Playing Tribute to WPAS's Douglas Wheeler

You thought there was only one Streak? Not if you know Douglas Wheeler.

"If you think the Cal Ripken streak of 2,632 consecutive games was worthy of awe," said former Washington Performing Arts Society chairman Steve Porter, "consider over 15,000 presentations at D.C. schools, bringing music and art to the region's children."

All thanks to former WPAS president Wheeler, who was honored Tuesday night for three decades of service to Washington's now-flourishing arts community. "I think the big change between now and then is that professional performing artists can make a living in this city now," said Wheeler, who retired in September. "We wrote Liz Lerman's first paycheck."

So Wheeler's grateful friends repaid the favor with a black-tie dinner and performances by Lerman's dancers, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, violinist Midori, WPAS Children of the Gospel Mass Choir, the African American Heritage Dancers and Drummers, and comedic pianist Ken Sparks. "I have such tremendous respect and admiration and love for him that it's hard for me to really find the proper words," said a deeply moved Marsalis. "Actually the English language is impoverished for such words. That's why we play music."

The night raised $200,000 for the Douglas Wheeler Fund for Young Artists, an endowment to support arts education initiatives. Said former Washington Opera artistic director Martin Feinstein: "What's impressive about Doug is that he knows the arts are not just for those of us in black tie."

The Party Comes First, Comrades

Red Elvises. Green martinis. Are we having fun yet?

You bet. The Carmen Group, a serious lobbying firm dedicated during the holidays to playful parties, threw its third annual bash Thursday night at Club 5. "It's a gestalt of fun -- which people say does not exist in Washington," said President David Carmen. "But we're out to prove it does."

The party for 400 started with cocktails at Sesto Senso, where HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson (dubbed "Secretary of Rock and Roll" for the night), business tycoon Al Checchi, Democratic powerhouse Donna Brazile and other political pals from the Hill ho-ho-hoed.

Then the young and restless moved next door to Club 5, where there were red and green jello shooters, neon-green ice cubes in the drinks, a giant mirror-encrusted disco snowflake hanging over the dance floor -- and the Red Elvises, top ("live from Siberia") -- a rock-and-roll group of Russian expats who told the crowd: "People, the more you drink, the better we sound."

Needless to say, no "Blue Christmas" here.

She Built a Lot of Goodwill

Not that the National Building Museum was boring or anything, but thank goodness for museum President Susan Henshaw Jones (at right with Commission of Fine Arts Secretary Charles Atherton). "The museum wouldn't be here if it weren't for Susan," said architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen. "Before she came here the exhibits were about as exciting as watching paint dry."

More than 150 museum staff members, volunteers and associates said goodbye to Jones Wednesday night. After nine years at the helm, she is moving to the Big Apple to head the Museum of the City of New York and will undoubtably put a few personal touches on the new place. Paint metaphors aside, could a little redecorating be so bad?