Speakers Table

Appreciation: Fernando Ferre-Sacaluga

October 27, 2011

Written by Annie Groer

Fernando Ferre-Sacaluga, longtime co-owner of Bogart Salon in Georgetown who for good reason called himself “the best one-armed hairdresser in Washington,” has died.  He was 61, and had survived at least two near-fatal health crises. But it was arthritis in his right hand that impelled his retirement to South Florida earlier this year, and a blood clot that took his life several months later.

Damn. Fern began working his magic on my problem hair in 1974, when he gave me the only cut he said he knew at the time—a Dorothy Hammill “wedge” like the one he also sported. http://bit.ly/qP3hqJ. Over the years he marched me through a series of styles paying homage to everyone from Louis Quatorze to Mamie Eisenhower, in colors from auburn to aubergine. The only consolation in losing him so soon was the knowledge he had put up one hell of a fight in the last decade of his life.

Back in 2000, Fern--a wiry five-foot-four who was in terrific shape after finishing a 300-mile bike ride from North Carolina to Washington-- contracted Legionnaire’s disease; he spent five weeks on a ventilator in an induced coma. Six months after leaving the hospital, he suffered a stroke that greatly hampered movement on his left side and required months of grueling physical therapy.

Fern was able to resume work by training an assistant to become his left arm. She would hold clients’ hair straight out with a comb while he expertly cut, layered or feathered it with his good right hand. Ditto for styling. She, and several successors, would hold the blow dryer while he wielded a brush or a handful of styling product.   

However impressive and inspiring this tonsorial two-fer act proved, it did add at least 15 minutes to every appointment. But it was such an ingenious solution to a serious physical affliction that most patrons willingly spent the extra time in Fern’s chair. That does not mean I wasn’t terrified during my first experience with his single-handedness: scissors heading toward my eyes so he could shape my bangs. We’d been together for so long by then I knew he wouldn’t be offended if I protected those very eyes with my own rigid digits before I’d let him snip with, it turns out, the precision of a surgeon. 

 Sometime in the early part of this century, Washingtonian magazine named Ferny one of the city's top stylists, inspiring his ironic “best one-armed hairdresser” bon mot. It was almost always followed by a braying chortle that echoed throughout the second-floor salon tucked smartly between the Pleasure Chest and Filomena on lower Wisconsin Avenue.

Fernando Ferre-Sacaluga was born in Barcelona in 1950 to a Spanish mother, Maria P. Sacaluga-Jimenez Junco, and a wealthy Cuban father who left the family early on to return to Havana. Ferre and his mother settled in Montclair, N.J., but she took her young son to Havana in late 1959 after his father's death in order to claim the considerable family estate. Unfortunately, the legal work took place just as a victorious Fidel Castro came to power, and because little Fernando’s travel papers were not in order, he was forced to remain in a Cuban convent school while his mother worked things out in the US. By the time she retrieved him six months later, he had learned a number of Communist marching songs, recalls Lee Walters, Fern's partner of 31 years.

A 1968 Montclair High School graduate who finished Montclair College in 1972, Fern came to Washington to attend Georgetown University in Latin American studies. But after meeting a popular local hairdresser, "Fernando decided he didn't want to be a poor student any more, so he went to hairdressing school," said Walters. By the mid-70s, he’d been hired at Bogart, an existing shop then on M Street. Fern eventually became the manager and later bought a half-interest in the salon. By 1979 he had moved Bogart around the corner to its present location. Walters, an interior designer turned hairdresser, became his partner and salon co-owner. 

In recent years, the two began breeding Havanese dogs, several generations of which skittered around the shop. In addition to his salon clientele, Fernando also did the hair of such visiting stars as Barbra Streisand, Donna Karan and Rosemary Clooney. There are no immediate survivors, but he leaves countless friends grateful for his joie de vivre, his outrageous laugh and yes, the single-handed magic he wrought on our hair.

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A night to remember

October 19, 2011

On Monday night the lights were ablaze and the stars shined at the Shakespeare Theatre GALA honoring Michael Kahn’s 25 years as artistic director.

Michael was hired when they were struggling to stay alive at the Folger Library. Michael’s vision not only built the Shakespeare Theatre into the world renowned company it is today but also importantly helped lead the renaissance of downtown D.C. He moved the company to the Lansburgh theatre before hardly anyone else saw the potential of that area and today its home is also the glittering Harman Hall.

Governor William Weld and Leslie Marshall (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Governor William Weld and Leslie Marshall

Tributes from Edward Albee to Terrance McNally told of his brilliance and contributions to the arts and to them. McNally told stories about he and Michael’s time at Columbia University including the plays they did there and Michael finding this young first time set designer to work with them by the name of Andy Warhol. Watching Michael take a play and work with actors to mold it to perfection is quite a thrill.

Michael was head of the drama department at Julliard and still returns to New York to teach master classes. He has directed productions around the world including Elizabeth Ashley on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and a recent Dallas Opera Company production of Romeoand Juliet.

Beautiful Harman Hall was aglow with the stars who saluted Michael. They included Stacy Keach, Pat Carroll, Rene Auberjonois, Nancy Robinette, Denyse Graves, Harry Hamlin, Patrick Stewart, Kelly McGillis, Floyd King, Richard Thomas, Bradley Whitford, and a favorite of mine the hot Jeffrey Carlson who played Hamlet at the Shakespeare in 2007. There were a host of other celebrities including Chelsea Clinton who spoke movingly of what Michael and the Shakespeare Theatre meant to her during her high school years in D.C. and still today. Donald Graham, chairman and CEO of the Washington Post Company spoke and then read a proclamation from Mayor Vincent Gray declaring October 17th Michael Kahn Day in the District of Columbia. Former Congresswoman Jane Harman spoke of what the theatre meant to her late husband Sidney, and how he loved Harman Hall, and there was a short film of Sidney himself talking about his love of the Arts.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and Williams and Connolly Partner Dan Katz (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and Williams and Connolly Partner Dan Katz

The actors performed in a 90 minute production which included Joffrey Ballet leading dancers Fabrice Calmals and April Daly who did a breathtakingly beautiful piece from Othello, A Dance in Three Acts. The entire performance was directed by the talented Alan Paul.

Seen at the reception prior to the show, and at the dinner dance afterwards held at the spectacular building museum were Supreme Court Justices, Alito, Scalia, Kagan and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Also there were former Congressman Phil Sharp (D-IN), Tom Downey (D-NY) and his wife the Hon. Carol Browner (former Clinton Administration EPA Administrator and Environmental Czar for President Obama), Williams and Connolly senior partner Dan Katz, Orrick Attorney and Shakespeare Theatre board member Pauline Schneider, former Mayor Anthony Williams, Governor William Weld and Leslie Marshall, and D.C. City Councilmembers  Jack Evans and Tommy Wells. The GALA is the theatre’s biggest benefit of the year and supports their education programs. It was chaired by Miguel and Patricia Estrada and Anita Antenucci.

It was truly a night to remember.


Written by Peter Rosenstein

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Dinner with the President on N Street

October 4, 2011

Last Friday night my good friend, Georgetown resident Dr. Jim D’Orta, hosted a fundraiser for President Barack Obama at his home in Georgetown. An emergency room physician by training and a successful businessman, Dr. D’Orta lives in the house formerly owned by Pamela and Averell Harriman. This was the house from which Pamela Harriman ran what was colloquially called ‘Pam PAC’ in the 1980s when the Democrats were out of office and out of power. It was where Bill Clinton first met many of those who would later support him in his race for the White House in 1992. He rewarded Harriman with the position of Ambassador to France. She later died in Paris of a stroke while swimming in the Ritz Hotel pool. Harriman is known as the premier courtesan of the 20th century. An amazing woman who I first had the pleasure of meeting  when she and her last husband, former Governor of New York Averell Harriman, co-chaired a fundraising roast for Bella S. Abzug (D-NY) to retire the debt from her losing 1976 Senate race. The roast was held at Window’s on the World atop the World Trade Center.

President Obama speaking to the guests (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) President Obama speaking to the guests

Official co-host for the evening was Jim’s cousin Barbara Broccoli, producer of the James Bond movies. The attendees were a mix of people from the theater community, business community, and were a mix of gay and straight. There were actually two events in one. There was a reception upstairs for those contributing $10,000 and a reception and dinner for 50 at tables of ten downstairs where guests were asked to anti-up $35,800 a couple. Each guest got the opportunity to have a picture taken with the President. The President then spent time with the dinner guests and was both gracious and eloquent. He talked of what he has accomplished in the first three years and what he hopes to do in the next five. The President spoke for about 15 minutes and then had an easy give and take conversation with topics ranging from finance, bringing our troops home, to healthcare and campaign strategy. The President quoted Mario Cuomo, “You campaign in poetry but govern in prose” as he talked about the difference between campaigning and the more difficult role of governing a nation with two wars and a financial crisis. The partisan crowd was easy to charm and the President did that as he spoke about the need for Democrats to join together in this crucial election which he believes is a fight for the future of America.

Liz Calloway (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Liz Calloway

Guests at the dinner included Broadway Producer Bill Haber and his wife Carol, asset manager Jim Roumell, tech CEO and politico Rick Stamberger, and Human Rights Campaign activists Barry Karas, Dana Perlman and Terry Bean. Guests were treated to entertainment before and after dinner from the incredibly talented Liz Calloway who sang the best version of the song ‘Memory’ that I have ever heard. Liz sang this for years on Broadway in CATS. The dinner was catered by Café Milano with an impressive chocolate dessert with the Presidential Seal in white chocolate. It definitely was an evening all attendees will long remember.



Written by Peter Rosenstein

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