THE LADY IN RED
Tab for Rice Fete A Flap in Britain
The British ambassador's elaborate 50th-birthday party for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was Washington's most talked-about soiree in 2004.
In 2007, it's now become one of the most talked-about events in London, too, as British taxpayers were finally told Tuesday of the tab for feting 111 people, mainly Americans.
Ambassador David Manning and his staff thought of everything for the surprise party -- from a scarlet-red formal designed by Oscar de la Renta, Rice's favorite designer, to her personal hairdresser brought in to craft a fast makeover after Rice arrived in casual clothes for what was supposed to be an evening with her aunt. After she had redressed, Rice entered the party at the ambassador's residence as Van Cliburn -- who flew in for the party -- played the national anthem.
The British paid a pretty farthing for the event -- everything except for the dress. Under pressure from the British Labor Party, the Foreign Office said in a written reply that "the dinner in question was held in honor of U.S. Secretary of State Rice and attended by the president, first lady and other senior figures." The precise total was $9,512.05.
By Washington standards, that's actually not bad -- roughly $85 a head, drinks and entertainment included.
-- Robin Wright