Restaurateur Bill Wooby remembers the woman who came in for a hamburger and ended up with a $700 check.
"When she was leaving," he says, "she said it was the most expensive meal she ever had."
A Gucci cow? Buns designed by Ralph Lauren? Perhaps catsup flown in from Italy? Actually, a rare poster, which was hanging above the bar before the woman bought it with her lunch at the Collector, a new restaurant on U Street NW that sells art along with the food. The hamburger itself was only $5.
The Collector, open since mid-May, is a new twist in Washington's art scene. "It's sort of a gallery and sort of a restaurant," says Wooby, who says he struggled with banks, insurance companies and the art community here to get them to accept his new vision of how to sell art in Washington.
"I envisioned it like someone's home, where you could enjoy yourself and look at art over your shoulder," Wooby explains. "Museums and galleries can be so cold and unfamiliar for a lot of people -- here they can relax and slowly look at the art."
The space is relaxing, with black lacquered tables and church pews scattered around a softly lit main dining room, which last week was lined with large-scale abstracts by local artist H. Ron Banks. In the barroom, old posters are everywhere. Wooby plans to display antiques and new jewelry in the see-through bartop. Even the bathroom is artsy: Plexiglass-covered pages from auction catalogues are hung on the wall for browsing.
Wooby also has shellacked pictures on the table tops. One is Chinese, another impressionistic. "The favorite is the Duchess of Windsor jewels table," he notes. "It's reserved every weekend for parties."
The food is American and generally simple -- meat loaf, grilled chicken, salads and soups. A favorite of regulars is the homemade ice cream and apple dumplings.
Wooby moved down to Washington from New York a dozen years ago to hang art at the Smithsonian, but lost his job with budget cuts. After that he became a short-order cook and caterer. "I always wanted to do this," he says. "It just seemed such a natural progression."
The current show, done in conjunction with the Fendrick Gallery, is almost sold out. The new works up this week, "Maine Doors" by Washington artist Allan Forrest Small, are small, delicate watercolors. The Collector is at 1630 U St. NW.
Bolshoi Send-Off If you have the rubles you can still buy a seat for the Bolshoi -- plus dinner and an invitation to a cast going-away party thrown by the Washington, D.C.-Moscow Capitals Citizen's Exchange, a community organization dedicated to promoting peace through citizen-to-citizen exchanges. For $200 per ticket, you start the night with a dinner at the Park Hyatt Hotel hosted by Mayor Marion Barry and Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin and his wife Liana. Then you take an orchestra seat for the Bolshoi's performance of "Raymonda," and afterward there's the party. Call 939-8179 for info.
Outside the Beltway Some notes from the arts world Outside the Beltway:
Sixteen-year-old Anita Pacyclowski of Columbia won the $3,000 second-place award at the Mauguerite Amilita Hoffman National Ballet Competition in Los Angeles last week. Pacyclowski studies here at the Washington School for Ballet and was coached for the event by faculty member Patricia Berrend.
Danielle Epstein, a New York artist who creates idiosyncratic watercolor and gel abstracts, is currently showing in SoHo, but wants to show in Washington this fall. She expresses a feeling of many young artists in New York. "It's too trendy, too hard to be displayed, too political and too expensive," she said last week. On the other hand, "Washington has great shows, a slower pace and people look at your art instead of what you wear."
Christo is at it again. After having wrapped the Pont Neuf in Paris in gold cloth, and Miami's Biscayne Bay islands in pink, he's going blue and yellow. This time he plans to put up 1,000 blue umbrellas in the Japanese countryside while simultaneously sprinkling yellow ones in the San Joaquin Valley in California. It is expected to cost $8 million and be done by 1990.
And in Yosemite National Park, a nocturnal artist has painted a 40-foot crack on a 312-foot dam. The crack was painted over quickly, but park officials admitted they liked the art, though not the idea. "It was really a work of art -- it wasn't just graffiti," one official said.