”

  • Capital Connections ®
  • |
  • March 01, 2000

by Karen Feld

The White House put on its “white gloves” for the second time during Bill Clinton’s administration when he hosted a State Dinner for King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain the other evening. (The first white tie State Dinner was in 1994 for the Emperor of Japan). The 170 guests gathered in the State Dining Room included a who’s who of business leaders, artists and entertainers, many with ties to the Hispanic community as well as the 2000 campaigns of presidential hopeful Al Gore and senate hopeful “Hillary.” But it was the entertainers and artists who shined: Whoopi Goldberg was on hand – with her long white gloves – and Barbara Walters showed up on the arm of one of Hillary Clinton’s favorite designers and dinner partner that evening, Oscar de la Renta (of course the First Lady wore a navy and royal blue ruffled velvet “de la Renta”). Guess that there are no hard feelings towards Barbara even though she interviewed “that woman” Monica Lewinsky for the third time. Meg Ryan, accompanied by hubby Dennis Quaid, charmed just as she does on film — and she brought a reel of her latest film “Hanging Out” to show the President. Seattle glass artist Dale Chihuly created the “official” gift for the Queen from the First Lady – a large red glass basket. Chihuly’s work is a favorite of Mrs. Clinton and his large spun glass trees accented the receiving area for the evening. Diane Keaton, who sparked the “Annie Hall” fashion look in the seventies, wore black gloves and a bizarre black bowler and black-rimmed glasses (maybe she thought she was at the Grammy’s taking place on the opposite coast). Her escort was writer and producer Bill Robinson.

Speaking of the Grammy Awards, Placido Domingo, a native of Spain and Artistic Director of the Washington Opera, missed out on the opportunity to accept a ninth Grammy Award (for Mexican-American Performance) to perform in the East Room of The White House. On March 12th Domingo will rule the rooftop of the Kennedy Center at a fundraiser for the Opera dubbed the “Domingo Gala for the 21st Century.” The Clintons were thrilled to finally have the elusive Domingo perform after he had declined previous invitations due to scheduling conflicts.

“Hillary” stepped off the New York Senate campaign trail for the evening and even rewarded her scheduling director, Evan Ryan, with a coveted seat at The White House dinner. There’s buzz about Mrs. Clinton doing a return appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” now that he is on the mend from open-heart surgery.

Democratic presidential contender Al Gore (in absentia) also used the evening to reward campaign staffers including Janet Murguria, his deputy campaign manager, and his “key adviser” and daughter Karenna Gore Schiff, who along with husband Dr. Andrew Schiff, pulled double-duty at the State Dinner representing her parents who were busy on the campaign trail. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, frequently mentioned as a possible runningmate for the Veep, was also on the guest list. You may remember Evan’s dad, former Sen. Birch Bayh, who once ran for The White House himself.

While the President and King were gracious to one another during the visit, they did have an altercation – albeit a traffic one – between their dueling motorcades on a previous evening at Washington’s Four Seasons Hotel. Hometurf advantage won out — President Clinton used the main entrance to attend a fundraiser for California Rep. Maxine Waters, while King Carlos was escorted to the lower bellman’s entrance. The irony of the situation is that the King and Queen went to the Four Seasons because a private dinner at The White House had been canceled so that the President could attend the Waters’ fundraiser. President Clinton almost caused another “incident” on the day of the State Dinner when he decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and squeeze in a quick round of golf, thus making it home only minutes before the arrival of his Royal guests. No word on how many mulligans.

But maybe the President was only working out some anxiety now that his “little girl” is no longer a teenager. First Kid Chelsea turned twenty last weekend.

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