Several dozen folks gingerly lined up on the dance floor at El Patron restaurant, as they followed the salsa moves of a dance instructor. This was "Salsa for a Reason," a fundraiser for Healing Hands Foundation. The year-old nonprofit was formed by several local surgeons and nurses to go on surgical missions around the world to help underserved children.
"When you go on missions to South America, you have a lot of people who want to dance salsa," said the foundation's fundraising director, Lisa Garrett, explaining why the event was a perfect fit.
Dylan Stewart, an assistant professor of pediatric surgery at University of Maryland and one of the foundation's founding surgeons, admitted while he had never danced salsa before, he was certainly game. Soon enough, he was caught up in the romance of the dance, as he was spotted giving fiancee Caitlin Thomas a little kiss between dances.
"So far, so good," said Tony Azola, Azola & Associate construction manager, commenting on his own first attempt.
"He's doing a great job. He's following directions," said his dancing partner and salsa expert, Alba Miranda, resident physician at University of Maryland.
"I love it. In my next life, I'm going to marry a dancer," said retired clinical social worker Susan Thomas.
"I was born in Colombia, so salsa goes with me everywhere," said Armando Sardi, director of the Institute of Cancer Care at Mercy, explaining his smooth moves on the dance floor.
This would be an evening to dance the night away, at least until 1 a.m., said Healing Hands' executive director Marco Avila.
"That would be 6 a.m., if we were in Spain," he added with a laugh.
Hobnobbing with celebs at inauguration
As Marla and Dave Oros were walking with son Erik, 18, and daughter, Heather, 15, to find their inauguration seats Tuesday, they had a close encounter with one of the many celebs in town for the big day. As they rushed to find the right line for their section, Erik almost knocked over pop star Mariah Carey.
"He told me, 'She was close enough to kiss, Dad,' " said Dave Oros, founder of Global Domain Partners.
Other than Carey, Marla Oros, a community nursing expert, says they saw lots of politicos, and got a brief wave from fellow Marylander Lainy Lebow-Sachs. But, she says, it was hard to recognize folks because they were so wrapped up in winter-wear.
Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, says that what impressed her was that, despite the cold weather, masses of people and long lines, no one was rude.
"At the moment [President Barack Obama] took the oath of office, to look around and to see tears streaming down people's faces, it just felt like freedom had arrived. There was [the feeling of] this huge sigh, that we could move forward now."
Moving forward into the evening meant the Mid-Atlantic Inaugural Ball for Norton, where she found an easy way to spot the baby boomers: They were the ones who knew the lyrics and were singing along with the band, the surviving members of The Grateful Dead. Also there were P.R. pro David Nevins and his "date," 16-year-old daughter Freddi, along with telecommunications consultant Steve Burch and his wife, Nora Linstrom. Nevins spotted local philanthropist Howard Friedman and Bowie State University president Mickey Burnim, boxing promoter Don King, Caroline Kennedy and New York Gov. David Paterson.
Nevins says he was left with a surreal impression after seeing folks such as Paterson, Kennedy, Vice President Joe Biden and Obama, all of whom have been spoofed quite a bit on one of his favorite TV shows.
"I felt like I was at Saturday Night Live. Except these were the actual people."