In a Sunday article, Phyllis Kaminsky was identified as director of the USIA office of public liaison. She no longer holds that position.
A BOTTLE of Korbel Brut makes the rounds at the Georgetown Women's Club and the talk turns to the sculptural aspect of blusher.
It's all in a day's pampering at the club, an important stop on the fast track for Washington's high-profile professional women. The club recently celebrated its first anniversary and has 200 members--a mix of mostly local businesswomen, lawyers, doctors, broadcasters and ambassadors' wives.
"Our members are ladies who spend money on their bodies," says director and co-owner Estelle (Bunny) Sanders. "Their appearance is extremely important to their success. That's not a sexist statement. It's just real."
The membership list is "upscale" and influential--Antoinette Ford, the Agency for International Development's assistant administrator for the Near East; Phyllis Kaminsky, director of the USIA's office of public liaison; Jane Livingston, associate director and chief curator at the Corcoran Gallery; Tandy Dickenson and the Baroness Garnett Stackelberg have all joined up.
Jayne Ikard, a Washington socialite, explains that whereas at a men's club "they'd have a drink and sit around, the thrust for women is self-improvement."
Recently, one member, a Nigerian woman, ordered a private plane held so she could finish a comb-out.
Another member, from New Jersey, sat through an expensive hair-coloring, cutting, styling, setting and drying. On her way out, she saw another woman whose coiffure she liked better. She sat down again and had her hair redone in that style, paying for two complete jobs.
And the daughter of an African diplomat left the stylist a $50 tip.
The club is a walk-in tranq-tank overlooking a quiet courtyard at 3251 Prospect St. NW, decorated in earth tones that avoid beauty-parlor pink. An oriental rug, plants, a sofa and desk fill the entryway. Curving cream-colored walls ensure privacy in the hair-coloring salons, skin treatment, massage and manicure rooms. In two secluded whirlpool baths, members--mostly in their thirties and forties--select music to soak by while watching brilliant tropical fish in assorted aquariums. Herb tea, white wine and fruit juice are served in a "relaxation area" near the changing rooms.
The initiation fee is $300 and monthly dues are $25, with extra charges for individual services. The club will adopt a stricter members-only policy next month, but guests still will be accepted for a fee. An "exquisite GWC Day" of facial, whirlpool, Habitat, massage, lunch, manicure and hair set goes for $135.
Behind one closed door, a white-robed bureaucrat digs into chicken salad while a French skin-care specialist sits at her feet, which are soaking in a pedicure bath.
The club boasts the Mercedes of masseuses--Mercedes Rincon, to be precise. Jayne Ikard takes her back problem to Rincon once a week, the master masseuse at the YWCA on K Street for 20 years. "I'm playing 'Save the back,' " says Ikard.
Sharon Agronsky, wife of television news commentator Martin Agronsky, says, "It's not just a jock work-out place; you can work out and then have your toenails done." She uses the club once every 10 days or so. "My only problem is that you're not allowed to smoke in the hairdressing part. But I suppose it's for my own good."
Deane Walker, a periodontist originally from Jamaica, sees it as "an esoteric extension, if you will," of her dental practice and says she has treated half a dozen patients to a day's pampering.
Newscaster Maureen Bunyan likes the fact that the club is run by four women, two of them black, and patronized by "lots of black professional women."
Sanders calls the club "the most integrated situation in the city . . . That terry cloth robe is an equalizer."
At the club, the Kohler Habitat is the greatest escape. One 70-year-old member says it makes her feel like a kid. The $20,000 glass-enclosed bunk produces sun, shade, steam, rain, warm breezes or gentle sprinkles at the spin of a dial. There are no intrusions in the Habitat--except, of course, a choice of piped-in music or tapes of lulling ocean waves. Floating nude on an inflated mattress, members spritz with hand-held showerheads.
Bunyan chooses a steam mist and classical music. Dr. Averett Parker, administrator of the Mental Health Services Administration, picks a soothing jazz tape for her half-hour. Parker, who has a private practice in psychiatry in addition to her government work, calls it "a form of meditation. It frees the mind of entrapments."
Still, the entrapments translate to networking. Lately, the club has become the unofficial Wednesday night hangout for women city government leaders. Between individual masseuse appointments, when Parker ran into Audrey Rowe, commissioner of D.C. Social Services, they discussed whether the homeless should be sharing city shelters with the mentally ill. Parker promised to get Rowe the relevant numbers the next day.
The club's owners portray it as a fertile ground for contacts among Washington's female elite.
Before a recent appearance here, Gladys Knight was sent over by a local booking agency with a corporate membership. Roscoe Dellums, wife of Rep. Ronald Dellums (D-Calif.), is a regular, as is Jessie Amany, wife of the Ivory Coast ambassador.
Good Housekeeping senior editor Margaret Adams wrote a complete proposal while waiting for a massage. She commutes from Philadelphia on business and, as her hair is curled, speaks earnestly of the club's networking possibilities for younger women.
Carole Mueller, a stockbroker with Drexel Burnham Lambert, brings female clients to the club to discuss portfolios. "I order champagne and it's ready when we come," she says. "You can discuss as much business in a relaxed atmosphere as in an office."
One of her friends, though, proved to be an exception who found the atmosphere disconcerting. A high-ranking, high-strung government official, she reportedly couldn't take the bliss. "She was nervous the whole time. She couldn't wait to get out."
But Mueller offered the ultimate testimonial: "I've given away two business cards today."
"How much weight have you lost?" asks Ginna Rogers-Gould, slinky-sexy in a shiny purple leotard, on the phone with a member. "That's great!" she says, "Keep going." She's head of the club's fitness center, scheduled to open at the end of May, as well as a syndicated health columnist and a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness. Her "No Huff, No Puff" programs focus on "life extension and aging retardation." She takes her class to members' homes or offices on request. (The Corcoran staff sweats it out in the tapestry room. Carolyn Campbell, the gallery's public relations director, is so devoted that she pays for massages four months in advance.)
For staying trim, the club prescribes regular massage in combination with exercise and whirlpool. "We don't get into cellulite treatment," says Sanders. "It's a gimmick."
"It didn't make sense to open just another salon," adds Sanders, a petite woman with almond eyes. "And we didn't want to create an extension of the workplace." Instead, she says, the club is "a sanctuary for a woman's personal needs: hair, nails, skin."
Co-owner Pat Smith, a budget officer in the District government, says they couldn't have opened without an SBA loan and two additional partners, Chantal Combard and Miriam Pessin. As it is, Smith and Sanders do the club's laundry on Monday and Smith handles the paperwork, "to keep the costs down."
The scene: Manicured women in linen suits, silk blouses and expensive heels hover around a makeup mirror. Others, fresh from the whirlpool, watch from two more sets of mirrors and chairs as their friend is made up. The ceiling is low, the lights are bright and the atmosphere a cross between a shampoo salon and a cocktail party. As resident makeup consultant William Whited lays on the eyeliner, they swap horror stories about encounters with overly enthusiastic beauticians.
Touched up with a bit of makeup himself, "just for the photograph," Whited discusses the state of fashion in the nation's capital. "Washington chic seems to mean you buy an Oscar de la Renta gown, get your hair done and forget about makeup. Women here haven't evolved into total sophistication."
The Beverly Hills beauty expert is wearing a violet silk shirt open to the midriff. Mueller, wearing a cream-colored business suit, says she's never met a makeup artist she could trust and challenges Whited to give her a look "so I can bring a client in instead of looking like I'm going to 14th Street." He does; she's won over.
Next he overhauls a face for evening wear with a roomful of professional women looking on. "We're back to '50s eye makeup with the winged eyelid," he says, drawing dramatic straight lines toward the temples with the help of a tissue (a beauty secret). There are murmurs of approval:
"Now you look intimidating," Whited says. "And that can be an asset."