The Washington Post

Spring break of the elites!: Washington old guard heads to Palm Beach for Red Cross Ball

Guests dance to Peter Duchin's orchestra at the 56th annual International Red Cross Ball in Palm Beach Friday (Carrie Bradburn/Lucien Capehart Photographer for Red Cross International )

PALM BEACH, Fla. — You thought Washington’s old guard rode out the winter doldrums huddled by their fireplaces? Ha! Those with enough time, connections and money bide time until D.C.’s spring galas in the exclusive, clubby swirl of Palm Beach.

Bob Bennett catches up with former Sen. Norm Coleman at the Red Cross Ball. (Carrie Bradburn/Lucien Capehart Photography)

“It’s a great cause and a lot of fun,” said superlawyer Bob Bennett, who spends about six weeks in Palm Beach every year — and always attends the ball. “This is the big social event down here.”

Ourisman and her husband Mandy sold their place in Jamaica a few years ago and settled on the Florida enclave as their winter home because she had a lot of D.C. pals already down there: Mel and Suellen Estrin, Stuart and Wilma Bernstein , Nancy Brinker, and Susan Lehrman to name a few. “I think it’s so easy here,” Ourisman told us. “Many of us go back and forth.” And the pace is just right — plenty to do without the late-night scene of, say, Miami. “Most of us here are past that in our life.”

Mary Ourisman and former Sen. Fred Thompson (Carrie Bradburn/Lucien Capehart Photographer)

Hmmm, any particular reason why? “It had really become more about Donald Trump than the Red Cross,” explained Ourisman. Trump did not attend this year, which opened the door for Post’s daughter, actress Dina Merrill, to return as a guest. Seems there’s no love lost between those two.

The New Yorkers were stuck at home by the blizzard, but plenty of D.C. names (mostly Republicans) made it: Former senators Fred Thompson, Norm Coleman and Mel Martinez ; House Foreign Affairs chairman Rep. Ed Royce; American Red Cross Chairman Bonnie McElveen Hunter; Anita McBride, Channel 4 anchor B arbara Harrison, Mary Mochary; John Damgard; Aniko Schott; and ambassadors from Indonesia, Portugal, Singapore, Morocco, Iceland and the Netherlands. Oh, and Peter Duchin and his orchestra. The night raised $800,000 and everyone was home by 11 p.m.

Gabriella Bekink, Dutch Ambassador Rudolph Bekink, and Mary and Mandy Ourisman. (Carrie Bradburn/Lucien Capehart Photographer)

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