Runaway Spoon

What A Swell Party: Italian Style

April 27, 2014

Rosalia Acampora & singer Pasquale DePandi (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Rosalia Acampora & singer Pasquale DePandi

The 350+ partygoers at Celebrazione della Cura, a party and elegant Italian market to benefit the Washington Home & Community Hospices, were greeted by a fun cool guy – sprayed in gold glitter and dangling bunches of golden grapes.  He set the atmosphere for the rest of the evening: upbeat and joyful.

He didn’t say a word and barely moved on his pedestal, but he didn’t need to. (see photo above)

The gala, celebrating the 125th anniversary of the organization in northwest DC, was held at the Italian Embassy Saturday evening. About $100,000 is expected to benefit the hospices once the final figures come in, said Tim Cox, chief executive officer. 

Attending were many familiar social faces.  To name a few: Singapore's Ambassador Ashok Kumar Mirpuri; Netherlands' Ambassador Rudolf Bekink,  Esther Coopersmith, Aniko Gaal Schott, Didi Cutler, Marlene

Tim Cox & Esther Coopersmith (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Tim Cox & Esther Coopersmith
Fred Malek, Donna Shor, Judith Terra, Alexandra Villard De Borchgrave, Barbara Hawthorn, Christine Warnke, and Sharon Collins Casey (chair of the board).

Although he didn’t make it because of prior campaign commitment on educational issues was mayoralty candidate, Councilmember David Catania, who was on the honorary host committee along with Councilmember Mary Cheh.

Part of the proceeds from the sales of elegant jewelry, women’s clothing, and men’s ties and shirts will go to the hospices, which provides care for patients. Eduardo DePani Napoli in Chevy Chase displayed gorgeous men’s ties and shirts. Also displaying upscale merchandise for the cause were Neo Shop, Rome; Melitta Paterni; Vivian Cavalieri; D & M Design; Francesco Marra (pizza); and Paul’s Wine & Spirits.

Donatella Verrone (Italian embassy social secretary) left, & Barbara Hawthorn (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Donatella Verrone (Italian embassy social secretary) left, & Barbara Hawthorn

As guest arrived in the main ballroom, they were greeted silently, although with a mischievous grin, by the hulk in gold paint, a Romanesque fountain in room-center which was surrounded by dish after dish of catered cuisine, and an Italian band featuring upbeat songs played by pop/rock band i-Talians.

Opera singers Chrissellene Petropoulos and Rolando Sanz, with violinist Rafael Javadov, filled the huge room with jubilance. Taking the stage to give a talk about her native Italy was Rosalia Acampora, hostess at il Canale restaurant in Georgetown.

Highlighted in the program booklet were words of wisdom gleaned from residents and patients of The Washington Home & Community Hospices.  A sampling;

Wear lipstick every day.

Clap for others.

Hold hands.

Sleep less.

See the world.

Don’t get crotchety.

Be around children.

Stay curious.

Plant a garden.

Bake from scratch.

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Night of Broadway Stars Goes to Arena; Honoring Paul Cohn, Ford's Theatre Society

March 30, 2014

For the first time, Covenant House Washington, a non-profit organization that helps homeless youth, will hold its annual gala fundraiser A Night of Broadway Stars Gala at Arena Stage and will honor restaurateur Paul J. Cohn for his help to local communities, businesses and residents.

Individual tickets are $250, with several tiers of sponsorship available. The event will be Tuesday, June 17 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth Street SW.

Gala co-chairs are David and Elizabeth Carmen, Linda Mercado Greene, and Mimsy and Rusty Lindner.

For the evening, Broadway composer Neil Berg along with some of New York’s most talented performers created a show featuring an collection of memorable show songs.

Berg’s credits include The Prince and The Pauper, Grumpy Old Men and 100 Years of Broadway.

The performers participate in an After Party to meet and greet attendees. Slated to sing are Rita Harvey who was in  Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera; Capathia Jenkins, whose credits include Broadway's Newsies; Stephanie J. Block, appearing in Off-Broadway's Little Miss Sunshine; Alan H. Green of Broadway's Sister Act; and Tony Vincent who was in Broadway's Rent and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Several awards will be given to people who have distinguished themselves with their philanthropic efforts and contributions to humanity. 

Covenant House's Dove Award will go to The Ford's Theater Society. This honor recognizes an individual or entity that has made significant financial contributions to support the work of Covenant House Washington.

Cohn will receive The Lizzie Award, which is the highest recognition within Covenant House International and honors an individual who has made significant philanthropic efforts and contributions to humanity.

Cohn is known to some as D.C.'s ambassador of hospitality. He is the heart and soul behind many of the District's most landmark restaurants, bars and clubs that have employed hundreds of residents.   He is the original owner and operator of J. Paul's which opened in 1980 in Georgetown.  He is the co-founder and visionary behind Creative Eats Restaurants whose newest concept, Boss Shepherd's, is set to open in late spring at 13th and Pennylvania near the Warner Theatre. (Alexander Robey Shepherd was governor of the territory of the District of Columbia D.C. 1873-1874.)

Before forming his latest venture, Cohn was a co-creator of Old Glory BBQ, Paolo's Ristorante, Georgia Brown's, Neyla, The River Club, Club Zei, among others.

Originally, he got his start in the music world as an artist's manager and promoter.  His most well-known achievement in that field was taking the singing duo Peaches & Herb to the top with their first album, "2 Hot," which sold over 5 million albums worldwide in 1978.

Through the years, as a force behind behind preserving and protecting the welfare of the District's people and businesses, he has served on many official commissions and boards. He is a past member of the board and executive committee of the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival and a past member on the board of directors of the Howard Theatre Restoration.

One new Covenant award is the Virginia E. Hayes Williams Award.  Former DC Mayor AnthonyTony” Williams, will accept the honor on behalf of his mother who passed away earlier this year.  Mrs. Williams was known for her work in helping young people through education, financial aid, spiritual guidance, and building opportunities for jobs.

At Mrs. Williams’ memorials, it was stipulated that all expressions of sympathy be made in the form of contributions to Covenant House Washington.

Covenant House Washington, located at 2001 Mississippi Ave., SE, is the largest non-profit organization serving homeless, disconnected and at-risk young people between ages 18 to 24.

Previously the event was held East of the Anacostia. Arena Stage is more centrally located in the city for those wanting to attend the gala, said event organizers.

Contact: Alexis Lindsay, 202.610.9602 or

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A Tribute To Momma Williams

March 24, 2014

With uplifting spirituals, friends and family paid a nearly four-hour musical tribute to “Momma Williams” at a celebration of life Saturday at one of Virginia E. Hayes Williams’ favorite venues, the Duke Ellington School of The Arts in Georgetown.

Former Mayor AnthonyTony” Williams and a host of others took the stage to relate to 800+ attendees sometimes humorous, sometimes touching, always true to life episodes in the action-packed life of a woman often hailed as “The First Mother of D.C.”   That title stems from her deep involvement with her son’s successful run for mayor.

Tony Williams carry a book of remembrances & the umbrellas (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Tony Williams carry a book of remembrances & the umbrellas

She had been a hands-on political activist both in Los Angeles, where she helped elect Mayor Tom Bradley, and in D.C., where she was a force in the election campaign of Mayor Vincent Gray and several council members.

She was laid to rest in her hometown of Los Angeles, where she passed away on January 23 after a short illness.

Peggy Cooper-Cafritz, co-founder of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, announced that the Eugene B. Casey Foundation was establishing a $1 million Virginia E. Hayes Williams fund that will award annual financial aid to a junior or senior who excels in the performance field of opera.  Mrs. Williams had sung professionally in films (notably, Carmen and Porgy and Bess) and on stage during her lifetime.  She especially loved operatic music. One of her proudest moments is when Martin Luther King heard her sing and he  requested an encore.

She would have cherished the performances of the Duke Ellington Show Choir, the Washington Performance Arts Society Children of the Gospel Choir, Duke Ellington alum Angeli Ferrett, violinist Nathaniel Heyder, pianist Josephine Riggs, and her granddaughters Erika C. E. Williams and Christian E. Pickett.

Among those paying tribute from the stage were Tony Williams, Mayor Gray, Jan Du Plain, Catfish Mayfield Hunter, Lee Brian Reba, Dorothy and Bill McSweeny, Councilmember Kenyon McDuffie, Dr. Vincent Jones, Frances Buckson, Shirley Haulsey, The Rev. Lewis Anthony, Pat Elwood, Judith Terra, Jessica Williams, Alexandrea Williams, and Lewis Williams.

Christian E. Pickett after the ceremonies for her grandmother. (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Christian E. Pickett after the ceremonies for her grandmother.

Tony Williams left the audience laughing when he recalled how one time his mother was driving her huge old beat-up car with him in the passenger seat.  She combed her hair. Put on makeup.  Beautifying herself for the event they were going to…all the while, looking in the front and rearview mirrors. 

Alarmed, he felt the car drifting toward a line.  So, he touched the wheel to steer it back on course.  “Don’t you ever touch the steering wheel when I am driving,” Momma Williams admonished her son.  It was her mission, her car, her pride, her driving.  Tony said he never did that again. Momma ruled.

Jan Du Plain recalled when she and Mrs. Williams went to a performance of Gershwin music at Ford’s Theater.  The pianist started to play “Summertime” and invited the audience to sing along.  Suddenly, he stopped, peered into the darkened audience. One voice, above all others, was beautiful.  It was Mrs. Williams’. He invited her up onstage to perform with him. She did, singing every verse of the song…”Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high…”

She received a standing ovation.

Lee Brian Reba, a close friend of Mrs. Williams, brought to the ceremonies multi-colored umbrellas to carry as the procession departed, in remembrance of Momma Williams’ autobiographical book, Living Under God’s Umbrella.

Reba, also noted in his eulogy, the mindset of Momma Williams by saying:

"Mother Williams loved each and every one of you -- she loved all of us, she loved this city. Let's make her proud, and let us honor her life and legacy, by giving more of ourselves each day...after all-- we are all living under God's umbrella. Let us all commit to an act of kindness.  Let us all commit to making a difference. Let us all commit to either mentoring a child, helping the homeless, or being there for our seniors."

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