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International Velvet

By Roxanne Roberts and Libby Ingrid Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 17, 1998; Page D1

  Style Showcase


    Lou Reed Who knew Vaclav Havel was a Lou Reed fan? (File Photo)
Last night the White House rocked with something other than scandal. We're talking real rock-and-roll music with a real rock-and-roll star: Lou Reed. Stodgy old state dinners may never be the same.

Less than a week after the Starr report sent Washington into a tizzy, the White House mustered its forces to display a more appealing side of the presidency – the impressive pomp and pageantry of a state dinner for Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel. The evening also gave President Clinton a brief time to think about something other than you-know-what.

The Clintons were in fine form: the president smiling if slightly subdued; the first lady effusively greeting guests. They heard plenty of encouraging words, although Stevie Wonder was the only one to bear-hug both Clintons.

"I told the president a long time ago that I was his friend," the singer said. "And I am of the belief that when you say you are someone's friend, it doesn't mean that you're a fair-weather friend. You're there all the time."

The dinner honoring Havel, the playwright turned politician, offered plenty of dramatic diversions. The cast included actress Mia Farrow, bon vivant Henry Kissinger, author Kurt Vonnegut, model Paulina Porizkova and chess grandmaster Lubomir Kavalek as well as administration officials and staffers.

The guests were bent on supporting their host. "It's certainly none of my business," Farrow said of the president's problems. "I'm sad that Starr made it all of our business."

"I think what's being done to him is terrible," Reed said. "Your private life should be your private life. I think it's a smear campaign."

This is the second time a foreign leader's visit has been thoroughly dominated by domestic affairs. Shortly after the Lewinsky investigation first broke in January, Clinton hosted a White House dinner for British Prime Minister Tony Blair. A star-studded guest list was loaded with Clinton supporters, who hotly defended his innocence – as did the president himself.

Seven months later, the climate has clearly changed. In the wake of Clinton's admission, most of the politicians last night kept their thoughts to themselves.

"I've been here in crisis periods before," said former Nixon Cabinet member Kissinger as he slipped away.

"I don't want to comment on that tonight," said former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. "I'm here to honor President Havel."

The dissident who played a central role in the 1989 "Velvet Revolution" against communist rule was elected earlier this year to his second five-year term as Czech president. Havel, 61, has most recently been at the fore of his country's efforts to gain NATO membership and in other security matters.

But those efforts have been hampered by poor health. He has been hospitalized several times since undergoing lung cancer surgery in late 1996, and recovered from life-threatening pneumonia just in time to make this visit to Washington, with a doctor and nurse in tow.

"You have never lost the honesty, spontaneity, the contagious friendliness of your writing," Clinton said in his toast to Havel.

In his reply, Havel spoke of the relationship between the two countries and singled out his friend, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who was born in the former Czechoslovakia. "With her fine feeling for European affairs, she represents to me – among other things – a guarantee of the much-needed U.S. presence on the European continent," he said. Havel then turned to Clinton and presented him with the Order of the White Lion, the highest decoration of the Czech Republic.

Havel's own unofficial decoration was his wife of one year, actress Dagmar Havlova, who is nearly 20 years his junior. She made a colorful addition to the dinner in a purple satin and chiffon gown. Hillary Rodham Clinton wore a St. John silver sequined gown.

In support of Havlova's efforts to build a botanical garden back home, Mrs. Clinton presented her with a small magnolia grown from a seedling of the oldest tree on the White House grounds, which was planted by Andrew Jackson.

The first lady selected an early-autumn theme for the dinner. The color scheme was green and gold, the menu a nod to the fall palate: "less herbs, more spices, bigger flavors," said White House chef Walter Scheib. Guests were served pheasant consomme, roasted "full-bodied" salmon with carrot and corn risotto, greens with baked artichokes and goat cheese, and caramel rum raisin ice cream with poached pears.

The real treat, however, was the entertainment. Reed, a founding member of the Velvet Underground, was invited at the special request of Havel, a fan for 30 years. Havel has credited the rocker with inspiring the Czech people and the Velvet Revolution. In an unprecedented stop, he dropped by a rehearsal earlier in the day with Havlova and Mrs. Clinton. Reed and Havel embraced; the first ladies were fascinated by the singer's glasses, which featured lenses that flipped up. "Have you patented that?" Clinton asked.

At one end of the very grand East Room last night, Reed performed classic Velvet Underground hits in his irreverent, laconic style.

The audience was attentive but seemed subdued, except for Vice President Gore, whose chair rocked constantly during Reed's 35-minute performance.

At the conclusion, a smiling President Clinton said, "If you had as much fun as I did just now, you should give President Havel all the credit."

Reed was unfazed by the stately surroundings. "We're just musicians, so we play a lot of places," he said of the unusual venue, teasingly noting that his was just another "New York band."

Different city, same old gig.

The guest list for last night's dinner:

The vice president and Mrs. Gore

  • Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, and Mrs. Dagmar Havlova
  • Jan Kavan, minister of foreign affairs
  • Vladimir Vetchy, minister of defense
  • Josef Tosovsky, governor of the Czech National Bank
  • Alexandr Vondra, ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States, and Martina Vondrova
  • Jaromir Novotny, first deputy minister of defense
  • Ladislav Spacek, spokesman for the president
  • Jirf Pehe, director of the Political Department, office of the president
  • Ladislav Mravec, director general of the Political Section II, ministry of foreign affairs
  • Miroslav Sklenar, chief of protocol, office of the president
  • Helena Opolecka, director general of the Section for the Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Roman Leszczynski, director general of the secretariat for the Czech National Bank
  • Jerry Abramson, mayor of Louisville, Ky., and Madeline Abramson
  • Madeleine K. Albright, secretary of state, and Katherine Silva, special assistant, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education
  • Bruce Babbitt, secretary of the interior, and Harriet C. Babbitt, deputy administrator, U.S. Agency for International Developmnent
  • Rep. Douglas K. Bereuter (R-Neb.) and Louise Bereuter
  • Samuel R. Berger, assistant to the president for national security affairs, and Susan Berger
  • Robert L. Bernstein, founding chairman, Human Rights Watch, and Helen Bernstein
  • Diane D. Blair, chair, Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Erskine Bowles, chief of staff, the White House, and Crandall Bowles
  • John Broder, White House correspondent, the New York Times, and Karolyn Wallace, independent television producer
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, counselor, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Emilie Brzezinski, sculptor
  • Harvey Cauthen Jr., chairman and CEO, Cauthen & Associates, and Florence Cauthen, U.S. marshal, middle district of Alabama
  • Lee Clancey, mayor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Robert J. Clancey Jr., sales representative, the Clancey Co.
  • Betsy Cohn, executive board, New Dramatist, and Alan D. Cohn, managing director, Schroders
  • Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Lucy Calautti, chief of staff for Sen. Byron Dorgan
  • Rep. Pat Danner (D-Mo.) and C. Markt Meyer, businessman
  • William Cohen, secretary of defense, and Janet Langhart Cohen
  • Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.) and Susie Dicks, general secretary, U.S. Capitol Historical Society
  • Thomas A. Dine, president, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc., and Joan Dine
  • Robert W. Doubek, president, American Friends of the Czech Republic, and Karen Kendig
  • Archie Dunham, president and CEO, Conoco Inc., and Linda Dunham
  • Mia Farrow, actor, and Matthew Previn, attorney, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering
  • Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) and Judy Fazio
  • Stephen Flanagan, special assistant to the president, senior director, Central and Eastern European affairs, and Lynn Flanagan, attorney/adviser, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Mary Mel French, chief of protocol, and Matthew A. Gorman, senior vice president, Capital Markets, Blaylock & Partners
  • Charles Gati, senior vice president, Interinvest, and Toby T. Gati, senior international adviser, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld L.L.P.
  • Mark Gearan, director, the Peace Corps, and Mary Herlihy-Gearan
  • Rep. Samuel Gejdenson (D-Conn.) and Mary Jane Burt, entrepreneur
  • Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) and Georgia Gilman
  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, photographer/film director, and Karin Greenfield-Sanders, filmmaker/attorney
  • Marc Grossman, assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs, and Mildred Patterson, managing director for the Office of Visa Services, U.S. Department of State
  • Sen. Charles T. Hagel (R-Neb.) and Lilibet Hagel
  • Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sidney Harman, chairman and CEO, Harman International Industries Inc.
  • John F. Harris, White House correspondent, The Washington Post, and Ann O'Hanlon, staff writer, The Washington Post
  • Paul T. Hlavinka, Hlavinka & Associates, and Kimberly Hlavinka, senior vice president, Healthcare Insurance Services Inc.
  • Eric Holder, deputy attorney general, and Sharon Malone, Foxhall OB-GYN Associates
  • Jaromir Jagr, NHL forward, the Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Lubomir Kavalek, international chess grandmaster, and Irena Kavalek, librarian, U.S. Geological Survey
  • Lane Kirkland and Irena Kirkland
  • Henry Kissinger, chairman, Kissinger Associates Inc., former secretary of state, and Nancy Kissinger
  • Howie Klein, president, Reprise Records, and Bryan Scott Johnson, University of Washington
  • Kevin Klose, director, U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, and Deborah Taylor Ashford, partner, Hogan & Hartson L.L.P.
  • Charles J. Koch, chairman emeritus, Charter One Financial Inc., and Elizabeth Koch
  • Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Annette Lantos
  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) and Gerald Womack, district director for Rep. Lee
  • Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Barbara Levin, Energy Conservation Devices of Troy, Mich.
  • Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Charlene Lugar
  • Lewis Manilow, chairman, Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy
  • Kathleen McGinty, chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Karl Hausker, project director, Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Robert McNamara, artistic director, Scena Theatre, and Amy K. Schmidt, managing director, Scena Theatre
  • Jan Nowak, former vice president, the Polish American Congress
  • Paulina Porizkova, actress/model, and Ric Ocasek, music producer/artist
  • Thomas A. Pouliot, commander in chief, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Shirley Pouliot
  • Lou Reed, musician, and Laurie Anderson, performance artist
  • Andrew Reyes, CEO, Wilson, Reyes & Associates, and Nathan Shane Wolf, executive vice president, Seyer Communications Inc.
  • John M. Richard, president, Czechoslovak National Council of America, and Anne Marie Richard
  • Jeremy Rosner, vice president, Greenberg Quinlan Research, and Laurie Duker
  • Sen. William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.) and John M. Duncan, administrative assistant to Sen. Roth
  • Gen. John Shalikashvili, former chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Joan Shalikashvili
  • Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Carolyn Shelton
  • Eric Sklar, CEO, Burrito Brothers Inc., and Erica Sklar
  • Gene Sperling, assistant to the president for economic policy; director, National Economic Council, and Michael Sperling
  • James Steinberg, deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs, and Sherburne Abbott Steinberg
  • Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Catherine Stevens, executive director, Terra Foundation for the Arts
  • Stephanie Streett, assistant to the president, director of presidential scheduling, and Donald Erbach, political director for the office of Sen. Tom Harkin
  • Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of state, and Brooke Shearer, senior adviser, U.S. Interior Department
  • Mark Talisman, president, Project Judaica Foundation, and Jill Talisman
  • Charles A. Vanik, former U.S. representative (D-Ohio), and Betty Vanik
  • Kurt Vonnegut, author, and Jill Krementz, author/photographer
  • Jenonne Walker, U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic
  • Marion Wiesel, vice president, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, and Arnold Thaler, vice president, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity
  • James L. Witt, director, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Lea Ellen Witt
  • Stevie Wonder, entertainer, and Brian LaRoda, personal assistant to Stevie Wonder, and Keita Morris

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