The Mellow Yellow Fellow's Soft Spot for Sappho

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, October 4, 2005

We admit we jumped to conclusions when we heard folk-rock legend Donovan was showing art inspired by Sappho, the lady poet, circa 600 B.C., from the Greek island of Lesbos.

Men! So predictable.

But the Hurdy Gurdy Man said the girl-on-girl thing was not on his mind when he picked up the camera to create his "Sapphographs," now on display at Georgetown's Govinda Gallery.

"How has it come down in history that she was this gay gal?" he asked in that Scottish lilt, before getting all not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-that. The sexes were often segregated in ancient Greece, he said. "That she would have relationships with her girls was natural, and a great thing."

What resonated for Donovan was her verse, timeless in its evocations of melancholy, longing, joy. Poets like Sappho were the pop stars of the day, he said, but with a lasting legacy.

At 59, the author of "Sunshine Superman" and "Mellow Yellow" is hardly suffering in that department. He has a boxed set and a new memoir coming out, and that's his lovely "Catch the Wind" playing on Volvo commercials every five minutes or so. The visual medium is new for him. He had his wife, daughter and a friend pose as Greek actresses, then digitized the photos into high-contrast black-and-whites that call to mind silent-movie stills. His show at Govinda, running through Nov. 12, is his first ever and it marks the gallery's 30th anniversary. Owner Chris Murray met Donovan when, as a Georgetown undergrad in the '60s, he mustered the courage to knock on the singer's Mayflower Hotel room door. Murray made the leap from fan to friend, and Donovan even played at his wedding.

Linda Lawrence, Donovan's wife of 35 years (and long ago the girlfriend of late Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones), joined him for the opening-night reception wearing elfin boots and a glow-in-the-dark pendant. "She's the real muse," he whispered, wrapping an arm around her. "Not Sappho."

Hey, Isn't That . . . ?

  • Jenna Bush on Saturday night, at Glover Park's Town Hall (the preppy crowd's hot alternative to Smith Point). The first daughter was upstairs at a private party where she was spotted adjusting the slipping straps of her satin turquoise camisole and smoking Newports with a tall, dark, curly-haired fellow.
  • Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, wife Jo and two backup singers Sunday night ordering gourmet Indian at the Bombay Club.
  • Designer Zang Toi, sporting a white shirt, alligator shoes and itty-bitty black cashmere kilt embroidered with a dragon. He had the shortest skirt and the best legs at yesterday's luncheon for the "New China Chic" exhibition of Chinese fashion at the Kennedy Center.
  • Maestro Placido Domingo, who gave Washington National Opera Life Chairman Betty Casey and trustees a lunchtime sneak peek of Zengo, his new Latin-Asian restaurant in Chinatown that opens next week. The liquor license was approved just in time for a champagne toast.
  • Kids Play Date

    We were tickled to hear that chichi Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase had set up a mini petting zoo with baby goats outside. And we thought it was so sweet of the store to offer a children's storytelling hour, with a darling picture book about where cashmere comes from. And we loved the well-bred tots crashing little Mercedes pedal-cars around the aisles.

    Come to find out, it's all a brazen promotion for Saks's new line of . . . well, we're not even going to say! Feeling so used. Though the cookies were dee-lish.

    The goats playfully butted heads and nibbled any skirt hems or scarf fringes that drifted near. So, these the kind that cashmere comes from? Owner Callan Hahn, down for the day from Thurmont, Md., winced and admitted they were not.

    Cashmere goats are just too stinky to greet the public, he said, and "they don't have the personality."

    Surreal Estate

    Seller: Myrna Haft

    Asking Price: $20 million

    Details: The widow of Washington retail magnate Herbert Haft, who died a year ago at age 84, is selling off his mansion at 2501 30th St. NW. The seven-bedroom, 1061/27-bathroom house -- assessed at $8.2 million last year -- boasts a chandelier from the Paris Opera House, English fireplaces and Italian marble floors, reports the Washington Business Journal. The house was part of a $50 million estate Mrs. Haft inherited from her husband, whom she married in a deathbed ceremony contested by his three children.

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