Monday, April 30, 2012

Peter Marks! Live and on stage

Sophie Gilbert of the Washingtonian and Peter Marks of the Washington Post don't like being called 'idiots'/Patricia Leslie

Last week he was at the Helen Hayes Gallery at National Theatre with three other local theatre critics to talk about, what else? What they do for a living.

It was all part of the inaugural theatreWeek produced "to build awareness of Washington's vibrant theatre community."

Peter Marks of the Washington Post was surprisingly animated, talkative, and doubtful (at times) about his output and the future, coming close to saying he's going to retire after 20 years of writing about plays.

"I love doing what I'm doing," he said, "but I am conscious I am losing you." The market is shifting, and theatres are more sophisticated in marketing themselves via social media, he said. 

It's up to readers to decide which formats go, stay, and change, and those who cancel their subscriptions to the Post contribute to criticism's demise, Marks said.

 Other panel members were Robert Aubrey Davis of WETA, Sophie Gilbert of the Washingtonian, and Benjamin Freed from DCist.

From left, the critics' panel of Robert Aubrey Davis, Benjamin Freed, Sophie Gilbert, Peter Marks, and Linda Levy Grossman/Patricia Leslie

It seemed to be common knowledge at the event that theatre criticism is on the decline, and to those on the inside, at least, the industry has changed a lot, and not always for the good.

The critics seem genuinely surprised that their reviews can influence theatregoers.  Only a handful of the 40 or so in the mixed audience (composed of many actors) raised their hands when asked if reviews affect their attendance.

Marks said he tries to assign the Post's reviewers "to almost every professional production in the Washington area."   He is "constantly besieged" by publicists. All the Post's theatre critics, including Marks, have other feature assignments which is not "a good system" but "a result of diminishing resources."

A member of the audience asked about "adjectives" and Marks said they were a critic's "best friend and worst enemy...I live in terror" that he'll quote himself, and he uses  a software program to prevent repeats.  

Peter Marks lives in terror at times.  On the right is Linda Levy Grossman/Patricia Leslie

"Compelling" and "glorious" are only two often used words Marks says he tries to avoid, and he "retires" some words for four to six months.

Gilbert uses a thesaurus "a lot" and has found that she has repeated herself. Freed said "sometimes you coin a phrase you're really proud of."   Davis said: "When in doubt, strike it out."

Marks said a review does not make or break a show, but no one likes being called an idiot, which Gilbert said she's been called more than once.  Davis said he has had to make a formal apology to someone who complained to a higher-up about one of his reviews.  Panel consensus was they all try to be fair and balanced. 

Marks doesn't like being misunderstood by readers and "it bothers me not being able to break through….So few people understand what critics do." When he sees a play, he asks what it does to him or for him. Is it a waste of time?

He tries "not to talk down" to his audience like some critics, some of whom are "insecure."

Freed said some writers drop names, an annoying habit. Marks said "I love actors" (he acted in college), but he doesn't want to be "a cheerleader" and "my fear is looking like a 'patsy' and a 'softie.'" He tries to be honest: "I want to be nice" which becomes harder the larger a portfolio becomes.

In the past, reviews came out the day after a play was seen; now, "days and days" go by before one is released and there's more of "a delayed reaction."

Freed said when he writes, he "thinks with my heart at first, and then, I think with my head."

Davis grew up in Washington and has many years of theatre experience, not only as a critic but also as an actor having recently performed in Hairspray.  "Opening night is an artificial experience.  It's horrifying," he said.  The best theatre change he's witnessed over the years in the "chocolate city" has been the influx of African-Americans who are participating.

Answering a question from the audience, Gilbert said she spends between one and a half and two and half hours writing a review.

Freed said the hardest critiques to write are about those plays which leave him with mixed opinions.  The easiest are the ones "you hate or love." He loved Red and wrote that review in 30 to 45 minutes but "hated" Civilization at Woolly Mammoth which Gilbert didn’t like much either (faulty structure) but Marks did like.   (During the discussion that play was mentioned more than any other.)

Other plays cited during the presentation were Clybourne Park (generally loved), Art by Yasmina Reza (Davis:  not good), and Ah, Wilderness! (Gilbert: "It flowed so well.").

Marks said he "still sobs when Biff confronts Willie."

Linda Levy Grossman, president of theatreWashington, served as skilful moderator. 
Admonition to writers: Do not end a sentence with an adjective.

U.S. returns stolen artifacts to Italy

From an 15th century illuminated vellum
choir book page of "a generic Olivetan Martyr in the form of a monk" clutching a red book, one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie

In a repatriation ceremony last week at the Embassy of Italy, the U.S. government returned seven stolen and looted artifacts and antiquities to Italy, recovered by joint operations conducted by global law enforcement authorities.

The presentation "marks a new step in the fruitful bilateral collaboration between Italy and the United States," Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero said in a statement.

The pieces included two 2,000-year-old ceramic vessels, one Roman marble sculpture, a Renaissance painting, and three 13th century music sheets removed from choir books.

Apulian Red-Figured Situla, c. 365-350 B.C., one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie

A warrior leaving home, probably Prince Hector and his father, Priam, the King of Troy, c. 480-460 B.C., one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie
At the Embassy of Italy, seven artifacts recovered by global law enforcement agencies were returned to Italy by the U.S. in a repatriation ceremony/Patricia Leslie

Among those participating in the recovery of the works were the Carabinieri, Italy's national police force, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. 

Said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: "We are giving back to the Italian people a small piece of their history--and that could not be more gratifying."

Two of four investigations led to Italy's Gianfranco Becchina, an alleged smuggler, who supposedly masterminded the theft of the ceramic vessels from Italian archaeological sites into Switzerland.  Later they were shipped to a gallery in Beverly Hills, California and then transferred to Christie's auction house in New York where they were seized by Homeland Security.

The Roman marble sculpture also was supposedly lifted in Italy, again by Becchina's forces who followed the same route into Switzerland. After shipment to the U.S., the piece was sold at Christie's for $26,250 and then seized by Homeland Security.

Roman marble janiform herm, c. 1st century, one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie

In 2006 the painting Leda e il Cigno by Lelio Orsi was illegally imported into the U.S. by way of JFK International Airport and auctioned in early 2008 by Sotheby's in New York for $1.6 million. Learning of the investigation, the buyer rescinded the purchase, and the painting was confiscated.

The mystery of the illuminated choir book pages ended in Portland, Oregon in 2010 after a rare book dealer put them up for sale on the Web drawing law enforcement's attention.  Ultimately, the dealer surrendered them along with another of the pages uncovered last June and included in the repatriation ceremony.  Two of the pages are believed to have come from a chorus book stolen from St. Paul Church in Pistoia in 1990, and the other from the Monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore in Siena taken in 1975. 

From an 15th century illuminated vellum
choir book page of "a generic Olivetan Martyr in the form of a monk" clutching a red book, one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie

An illuminated vellum choir book page, c. 13th century, one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie

An illuminated vellum choir book page, c. 14th century, one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie

Laws signed by the U.S. and Italy prohibit the importation of certain Italian artifacts without proper documentation.

Persons found guilty of trafficking in stolen cultural heirlooms can face fines, restitution to purchasers, and prison terms of 20 years.  Homeland Security has returned more than 2,500 items to more than 23 countries since 2007.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hours extended for rare Japanese bird-and-flower paintings at the National Gallery of Art

At the opening of the exhibition/Patricia Leslie

For the last weekend of the celebrated Colorful Realm exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, hours will be extended until 8 p.m. to accommodate visitors this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, according to a Gallery statement.

The adjacent shop and Garden Café Italia will also remain open until 8:00 p.m. with last seating at 7:30 p.m.

Almost 6,800 persons have visited the exhibition daily, ranking it in the Top Ten for average daily attendance at the National Gallery, and rivaling the acclaimed 1976 Treasures of Tutenkhamun and exceeding average daily attendance for 1988’s The Art of Paul Gauguin. Tuesday at lunchtime viewers stood sometimes three deep in front of each of the 30 works. 

The large scrolls of bird-and-flower paintings on silk by Itō Jakuchū (1716–1800) are meticulous in detail and technique, images visitors will not forget. They are rarely shown together in Japan, much less another nation presenting, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  The sojourn in Washington marks the first time the works have traveled outside Japan in their entirety over their 250-year history.

Through mid-April 143,000 guests had visited the exhibition which is a special presentation offered to the American people by the Japanese Imperial Household Agency, the Embassy of Japan, and Nikkei, Inc. to honor the centennial celebration of the planting of 3,000 cherry trees in Washington, D.C.

At 2 p.m. Sunday in the East Building Concourse Auditorium, the guest curator, Yukio Lippit, will give a talk about the exhibition and "Juxtaposition, Naturalism, and Ritual" before catalogue signings.

Śākyamuni Triptych, c. first half of the 1760s ink and colors on silk, Jōtenkaku Museum, Shōkokuji Monastery, Kyoto/Patricia Leslie

What:Colorful Realm of Living Beings: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by Ito Jakuchu

When: Now through April 29, 2012, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday,  from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m.- 8 p.m., Sunday. After 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and after 6 p.m. on Sunday, visitors must enter the Sixth and Constitution Avenue NW entrance of the West Building.

Where: The Ground Level, West Building, National Gallery of Art

Admission: No charge

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, L'Enfant Plaza, and/or ride the Circulator

For more information: 202-737-4215

Monday, April 23, 2012

'Jeopardy!' comes to D.C.

D.C. 'Jeopardy!' contestants in rehearsal from left: Mehmet Oz, Katty Kay, and Chris Wallace/Patricia Leslie


Yes, on Saturday at the DAR Constitution Hall for several tapings.

For one show, contestants were Katty Kay of BBC World News, Chris Wallace, Fox News, and author and television personality, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Wallace was the big time winner, earning $50,000 for his designated charity, Hope for the Warriors. (Kay's designated group, the International Women's Media Foundation and Oz's, HealthCorps, each received $10,000.)

In rehearsal, Oz and Kay did lots better than they did in the taped show.

Some answers to the questions posed during rehearsal (you can make up the questions) and the correct respondents (whom I can remember) were: the Fifth Dimension, calcium, Playboy Clubs (Oz got that one), Oliver Twist (Wallace), Cairo (Wallace), Visine, Oslo, Berne, vodka (Kay), Pluto, and no one knew the capital of New Zealand.* (Answer at bottom.)

(Attention: Do not read the next two paragraphs if you want to play along on the show.)
Answers to some of the questions for the show which will be aired: World's Fair, Edward Albee (Kay), National Mall (Oz), exchange rate (Oz), Gorbachev (Kay) (which had a tacky question), Canada (Wallace), Dan Quayle (Wallace), Richard Nixon (Wallace), National Archives (Wallace),
Cuban Missile Crisis (Kay), Detroit, Library of Congress (Wallace), and Agent Orange.

No one on the panel knew the correct answers about earned income or employment. (No economists in the group.)

During breaks, the show's host, Alex Trebek (71??), a comedian in his own right, answered questions from the audience. One man wanted to know if Trebek had ever considered becoming a contestant, and Trebek said no because if he did, the producers might get a young, smart substitute who might do really well and might cause management to think twice about keeping the longtime host.

At one college taping, Trebek said a young woman asked him: "Briefs or boxers?" and he answered: "Thongs."

He said the normal size of Jeopardy's California audience is about 200, compared to the 1,500 who watched the taping at Constitution Hall which was not filled.

The "big" question at the end was the name of the book about the Civil War which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2011.** 

All five "Power Players" shows will be broadcast the week of May 14.

As it was explained to the audience who applauded wildly whenever instructed by two flashing "applause" lights, "Power Players" are those who influence the way the rest of us think about the news. Thank you very much.

** Gone With the Wind
Tents for the outside lines!/Patricia Leslie

Outside DAR Constitution Hall on Saturday/Patricia Leslie

The flag at DAR Constitution Hall Saturday was at half-staff because...?/Patricia Leslie 

'Marley' movie is spectacular

A film by Kevin MacDonald

Rush to see it before it leaves.

Saturday's 5 p.m. screening was sold out at E Street.
If you like the man and his music one nanobit, you will love this  flick. Omgosh, it's fantastic.

It is more than a documentary. It's a documovientary. Entertaining and enlightening about one delightful and ultra-talented human being. Expertly crafted with interviews with Marley's wife, mother, siblings, children, a teacher, friends, fellow musicians, producer, and even his nurse in Germany who aided him on his deathbed, and many sessions with Bob Marley himself.

It's gripping and funny:  a video biographical sketch of the phenomenal man, singer, composer, and musician with a look at contemporary Jamaican history. Marley's wife, Rita, members of the Wailers, his daughter, Cedella, and son, Ziggy, add incredible perspectives and stories to the Bob Marley treasure trove.

Rita Marley in Marley

Marley's daughter, Cedella, in Marley

Why isn't anyone selling his albums at the theaters? I was so happy I already had Legend at home.

The film's background and collaboration between the executive producer, Steve Bing, and the director, Kevin MacDonald, are described in the New York Times which tells of Bing's years-long efforts to make the film which had the family's blessing.  

Prediction: This movie will win an Oscar(s).

Marley had 11 children by seven women which is easy to understand one you've gotten a taste of his charm, magnetism and just plain adorableness. Many said he was a shy man to whom women flocked.  He was an all-round good guy, too, sincerely interested in the well-being of his fellow Jamaicans, blacks worldwide, and not so driven by chasing a dollar. Even whites weren't that bad.

His family's reaction to the discovery of a melanoma on Marley's toe, the ultimate cause of his early death (at age 36), was "Why, that's a white man's disease." (His father was white.) Racism is not unknown in the movie.

At the end of the film the anticipated loud applause came, and more than the usual number of moviegoers hung around to read all the credits and sing softly to the music. A 70+ year-old white- haired white man danced solo in the aisle.

Young, old, black, white, they were all there.

I nominate Bob Marley for a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize.

I wanna love you and treat you right;
I wanna love you every day and every night:
We'll be together with a roof right over our heads;
We'll share the shelter of my single bed;
We'll share the same room, yeah! -
Jah provide the bread.
Is this love - is this love - is this love -Is this love that I'm feelin'?
Is this love - is this love - is this love -Is this love that I'm feelin'?
I wanna know - wanna know - wanna know now!
I got to know - got to know - got to know
Bob Marley, Is This Love
Copied from

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,Sayin', ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")
Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,

'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
"Singin': "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"
Bob Marley, Three Little Birds
Copied from

Thursday, April 19, 2012

National Gallery of Art hosts 'Louvre' symposium

Samuel F. B. Morse, Gallery of the Louvre, 1831–1833
oil on canvas, Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection

This Friday and Saturday the National Gallery of Art will hold a public symposium devoted to Samuel Morse's Gallery of the Louvre, a 19th-century painting of 38 paintings hung, according to the artist's desires, in a grand salon at the Louvre. 

Artist Morse (1791-1872), yes, the same person who developed the Morse Code,
rearranged painting placements and did not draw them to scale, according to Peter John Brownlee of the Terra Foundation for American Art, the owner of the work and lender to the National Gallery.  Mr. Brownlee is one of the Friday guest lecturers.

Morse's subject matter can halt visitors in their tracks as they walk the main level of the West Building and come upon Gallery of the Louvre where a detailed brochure names the paintings in the work and the history behind it. The art is wonderfully intriguing and mysterious and full of details which you can see for yourself now through July 8, the last day of its display in Washington, D.C.

How many single paintings can you cite which warrant a two-day event filled with commentary, questions, discussion, eight lectures by experts from around the globe, and a film?

Here's the schedule:

Public Symposium
Samuel F. B. Morse's Gallery of the Louvre in Focus

Held in conjunction with the exhibitionA New Look: Samuel F. B. Morse's Gallery of the Louvre

April 20, 2012 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.West Building Ground Floor, Lecture Hall
Opening Remarks
Faya Causey, head of academic programs, National Gallery of Art

Franklin Kelly, chief curator and deputy director, National Gallery of Art

A New Look: Samuel F. B. Morse's Gallery of the Louvre
A documentary on the extensive six-month conservation treatment of the Gallery of the Louvre, this 30-minute film shares new information about the painting and features interviews with conservators, curators, and other specialists. Produced by Sandpail Productions for the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Morse's Materials and Techniques
Lance Mayer and Gay Myers, independent conservators

Samuel F. B. Morse's Lectures on the Affinity of Painting with the Other Fine Arts and the Creation of Gallery of the Louvre
Peter J. Brownlee, associate curator, Terra Foundation for American Art

Saturday, April 21 from 11:00 to 5:00West Building Ground Floor, Lecture Hall
Opening Remarks
Faya Causey, head of academic programs, National Gallery of Art

Franklin Kelly, chief curator and deputy director, National Gallery of Art

Samuel Morse's Louvre in Context
Andrew McClellan, professor and dean of academic affairs for arts and sciences, Tufts University

American Artists and the Louvre
Olivier Meslay, associate director of curatorial affairs, Dallas Museum of Art


Samuel F. B. Morse's Gallery of the Louvre as a Religious Painting
David Bjelajac, professor of art and American studies, The George Washington University

1832: The Gallery of the Louvre and the Electric Telegraph
Jean-Philippe Antoine, professor, department of visual arts, Université Paris 8

The Tradition of Paintings-within-Paintings
Catherine Roach, assistant professor, department of art history, Virginia Commonwealth University


Painting and Technology: Samuel F. B. Morse and the Visual Transmission of Intelligence
Richard Read, Winthrop Professor, School of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts,
The University of Western Australia

The Forest of the Old Masters: The Chiaroscuro of American Places
Alexander Nemerov, Vincent Scully Professor of the History of Art, Yale University

This program is coordinated with and supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art

I would like to thank Marie Stafford for directing my attention to the book The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (2011) by David McCullough which tells the stories about the Parisian lives of Mr. Morse and others.
In the West Building at the National Gallery of Art/Patricia Leslie

What: Samuel Morse's Gallery of the Louvre

When: Now through July 8, 2012, every day from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., Sunday

Where: West Building, National Gallery of Art, Fourth through Ninth streets, NW, on the Mall

Admission: No charge

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, L'Enfant Plaza, and/or ride the Circulator

For more information: 202-737-4215

(Update) A "must have" for Morse fans:  Samuel F. B. Morse's Gallery of the Louvre and the Art of Invention, edited by Peter John Brownlee, Terra Foundation for American Art, distributed by Yale University Press, 2014

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Space shuttle flyover is an intergalatic hit

Discovery's second cruise over the National Mall above the National Museum of the American Indian (left) and the National Air and Space Museum (right) on its way to the U.S. Capitol/Patricia Leslie

In the distance to the right of the Washington Monument, Discovery approaches the National Mall for its third flyover/Patricia Leslie

Discovery comes/Patricia Leslie

Onlookers on Seventh Street, NW, as Discovery approaches the Smithsonian Castle/Patricia Leslie

Discovery from Seventh Street, NW/Patricia Leslie

Discovery from Seventh Street, NW with a fighter jet, escort/Patricia Leslie

Discovery from Seventh Street, NW escorted by a fighter jet, with barbed wire from the Mall soil aeration project(?)/Patricia Leslie
Discovery heads to the U.S. Capitol/Patricia Leslie

In the distance Discovery flies to the right of the U.S. Capitol where throngs stand on landings to watch/Patricia Leslie

Can you find Discovery over the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on its second flyover?/Patricia Leslie

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury,
I present to you, Discovery, on its adieu flight with a note of gratitude to all those who funded and engineered and planned and completed its mission and everything else.  (Why, that would!)

Incredible! Stupendous! Bravo!

Talk about a mind-blowing scene: Here it came, from the direction of the Washington Monument while we stood on 7th Street on the Mall waiting, waiting, waiting for what was to be a numbing, emotional scene, the likes of which we'll never see again.

After the first flyby, we were ready to applaud Discovery, NASA, and all the thousands who have made the space shuttle program the success it has been.

It was magnificent to behold. The people of the United States put this 30-year show together, including the logistics for Discovery's retirement celebratory tour at our nation's capital.

It's as if they (the big 747, the mother ship, carrying her wee one on her back) were almost flying in slow motion, escorted by a fighter jet, and I suppose a wing tip and salute to us the people down below were all in the imagination.

Everybody on the ground wore big smiles and happiness, and no complaints about anything were heard. (Not even about those confounded dust-blowing machines at work on the soil project on the Mall. What?) 

In the days of criticism heard round the world about the U.S. government, in the days of negative hearings on Capitol Hill and those in and beyond the Beltway, on the day taxes were due, to those who say the "government" can't do anything right, I say: Attention, y'all: The government got it right today.

You go, government! I am proud to be a part.

And I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the people who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I'd gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dancing talk at Glen Echo, Chapter II

Glen Echo/Patricia Leslie

For Chapter I, go here

Chapter II

Scene:  The dance hall at Glen Echo.  Susan (mid-60s) has gone again. This time spring has arrived, and it's not necessary to cover up in a fleece to keep warm.  Dancing is good exercise and besides, few men at Glen Echo are overweight.  She dances with Kevin, Ted, and George until she meets Larry (75?), and she dances with him for three numbers before:

Larry:  Let's go talk.
He takes her arm and steers her to a sitting area.
Susan:  (Talk?  Talk?  We just met.  What are we going to talk about?)  Oh, okay, sure.

They move to the rim behind the columns and sit down on a bench. 

Larry is not George Clooney. He is not Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, or Seth Myers, but he is not Rush Limbaugh either.  Larry attempts to take Susan's hand, but Susan is not a "toucher" and retreats.   They chat a few minutes about their locations in the stations of life, and Larry says he is a retired government worker from West Virginia. 

He tells her that his wife has left him, and Susan finishes the next refrain with him in her mind:

Larry:  And I am lonely.
Susan looks at the dancers longingly wondering how she can get away.
Larry:  Do you like to do things 'arty'?
Susan:  What do you mean?
Larry:  You know, museums and things.
(She brightens for Larry has just named her passion, but does she want to follow her passion with Larry?)  
Susan:  Yes!  What do you like to do? 
Larry:  Well, I have heard some good things about 1776 at Ford's Theatre.  Would you like to go see that?
Susan (is weak.  She would like to see the play, but with Larry? She continues to mull over an escape route.)  Okay!  Good!   That sounds good.  (Slightly nodding her head.   Lies!  Lies!  Lies!)
Larry:  Let's go dance some more.

Glen Echo/Patricia Leslie

They return to the dance floor where Larry's belly sometimes brushes against her. She has to concentrate on the steps and conversation for her on the dance floor is nothing more than monosyllables. 

Larry is not a bad dancer and after three more numbers and weary of smushed toes,

Larry:   Here, I am going to let you go, so you can dance with someone else.
Susan (wistfully):  Okay.  You can dance with someone else, too!

Earlier she had noticed the arrival of two good-looking men in suits and ties, both with almost shaved heads, and she would like to dance with them, but it is weird they never remove their jackets, and their apparel suggests they may be Secret Service agents without the curly-cue plastic cords hanging from their left ears, but where are they?  Perhaps the president was having dinner in Bethesda, and they are on White House break.

The band plays on, and one of the suited men swishes past her in his open coat, holding one arm bent behind his neck and his other arm rests on the shoulders of his dancing partner.  Under his white shirt is a protrusion of either 1. a row of breasts or 2. a plate of armor. 

Susan dances twice more, once with a Glen Echo employee, before she leaves the dance floor and hides for a few moments in the restroom from Larry whom she has not seen for a while.   Peeping out from the door, she exits and creeps around the sides in-between the columns, and finds her dancing bag. She makes a getaway, content that contact information is secure.  Besides, the band was not that good anyway.

It pays to get out.

What: Dancing to live music

When: Thursday - Sunday nights, some Sunday afternoons

Where: Glen Echo, 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, MD 20812

How much: $10 to $16

For more information: Call 301-634-2222 or email

Thursday, April 12, 2012

State societies party with cherry blossom princesses

Maya Halbert, the 2012 Tennessee Cherry Blossom Princess, with Brett Logan, board member of the Tennessee State Society, at the reception at Bobby Van's Grill/Patricia Leslie

Sports rivalries among some Southern states were largely forgotten Tuesday night at Bobby Van's Grill where members of the state societies of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama met to mix, mingle and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the planting of the cherry blossoms in Washington with distinguished guests, the states' cherry blossom princesses.
From left: Keiko Asakura Halbert, the proud mother of Sammy Halbert (center) and Maya Halbert, the 2012 Tennessee Cherry Blossom Princess, all from Nashville, at the Tennessee State Society reception at Bobby Van's Grill/Patricia Leslie

Mississippi Cherry Blossom Princess, Grace Swoope, comes from a family of five princesses that includes her mother, Mary McDaniel Swoope (1981) and her aunt, Peggy McDaniel Welch (1978), now an Indiana state legislator.

As they say in Mississippi, beauty runs deep.
From left, Peggy McDaniel Welch, Indiana state representative and 1978 Mississippi Cherry Blossom Princess, with her niece, Grace Swoope, 2012 Mississippi Cherry Blossom Princess, at the Southern state societies event at Bobby Van's Grill. Grace is a costume designer whose resume includes The Help and Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film. /Patricia Leslie

In elegant attire, the princesses performed their duties well, warmly welcoming guests to the reception, made even more pleasing by perfectly cooked steaks found upstairs.
Mary Lou Collector, the oldest Tennessee State Society member, with Grace Swoope, 2012 Mississippi Cherry Blossom Princess/Patricia Leslie

For once, the state societies' crowd seemed more than just 20 and 30-somethings from Capitol Hill, since walking around and staking claim to the title of Ms. Tennessee State Society Oldest Member was Mary Lou Collector, who was joined at the party by other "seasoned Southerners."   

Said one Alabama alum when "sports" inevitably came up for chat: "Basketball?  Basketball?  Who cares about basketball?  This is the SEC where football is king!"  Amen, brother.

It pays to get out.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Titanicabilia swells this month

The book/History Press
The centennial of the tragedy occurs April 14-15, 2012, 100 years from the date when the ship hit an iceberg just before midnight on April 14, 1912 and sank less than three hours later on April 15 taking 1,496 lives* with it.

Related books, films, special presentations, street theatre, lectures, a memorial cruise, an original stage play, a concert, and an original stage play are scheduled.

National Geographic has an exhibit, and Amazon has listed at least 17 Titanic books and three children's books which have been published in the last year alone. At Tysons Corner on Saturday at Barnes and Noble, four Titanic films were prominently displayed with only one or two copies of each remaining on the racks.

One of the new books at Amazon is Report into the Loss of the SS Titanic: A Centennial Reappraisal, a compilation by 11 Titanic scholars who examined all the evidence gathered by the 1912 American and British inquiries, and later, and who applied modern-day knowledge, science, and engineering to produce an academic treatise complete with a chronology, illustrations, photographs, diagrams, references, and investigation for every shred of information known.

One of the authors, Samuel Halpern, a Titanic expert, systems engineer and technologist, presented a talk on the book recently at National Archives where about 150 turned out at lunchtime to hear more about the wreck since no one can ever get enough information. (Tourist children were only able to sit still for a few minutes before rushing out to examine merchandise at Archives's gift shop, but the adult Titanicologists remained transfixed.)

Mr. Halpern presented facts and figures: 2,208 were on the boat, and 1,496 died.* Of first and second class passengers, just 6.4 percent of the women and children died, but 53 percent of the women and children in third class went down with the ship.
Titanic expert Samuel Halpern at National Archives/Patricia Lesllie

A few of the refutations uncovered by the researchers: Visibility on April 14, a moonless night, was "assumed" to be two miles, but it was only a half mile. About 60 percent of the capacity of the lifeboats, designed to carry 1,176 passengers or just over half the passengers, was utilized. Lifeboat drills were never conducted, leading to that requirement since.

Once the iceberg was sighted, a warning of 37 seconds was reported, however, later studies reveal the warning was actually between 50 and 55 seconds before the collision.

During the first 45 minutes after the wreck, about 13.5 tons of water poured in the 12-foot-square hole carved by the iceberg, eventually leading to the ship's division in two parts and its sinking due to instability. The initial report of the ship's location was 13 miles from the actual site. The book supplies the evidence to back up claims cited, Mr. Halpern said.

For Titanic devotees, there are a few societies to consider joining: the Titanic Historical Society, Titanic International Society, British Titanic Society, Canadian Titanic Society, Irish Titanic Historical Society, Shannon Ulster Titanic Society, Belfast Titanic Society, Scandinavian Titanic Society, and a new word:  Titanicology.

*The number of passengers, fatalities, and survivors which are listed in Report into the Loss of the SS Titanic differ slightly from Wikipedia's count.