It didn't matter who won the races at the National Grand Prix in Washington last weekend. Baltimore's Kennedy Krieger Institute, which treats kids with developmental disabilities, came out the clear winner -- even before the first starting flag was waved. The institute, the official charity of the auto-racing extravaganza, got things off to a whiz-bang start with a black-tie gala at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill July 19.
Let's see. So, what was it that made this wingding so, in the words of the Kennedy Krieger's Lainy Lebow-Sachs, "drop-dead unbelievable"?
Was it those checkered-flag-waving valets? Or those remote-control cars racing around the mini-RFK Stadium track in the cocktail area? Maybe it was the dining room, which drew a collective "ooh" from the crowd when the doors opened. Those four real race cars parked around the room? The dining tables, each "driven" by a real race driver, and featuring centerpieces made of auto parts? Perhaps it was those toy race cars every guest got to take home.
It couldn't have anything to do with the dazzling guest list. Local folks like McCormick & Co. CEO (and Kennedy Krieger board chair) Bob Lawless, Monumental Insurance CEO Henry Hagan, Crown Petroleum CEO Henry Rosenberg Jr. and Lockheed Martin's Joe Antonucci mingled with D. C. hotshots, along with celebrities like supermodel Kim Alexis, actors William Shatner, Tim Matheson, Ian Ziering and Coolio, and CNN's Mark Shields and Bob Novak. Last, but certainly not least, there were the party honorees (and major media power couple) The Wall Street Journal's Albert Hunt and CNN's Judy Woodruff.
Lainy says Al and Judy had firsthand experience at Kennedy Krieger. Their son, Jeffrey, spent four months there in 1998 after suffering a severe brain injury.
The whoop-de-do raised a whopping $350,000 for Kennedy Krieger, and -- something Lainy's really excited about -- raised the institute's profile in the Washington area.
"We're a Baltimore-based organization," she notes, "but 20 percent of our patients come from D. C. We really got attention, and made all these new friends."
So, if you're not on the guest lists of high-powered hooplas, want to know how to ratchet up your own dinner parties a notch or two?
Diane Macklin, WQSR Radio's Downtown Diane, got some hot tips on the latest entertaining trends from Colin Cowie recently. Cowie is a celebrity wedding and event planner who is host of WE Network's Everyday Elegance and writes for In Style magazine. And he spoke about hot entertaining trends at the National Association of Catering Executives convention in Charleston, W. Va., a couple of weeks ago, which Diane attended.
No. 1 is forget the champagne. Greet your guests at the front door with a more creative drink. The mojito is very in these days. It's a concoction of rum, sugar, lime and mint. Think Cuban mint julep.
Family-style dining is also big now. Cowie says everyone sitting around a table and passing dishes creates a better energy than folks serving themselves at a buffet table.
Ethnic food, especially Moroccan or Asian, is hot-hot-hot.
And Diane's favorite Cowie idea? If people are going to dance, or maybe eat something messy (crabs anyone?), spray some guest towels with a wonderful or refreshing scent. Cowie's current favorite is lavender. Then stick the towels in the freezer. When the time is right, offer your guests a unique, refreshing way to clean up. Cool!
Maryland Stage Company
A Midsummer Night's Dream was followed by a midsummer night's party, as the Maryland Stage Company, the professional theater-in-residence at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, celebrated opening night. More than 300 friends, supporters and Shakespeare fans gathered at Center Stage to take in the comedy on stage, then toast it afterward in the lobby at a champagne reception.
The evening's sweets weren't just found on the dessert table, either. All you had to do was listen in, as admirers congratulated the company's artistic director, Xerxes Mehta, on his latest success.
Among those in the crowd of well-wishers: Kate Revelle, Maryland Stage Company administrative director; Freeman A. Hrabowski, UMBC president; Rick Welch, UMBC dean of arts and sciences; Art Johnson, UMBC provost; Sandy Byrnes, Facility Design Group bookkeeper; Howard Berkowitz, Park School English and theater teacher; Jessica Rowe, Jewish Family Services social worker; Jane Wellmann, Northwestern Mutual benefits consultant; Mel Holden, IBM project executive; Cordia Brown, U.S. Department of Defense systems engineer; Jo McEntyre, National Institutes of Health research scientist; and Louis Sherman, Baltimore-based electronic musician.