Gay Day at Hillwood: 'Just Over the Top'

Despite miserable weather, voided marriages in San Francisco and the political uproar in New Jersey, Saturday was still a time to celebrate for the gay community of Washington at Hillwood Museum & Gardens' third annual Gay Day.

Nearly 500 art enthusiasts attended as part of Hillwood's outreach program. "Prior to 2002 we were not really known to the GLBT community" -- that's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered -- "and certainly not as a gay-friendly institution," said Ellen Willenbecher, deputy director of interpretation. "Gay Day has deepened and enhanced our relationship with it."

Which is not to say it wasn't fun, too. Visitors learned specialized pruning techniques and how to dine a la Francaise and a la Russe between appearances by a costumed Madame de Pompadour, the influential mistress of King Louis XV.

Dale Janni traveled all the way from Baltimore with companion Tracy Noel to admire Hillwood's decorative art and orchid collections. "I mean, guest lectures on Faberge eggs and 18th-century art? It's just over the top."

Indeed it was. Gay Day may be the only day at Hillwood where the guests themselves rival the fabulousness of Marjorie Merriweather Post, the late heir to the Post cereal fortune with a penchant for French and Russian art. The crowd's pink shirts never clashed with the rosy Sevres china collection, and their designer labels might have put Post's own Bergdorf wardrobe to shame.

"I'm interested in what people with wealth of this magnitude do with it," said Alison Morsches, who inspected Post's light pink velvet and fur wedding gown (for trip down the aisle No. 3), on display in her boudoir. "It's on the froufrou side -- very French."

And very Hillwood.

In the Pink for Prada

Once in a while, cotton candy is the perfect accessory. More than 100 women celebrated Prada's new perfume by wearing pink -- lots and lots of pink -- at Wednesday's benefit for Suited for Change, which gives professional clothing to low-income women. "I dug out all the pink I owned," said the organization's executive director, Mary-Frances Wain, sporting a pink necklace, top and shoes.

But wait -- there was more! The launch party at Neiman Marcus at Mazza Gallerie featured Pommery Pop pink champagne, pink drinks, cotton candy as well as crab cakes and tacos (thankfully not pink) from Palette restaurant. Lucky drawing winners nabbed (what else?) a pink Prada purse, a pink bottle of eau de parfum, and Prada's new very hip and very expensive handbag charms.

Guests included Suited for Change board members Kathleen Matthews and Debbie Dingell, and Neiman Marcus honchos Martha Slagle and Patti Cumming, who were all tickled . . . pink.

When Students Do the Teaching

College kids are always asking for money, but when they need the cash to do something about AIDS, the wallets really come open. Friday night, more than 200 people attended the AIDS Awareness Benefit at the Embassy of Ethiopia to bankroll the documentary film project "AIDS Pandemic," the brainchild of more than a dozen recent college graduates.

"Our mission is to do what we can to fight HIV and AIDS," said Alicia Hines, creator and executive producer of the film. "We started this project with no funding, but that didn't stop us because of faith, family, friends and all of the support out there."

The young filmmakers hope to document the effects of AIDS in major cities in the United States and several African countries. The $15,000 raised Friday is a start. The crew will begin shooting in Kenya in October.

With Laura Thomas