Even the most evolved men sometimes have a hard time dealing with their wives’ success. Take Sidney Harman, the electronics tycoon who’s married to Rep. Jane Harman, a seven-term democrat from California. In 2003, he donated $20 million to the Shakespeare Theatre Company to help finance a 775-seat ultramodern glass extension of the troupe’s performance space. And, when discussing his gift Sunday night at the British Embassy in Washington, he said: “I had to find something I could do to upstage my wife. And when you see the theater, I think you’ll agree I’ve done a pretty good job.”
He wasn’t the only one at the theater company’s big celebration tooting his own horn. Toronto architect Jack Diamond, who designed the $89 million edifice, took a swipe at the competition. “Too many theaters are blind. You don’t have a sense of how the theater connects with the street,” said Diamond, comparing his newest design — which looks out onto a busy city street — to the windowless Kennedy Center complex.
Another star of the evening was gala chairman Ann Nitze. “I’ll tell you the attraction for coming down from New York,” said guest Pat Patterson. “Ann Nitze — she called me 10 times and twisted my arm.”
Partying started early with pre-embassy cocktails Saturday night at the Harman’s D.C. home, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led the list of powerful political women including Sen. Susan Collins and former Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. “We’re going to have Condi play at the new theater,” Jane Harman told guests.
Sunday night’s embassy parties also included dinner at Villa Firenze, the elegant home of Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta and his wife, Lila. With racks of shimmering dresses designed by Renato Balestra on display in the front hall in preparation for a fashion show at the embassy Wednesday, Lila Castellaneta accessorized her magenta and black Balestra cocktail dress with a swirl of wriggling fur — her new five-month-old bichon frise puppy named PoFac, which means “puffy cheeks” in her native Persian.
Winding up the party triathlon, the gang reconvened Monday night for a gala performance. As outgoing British Ambassador Sir David Manning aptly observed: “This event deserves a glass of Champagne in each hand.”
This story first appeared in the October 2, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Up north, a social set of a different order convened on Thursday night in New York, when Louis Vuitton’s Antoine Arnault and Daniel Lalonde toasted the cast of “The Darjeeling Limited” with a dinner at La Grenouille. The evening held an air of an eclectic family reunion with players from Wes Anderson films past and present, including Anjelica Huston, Noah Baumbach, Waris Ahluwalia, Amara Karan and Roman Coppola, breaking baguette with Francesco and Chiara Clemente, Susan Gutfreund and Jacqui Getty, who had just flown in from Los Angeles.
The one-of-a-kind custom-made luggage Marc Jacobs created for the film took center stage during a silent auction, but Jason Schwartzman was stuck with another accessory for the night — a wooden cane. “I broke a couple of toes two weeks ago in a soccer accident,” he explained. “I personally don’t think I need the cane, but my doctor thinks I may have to use it for up to six weeks.”
Adrien Brody’s accoutrements, namely a pair of Day-Glo orange chaussures, also earned him some attention. “They had put aside a good selection of suits for me,” said the actor, who had gone to the Vuitton boutique on Fifth Avenue earlier that day to pick out his getup. “But I asked them, ‘Would you mind if I dressed in something a little different?'”