WASHINGTON — Washington’s favorite billionaire, David Rubenstein, took time out in D.C. recently to offer some free financial advice to young Seventh Avenue designers. “It’s a very risky time,’’ Rubenstein told WWD. “The best thing a young designer can do right now is be conservative, invest some money in equities and some in bonds. But save the bulk of your money to plow back into your business. Five to eight percent is not a bad rate of return.’’

The event was Kuwait Ambassador Sheikh Salem and Rima Al-Sabah’s dinner honoring Rubenstein and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. This was the first party since the election for many Republicans including outgoing Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, top favorite on the D.C. social scene who huddled with former Bush White House social secretary Lea Berman, a Mitt Romney bundler. Also in the crowd was President Obama’s Republican Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.


Rima Al-Sabah set the fashion bar high in black lace Emilio Pucci with five-inch black suede Prada pumps.  Equally dazzling, television personality Norah O’Donnell, who emceed Al-Sabah’s after-dinner show, credited Leonard Lauder with getting her hooked on Carolina Herrera’s designs.

“I was a guest at his Alzheimer’s Foundation luncheon and fashion show in May,” she said. “I sat next to Caroline Brown, Herrera’s new ceo from Harvard. And that’s how I got involved.’’

But 65-year-old jazz singer Bettye LaVette, who took time out from her 50th anniversary U.S. tour, flying in from Minnesota to entertain the crowd and plug her new book “A Woman Like Me,” stole the show. In the tome, she writes of Diana Ross: “Diana Ross played the Motown game with more skill than any girl up there. She slept her way up the Motown command beginning with Smokey (Robinson).’’  

“You have to understand,’’ she told guests over dinner, “I knew these people before they ever became famous.’’

Later, welcomed up to the microphone to sing for the crowd, LaVette proclaimed herself a political junkie, adding, “I am seated next to the sexiest man in the room — the French ambassador.’’ Sophie Delattre, wife of ambassador François Delattre, shot a warning glance over her Saint Laurent-clad shoulder to her husband, who was too busy blushing to notice. LaVette kept on undaunted, offering a sassy nod to Marilyn Monroe’s irreverent inaugural salute to John F. Kennedy, with her own husky rendition of “Happy Birthday, Mr. Ambassador.”

After her performance and before LaVette settled back into her chair, Ambassador Delattre, 49, declared the party the best birthday of his life.