NEW YORK — Lally Graham Weymouth grew up attending insider Washington parties thrown by her mother, the late Washington Post Co. chairman Katharine Graham, whose invitation guaranteed a mix of influential Republicans, Democrats, diplomats, media and business leaders.
So it seems fitting that the power party of the Republican National Convention was Weymouth’s packed bash Monday night for Newsweek at the Four Seasons hotel. The assemblage of political and business luminaries harkened back to those old days of grand A-list parties in the nation’s capital, even as those have faded in the last decade as partisan politics have taken hold and with the passing of legendary hostesses like Pamela Harriman, Evangeline Bruce and Graham, who died in 2001.
“I thought mummy gave great parties in Washington,” Weymouth said, sitting on a settee in her office at Newsweek’s West 57th Street headquarters, where she is a senior editor and special diplomatic correspondent. Her brother, Donald, chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co. and co-host of Monday’s party, has their mother’s old corner office next door.
While Weymouth is reluctant to draw comparisons to her mother’s legendary hostessing skills, she draws one parallel: “She had a very good touch about mixing people and I think maybe I’ve learned from her.”
Since her mother’s death, Weymouth has taken over the reins of organizing Newsweek’s cocktail party at the annual White House Correspondents’ dinner and she’s already planning the guest list for next spring’s affair. “It’s hard to do because you don’t know who the administration will be,” she said.
The Newsweek convention party was a first for the magazine and was hatched by Weymouth, her brother and editor in chief Rick Smith. At the event, about 600 people squeezed around the Grill Room’s large square marble fountain anchored by palm trees, a crowd spawned by Weymouth’s 10 months of working the phones to drum up a list of key attendees from politics, business and embassies.
“We worked pretty hard on getting as many as we could, and we got, I think, a fairly good turnout,” she said.
This was her first Newsweek GOP convention bash, which she made sure to sprinkle with Democrats for balance. Interesting matches were made. Financier Henry Kravis huddled with Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner; Georgette Mosbacher chatted with actor Ron Silver, and former Nixon and Ford administration secretary of state Henry Kissinger embraced Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, who is also chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
There was also ABC’s Barbara Walters providing a good ear for a tired-looking New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and 9/11 Commission co-chair Bob Kerrey, an outspoken Democrat, joking with old colleague Alan Simpson, a former conservative Republican senator from Wyoming.
Ken Duberstein, former Reagan White House chief of staff, spotted Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, said the Newsweek party was one of the best of the week. “It was a real melting pot,” Duberstein said.
Weymouth gets the guest list right, said Stephen A. Schwarzmann, the Kennedy Center’s new chairman who is also ceo of The Blackstone Group. He said New York’s various power groups from business, fashion, advertising, media and the performing arts “tend to socialize on their own,” while Weymouth can “assemble an A-list of interesting people across these groups.”
As evidenced by the turnout, an invitation to a Weymouth party is coveted. Of her cross-pollination of guests, Weymouth said, “I hope there are a lot of side benefits,” for attendees.
— Joanna Ramey