The real estate industry's good times may be over for now, but you would never have known it Thursday night when metropolitan Washington's banking, thrift and building elite converged on the Grand Hyatt Hotel to indulge in a mostly boys-night-out evening of dinner and boxing, all in the name of charity.
"Sans spouse," as the invitation put it, and decked out in tuxedos, the 800 male attendees gathered to drink a few cocktails, smoke a few hundred cigars and cheer and cajole each other as they watched seven professional boxing matches in a benefit for Fight for Children Inc.
Decorations for the $300-a-plate affair included a bevy of professional models in tight-fitting evening gowns who mingled with the crowd, selling the six-inch-long stogies and serving up the alcohol. These, of course, were different from the women clad in low-necked leotards with black and red sequins, complete with garter belts and red spiked heels, who sauntered around the ring between rounds.
"I haven't seen this many beautiful women in one room since all my ex-wives got together for a shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue," remarked the ringside announcer.
The list of sponsors, a literal Who's Who of Washington's business community, included B.F. Antonelli, Jeffrey Cohen, Mohamed A. Hadid and other real estate moguls who've recently fallen on hard times. One real estate developer joked that when the evening broke up, there probably would be a dozen process servers waiting outside.
The financial difficulties, however, did not deter Washington's powerhouses from coming up with the cash for this Gatsby-esque affair, which sponsors say easily raised close to $50,000 (by a preliminary count) that will be channeled to 10 youth programs.
The businessmen were joined by more than a dozen sports and political celebrities, including Buster Douglas, Mike Tyson, Louis Gossett Jr., Rep. Tom McMillen (D-Md.), Mayor Marion Barry and a number of Washington Redskins.
Honorary Chairman Joseph E. Robert Jr., head of Alexandria-based J.E. Robert Companies Inc., one of the nation's top firms for managing repossessed or troubled commercial real estate, summed up the mood: "It was designed to re-create the old-time black-tie smokers they had during the Depression."
Certainly the evening made a lasting impression on three Soviet boxers who came to the United States just for the event. After touring Washington Friday morning, the three spent the afternoon at Sears in Alexandria being fitted for tuxedos, which, Robert said, were all they wanted to take home as mementos.