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Forever Lily Debuts at Apres Peau

April 28, 2010

Inspired by her unexpected journey to motherhood, Beth Nonte Russell created the fragrance line, “Forever Lily” (recently nominated for a ‘Fifi’, the fragrance industry’s answer to Oscar) and wrote a book. Wednesday night she came to Apres Peau to introduce her remarkable family, fragrance and memoir to Washington.

When I asked Beth whether “Forever Lily” was her first fragrance, she nodded. “I was a psychologist,” she said, “when I brought Lily home.” Ten years ago, all Beth had on her mind was lending support to her friend Alex when she accompanied her to a Chinese orphanage to adopt the baby girl that been abandoned at a railway station. The last thing Beth expected was that the new mother would be her. After all, she and husband Randy already had three children (from his previous marriage) and their family felt complete. But when Alex changed her mind in the last minute, and it would have meant returning a frail and neglected 13 month old to the orphanage, the decision was easy for Beth who had instantly bonded with baby Lily. And what did Randy say when you told him, I asked. “He was immediately supportive and told me to bring her home!”

Beth and Randy Russell

Since her friend had already completed the adoption process, all that remained was for the Russells to legally adopt Lily in Virginia after a brief role as her foster parents.  When Lily wanted a sister, the family returned to China for Jaden (shown below).

Motivated by the plight of orphaned children in China and elsewhere, Beth and Randy Russell founded the Golden Phoenix Foundation in 2006. The mission of the foundation is to end child abandonment worldwide. Ten percent of the proceeds of sale of the fragrance benefit the foundation.

It’s always fun and fashionable when “The Face of Georgetown” hosts a party. Dr. Tina Alster opened Apres Peau (French for “after skin”) to make the experience of finding the apropos gift easy and stylish. This world renowned cosmetic dermatologist and lecturer, is founding director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery.

Dr. Tina Alster and Lily Russell

Jessica Freedman, Apres Peau’s manager (shown above) told me, “There’s great energy here. By embracing the unique, we offer a true boutique experience.” What better place to launch a fragrance created to “aid the wearer in opening the heart and reaching for the highest … An enveloping Oriental blend, whose top note is dominated by clove and sweet accents of lemon and fresh lychee, middle note of fig and stargazer lily, and base note comprised of cedar wood, vanilla, amber and sandalwood."  Just add love.

Kathy Neal and Courtnay Hamilton

Paul Nonte and Lou Fisher

Lily and Jaden Russell

Ralph Linden, Molly Weaver, Ramsey Perron, John Bettinger


Janet Freedman, Dr. Jennifer Mac Gregor and Jessica Freedman


Lily Russell and Emily Hamilton

Beth Nonte Russell and David T. Crow

Dr. Tina Alster and husband, Paul Frazier


Lily and Dad

Elisabeth and Craig Wine

Dr. Jennifer Mac Gregor

Evan and Pierre Rahal


Lou Fisher, Paul Nonte and Randy Russell

No Washington party is complete without a Georgetown Cupcake. Right, Jaden?

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Govinda: Gallery Fit for a Rock Star

April 26, 2010

Best known for its iconic images of musicians, Govinda Gallery’s upcoming exhibition, “Top of the Charts: 40 Years of Music Photography,” opening May 1st, may be its most comprehensive yet.  You are getting an exclusive preview here of  stunning and often surprising  shots of music legends that include Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead,  David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur and Elvis Presley.

Speaking of Elvis, Alfred Wertheimer’s photographs from his book, Elvis at 21: New York to Memphis, is now a traveling Smithsonian Museum exhibition, in collaboration with Govinda Gallery, honoring his 75th birthday and “the Elvis the world has forgotten.” Currently in Boca Raton, these photos will arrive in October for their Washington debut at The National Portrait Gallery.

It was while helping Annie Leibovitz hang her first major show in Washington, that gallery founder and director Chris Murray saw that now famous photo. You know it, the one with John Lennon and Yoko Ono embracing on the cover of Rolling Stone. Being a music lover, Chris bought the photo from Annie, and soon learned what few people knew in 1984, that it was taken on the day John Lennon was murdered.  Chris realized, “It was not only a good photo, it was an important photo. I had an epiphany that very moment. I decided right then that I was going to champion significant photographs, documenting contemporary music.”

But his earliest inspiration may have been New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Chris often sneaked into while attending Loyola School at 83rd and Park across the street.  He later came to Washington to study philosophy and religion at Georgetown University and never left.

To formally promote his many artist friends, including a young Andy Warhol, after graduation Chris opened Govinda Gallery in 1975 where it remains on 34th Street the longest operating art gallery in one location in the history of the city.  While no Indian art is represented here, Govinda means “source of pleasure,” the name is an homage to Krishna, and the Indian culture Chris loves.  Inspiration no doubt also came from friends and fellow eastern religion followers Beatle George Harrison and poet activist Allen Ginsberg.  No surprise that Chris’s first book (shown below), co-authored and exquisitely illustrated by Kim Waters, was “Illuminations of Bhagavad Gita.”

Along with blog editor Cat Henry, manager and son, David Murray, and curatorial assistant, Vivian Foster (pictured below left to right) Chris is busy preparing for Donovan’s Sapphographs, (newly coined genre exclusive to Donovan) an exhibition opening June 1st in Greece, which is a Govinda Gallery collaboration with the American Union in Athens and the Centre for Hellenic Studies in  Washington.

Consisting of 16 monumental (five feet square) pieces by the internationally renowned poet, musician and artist, Donovan, the entire show will be printed here in Washington by David Adamson. Shown below is one of Donovan's Sapphographs.

Chris writes in the exhibition catalogue (and coming soon, his first on-line catalogue), “Donovan’s Sapphographs are perhaps the finest contemporary homage to the greatest lyric poet of ancient Greece.” In case you made the same mistake I did, lyric refers to the musical instrument, lyre and not the words of 7th Century Greek poet Sappho.  Capturing the loveliness of an ancient muse through black and white photographs of his own family, Donovan employs a technique that removes grey tones to evoke an ethereal sensuality.  

The gallery is also equal parts office and archival library, where art books and catalogues (Chris has authored and/or edited more than a dozen) share space with rare autographed “family” photos including Buzz Aldren’s moon landing and Mohammad Ali with Chris’s son David. Come for the photos, and stay for a chat with Chris, passionate witness to 40 years of contemporary musical art.

 Govinda Gallery is at 1227 34th Street. Tel. 202.333.1180

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Rock Bottom Remainders Dine at Il Canale

April 20, 2010

First stop on the all-star, all-author rock group’s four city east-coast charity concert tour was dinner at Il Canale in Georgetown Monday night. Marking its 18th year performing, the Rock Bottom Remainders 2010 Wordstock Tour officially kicks off Tuesday with two Washington events: “Besides the Music: A Conversation with the Rock Bottom Remainders” hosted by Sam Donaldson at the Harman Center for the Arts, and Wednesday, a concert at the 9:30 Club with special guest Roger McGuinn, former lead singer and guitarist for The Byrds.

A band that includes some of today’s most shining literary lights, members of the Rock Bottom Remainders have collectively published more than 150 titles, sold more than 200 million books, and been translated into more than 25 languages. "In the fine rock & roll tradition, the Rock Bottom Remainders were conceived in a car,” says Kathi Kamen Goldmark, band founder. “As a semi-pro musician with a day job in book publicity, I spend a lot of time driving touring authors around San Francisco … I decided to form a band of authors!"

The group burst upon the scene at the 1992 American Booksellers Association convention in Anaheim. A write-up in The Washington Post described it as “the most heavily promoted musical debut since the Monkees.”

Hailed by critics as having “one of the world’s highest ratios of noise to talent,” the Remainders have no music videos, no record contract, no Grammy nominations—but do have over 159,000 hits on Google.

This year's group includes Dave Barry (at left with earphones next to soundman Gary Hirstius), Amy Tan (shown below with iPad), Mitch Albom, Roy Blount, Jr., Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, and Kathi Kamen Goldmark. In addition to performing mostly 70's cover music, the band has recorded original songs, including “Proofreading Woman,” band manager, Ted Habtegabr, told us.

Proceeds from the tour, which are being presented by the Pearson Foundation and their new digital reading and giving initiative, We Give Books  will support Haitian relief and local non-profit organizations at work in each community.

"This concert is a rare chance to see a band that has been hailed by critics as 'not as bad as you would expect,'" said band member and Lead Guitarist Dave Barry. "Rock Bottom Remainders are excited by the response to this tour from our fans. There are only three of them, but they've been very responsive. But seriously, we're thrilled to be able to raise money for some great organizations." 

"These concerts are a great way to raise funds—and raise awareness—for some of America's best non-profit organizations," said Pearson Foundation President Mark Nieker. "We hope people will come out to see some great music and have fun, but we're especially pleased that the band members are donating their own time and that funds raised will go directly to support much-needed education and literacy efforts in Haiti and in the cities where the tour takes place."

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