At the Business Hall, the Fall of a Legend

Star power, Washington-style, strolled down the red carpet Wednesday night at the 15th Annual Washington Business Hall of Fame Dinner -- which likes to think of itself as the Academy Awards for the corporate community.

But first, a special honor for three Montgomery County heroes: Police Chief Charles Moose, County Executive Doug Duncan and School Superintendent Jerry Weast. "This is something that I hope every police officer gets to feel," said Moose, who is now one of the most famous law enforcement officers in the nation. So famous that honoree Jack Valenti told him: "You were on TV so much, the Screen Actors Guild was about to give you an honorary membership."

Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with WJLA-TV/Riggs Bank's Joe Allbritton, construction czar Jim Clark, hotel magnate Bill Marriott Jr. and Esther Smith, founding editor of the Washington Business Journal. The laureates, selected by the Greater Washington Board of Trade, were picked for substance, not style. "Businessmen don't like to be celebrities, that's why we're in business," said Clark.

The evening was all about success -- and not only for those who've graced the cover of Fortune magazine. The crowd of 1,000 at the Marriott Wardman Park raised $525,000 for Junior Achievement to teach business skills to students in 120 schools in the region.

But walking is another talent altogether. Valenti was good-natured about a spill he took onstage. "That's what we call 'making an entrance' in showbiz," he told the crowd, grinning. "Whatever you remember about this dinner, you'll remember that Jack Valenti fell on his [keister]."

The Academy Awards should be so lively.

Silliness and Party Animals

The friendship of multimillionaires Joe Robert and Jim Kimsey is tight -- but never tightfisted. The two have spent the equivalent of a small nation's treasury on each other's pet causes. One of them donates, say, a million dollars -- then double-dares the other to match it. "He's cost me a lot more," Kimsey said in mock protest. "There's a huge balance-of-payment debt."

What kidders. Kimsey's still riding around town in a Rolls, and Robert was named Outstanding Philanthropist at the first National Capital Philanthropy Day luncheon Thursday by local fundraising professionals. "Jim told me to say that I'm proud to be a citizen of the Washington community and grateful to be in a position to contribute to the betterment of our children's future," said Robert as he made the little-horns gesture behind Kimsey's head -- and vice versa.

Robert's Fight for Children charity has raised more than $53 million for 140 local organizations, and he's heading the $250 million campaign for Children's National Medical Center. "Whatever I do is a tiny fraction of what I should do and what is needed," he said.

Fortunately, having deep pockets was not the only criterion for honorees at the Marriott Wardman Park, which included D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities chair Dorothy McSweeny, fundraising executive Jeanne Jacob, Capital One Financial Services and the Meyer Foundation. McSweeny spearheaded this year's Party Animals -- donkeys and elephants that were recently auctioned for more than $1 million. Time for a well-deserved break? "No!" she yelped. "Of course not. Not as long as there are things to do."

SOME's Enchanted Evening

What happens when flower children grow up? If they're Otto and Jeanne Ruesch, they get rich and then donate money to favorite causes. "As children of the '60s, we felt we had some responsibility for making things better," Otto said at Saturday's 16th annual "So Others Might Eat" dinner at the Capital Hilton.

Or maybe it wasn't the 1960s. Maybe it was all those priests and nuns at the dinner who inspired the crowd of 500 to raise $325,000 for the interfaith social services organization.

SOME's mission is to provide food and housing for the 20 percent of District residents who live in poverty. "It is an issue of benign neglect -- and it makes me mad," the financial services executive said. The Ruesches and Freddie Mac chair Leland Brendsel were honored for their community contributions; the night's proceeds will go toward the renovation of Independence Place, SOME's new facility in Southeast Washington to provide affordable housing for homeless families, and SOME Place for Kids, a new after-school program.

With Beth Buchanan