Classy: adj. [Slang] first-class, especially in style or manner; elegant, fine.
Dictionary definitions are all very good, but sometimes an example is necessary. So take last night's dinner at the National Gallery to celebrate the opening of the exhibit "Old Master Drawings From the Albertina."
That was classy.
"Parties at the National Gallery are the best," said former Organization of American States secretary general Alejandro Orfila.
And how do you get to be the best, the classiest?
*Be unique, or as close to it as you can get.
The 300 guests at the East Building of the National Gallery were previewing an exhibit that included some drawings that had never before left the Albertina museum in Vienna.
*A dollop of history helps.
"What is historic about it, you know, this is art on paper, it cannot be exposed to light," said Austrian Ambassador Thomas Klestil. "It will never be shown anywhere else ."
The 75 drawings will be shown, starting Sunday, at the National Gallery and later at New York's Pierpont Morgan Library. The exhibit is being underwritten by United Technologies Corp.
Many people say the exhibit, which includes Albrecht Du rer's "Praying Hands," came to the United States to celebrate 200 years of political and economic relations between Austria and the United States. Others say that it came to show gratitude for the time when American forces safely retrieved the collection from a salt mine where it was hidden during World War II.
*Invite foreign guests who will, out of habit, kiss women's hands.
Last night, many of the Austrians did.
*Remember what matters at a party.
"The thing they do so well is seating," said Denise Hale, an art collector from San Francisco and a member of the National Gallery of Art Collectors Committee. "Usually at museums, museums which shall remain nameless, you go there, you dread it all evening. Here, they have a very attractive group. J. Carter Brown, he takes great care with the seating."
The attractive group included Albertina director Walter Koschatzky, Supreme Court Justice Byron White, Attorney General William French Smith, the first lady's press secretary Sheila Tate, Morgan Library Director Charles Ryskamp, Kennedy Center Chairman Roger Stevens and a lot of people who really Know Art.
*Pay attention to details.
"I was sent to the Cordon Bleu at 18, so food and design and things -- it's kind of fun," said Pamela Brown, wife of National Gallery director Brown. "Sometimes you get an inspiration, and then sometimes it works."
What worked last night was lace.
"It's very old Vienna, basically," said Pamela Brown about the atmosphere at the dinnner, which she helped organize. "Frumpy stuff, but I think it works."
*Have the party at a place that's classy to begin with.
"It's so lovely just entering the main atrium," said Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, "and sitting under the Calder mobile."
She was right. The mobile, rotating slowly above the guests, cast strange and delicate shadows on the meal of pheasant, duck and sacher torte.
*Carry off everything, no matter what, with a decided flair.
"He's got a souped-up motor," said Pamela Brown of the electric scooter-chair that her husband, recently injured in a car accident, was using to zoom across the shiny stone floor. "They thought he'd be bored with the regular kind. Watch out for your ankles."