Across the Nation / Across the World

Washington Social Diary

The Salahis parade by the press scrum at the White House state dinner for India's prime minister. Inset: Famously, while they didn't stay for the state dinner, the Salahis did grab powerful selfies. Here with Vice President Joe Biden.
The Real Real Housewives of Washington DC
by Carol Joynt

This is a holiday story about a party list, status, and how women in the year 2014, no matter how powerful, titled or blessed with wealth, can still get together in their Sunday suits for an old-fashioned tea party and good gab. While women aren’t the first image that comes to mind when the world thinks of Washington, at least not right now with Hillary Clinton out of office, these tribal lords of the female elite are, more often than not, precisely who you need to know if you want traction here.

Michaela and Tareq Salahi in, as they say, happier times. They've since divorced and she remarried. 
But first, please, for a little context, come back with me to 2010 and the broadcast nanosecond in which The Real Housewives of Washington DC was part of the Bravo reality TV franchise.

It was dubious from the start but became epically hobbled the night of November 24, 2009, when cast members Tareq and Michaela Salahi sashayed in front of the press scrum at a state dinner and morphed themselves into the “White House gatecrashers” – for reasons that got reported, ad nauseum, worldwide.

The Salahis aside, the DC show was dubious at the outset because this is not a town where the successful, top tier women A) list “housewife” first on their CV, B) are ballsy about seeking attention, and C) invite reality TV cameras into their bedrooms and bathrooms.

Not if they want to stay in office, in the C-Suite, on the boards of their sons and daughters private schools, preserve “power couple” ranking or snag a presidential appointment.
The one-season-and-done cast of Real Housewives of Washington DC, Catherine Omanney, Stacie Turner, Mary Amons, Linda Erkilietian, and Michaela Salahi.
Which is why it was interesting, even heartening, to read comments from Andy Cohen in a Washington Post interview promoting his new book, “Andy Cohen’s Diaries.” The short-lived RHOWDC didn’t work, and could likely never work, because “the people that you would want to cast don’t want to reveal everything in front of the camera ... for good reason.” The quid pro quo of a reality TV show is that cast members (appear to) reveal everything and then some and, when that doesn’t spike the ratings, over-indulge in wine and go to the mat, ideally on a group trip.
Andy Cohen with the Washington "Real Housewives" cast.
I can’t see Andrea Mitchell and Lisa Vanderpump trading places, but, on the other hand, that’d be some fine reality TV, especially if they traded husbands’, too.

Cohen, in town the other day for a book appearance at Washington’s Palm restaurant, also told reporter Helena Andrews “the Salahis kind of torpedoed the whole thing.” Pulling no punches, he added that from then on “there was just kind of a stink on the whole show.” (Dear Andy, on that basis, can we please talk about RHONJ?)
How unlikely is it there will be another Real Housewives of DC? Andy Cohen says very. 
What fun if Andy could have hung in DC a few more days to join us at the Four Seasons Hotel for the annual holiday party hosted by the social cartel of Grace Bender, Wilma Bernstein, Debbie Dingell, Samia Farouki, Marlene Malek and Catherine Reynolds. In past years a luncheon with entertainment, this year it became a lavish, Friday afternoon tea party (be assured, with plenty of sparkling wine and Chardonnay). The theme remained the same – “to celebrate friendship.”

Andy, with this group you could cast the real Real Housewives of Washington DC, but, alas, only in your dreams, because, as you noted, the real players aren’t going to play. Still, for a casting expert, what a feast.
Last year, and previous years, the holiday tea was a luncheon, hosted by Marlene Malek, Catherine Reynolds, Wilma Bernstein, Grace Bender, Debbie Dingell (not pictured), and Samia Farouki (not pictured).
In alphabetical order we list who was there. Study the names closely because they tell a story of here and now. If some notables are not on it you know it’s because they were out of town:

Jane Abraham, Barby Allbritton, Lynda Altman, Elizabeth Bagley, Diane Baker, Amanda Bennett, Tamra Bentsen, Tracy Bernstein, Megan Beyer, Laura Denise Bisogniero, Susan Blumenthal, Caroline Boutté, Rita Braver, Hilda Brillembourg, Sandy Brock, Aliki Bryant, Gahl Burt, Charlotte Buxton, Buffy Cafritz, Jane Cafritz, Marcia Carlucci, Rose Carter, Mary Kate Chaath, Meryl Chertoff, Mary Choksi, Barbara Cochran, Patti Coleman, Barbara Cosgriff, Debbie Cowan, Didi Cutler, Ginny Davis, Susan Davis, Paula Dobriansky, Linda Dooley, Amanda Downes ...
To "celebrate friendship," a tea party at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Chris Downey, Liz Dubin, Lea Ann Edwards, Diane Enzi, Isabel Ernst, Judy Esfandiary, Michele Evans, Dina Farouki, Liz Friedman, Claudia Fritsche, Norma Lee Funger, Genero Laura, Maria Gildea, Alma Gildenhorn, Juleanna Glover, Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, Deecy Gray, Ginny Grenham, Edilia Gutierrez, Tammy Haddad, Souleyma Haddaoui, Mary Haft, Ann Hand, Leslie Hayes, Sandi Hoffman, Billie Holladay, Winton Holladay, Gwen Holliday, Cathy Isaacson, Carol Jankowsky, Said Jawad, Stephanie Johanns, Diane Jones, Mary Jordan, Sue Langlie, Carol Lascaris, Ellen Lathem, Ruthie Leffall, Kate Lehrer, Mickey Lemer, Mirella Levinas ...
The social cartel gathers their friends for a holiday tea.
Francine Levinson, Willee Lewis, Britlan Malek, Ruth Marcus, Capricia Marshall, Joanne Mason, Cheryl Masri, Doris Matsui, Marie Mattson, Anita McBride, Donna McLarty, Dorothy McSweeny, Kate McSweeny, Cathy Merrill-Williams, Leslie Miller, Gouri Mirpuri, Andrea Mitchell, Joann Morisi, Melissa Moss, Amy Nathan, Suzanne Nicholson, Ann Nitze, Pat Norton, Susan O'Neill, Nany Howar O'Sullivan, Sarah Pallone, Ginger Pape, Suzie Pence, Jana Peters, Susan Pillsbury, Heather Podesta ...
The holiday tea at the Four Seasons featured lavish buffets of finger sandwiches and sweets. There was tea, too, but waiters also passed sparkling wine and Chardonnay.
Alma Powell, Christine Rales, Vanessa Reed, Diane Rehm, Amy Ricchetti, Lynda Robb, Roxanne Roberts, Lucky Roosevelt, Marie Royce, Nancy Rubin, Jeanne Ruesch, Rakela Ruperez, Ali Russell, Deborah Rutter, Kim Sajet,  Betty Sams, Diane Sappenfield, Veronica Valencia De Sarukhan, Nobuko Sasae, Pat Schieffer, Margaret Shannon, Debbie Sigmund, Bobbi Smith, Brenda Solomon, Karen Sonneborn, Andrea Stern-Ferris, Catherine Stevens, Liz Stevens, Ann Stock, Kandie Stroud, Elin Suleymanov, Lila Sullivan, Courtney Surls, Dooa Taha, Cynthia Vance, Melanne Verveer, Elsa Walsh, Lynda Webster, Gail West, Suzie Westmacott, Katie Ziglar, Nancy Zirkin.
The ladies who sometimes lunch, for an afternoon, were the ladies who do tea. 
Photographs by Carol Joynt.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt