Slatkin's Birthday Bouquet

If Leonard Slatkin thought he could mark his 60th birthday privately . . . well, he had another think coming. Last night the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra was the guest of honor at a seven-hour birthday bash at the Kennedy Center.

"First of all, I don't feel 60," Slatkin said in a classic example of non-denial denial. "This is more like having a bunch of good friends over for a terrific party."

"He was embarrassed when he heard about it, and thought it was way too much," said Roger Sant, who chaired the gala with his wife, Vicki.

But as Mae West once observed, too much of a good thing can be wonderful. Slatkin's actual birthday was Sept. 1, but the NSO built its season-opening ball and concert around the celebration, which included a VIP reception, a three-hour concert (including Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Joshua Bell, James Galway, the Labeque sisters, Peter Schickele and Midori)) and a black-tie dinner dance.

"Leonard is a consummate musician, a true gentleman and a great friend," violinist Elmar Oliveira told the audience.

We'll leave the performances to the critics -- the audience loved them. Besides, any concert where the birthday boy wears a goofy hat and does the bunny hop and hokey-pokey and plays patty-cake can't be all bad.

The party afterward in the atrium drew 1,000 Slatkin fans, including new Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen Schwarzman; President Michael Kaiser; Slatkin's wife, Linda Hohenfeld, and 10-year-old son, Daniel; NSO chairwoman Ann Jordan; Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer; Redskins owner Dan Snyder; World Bank President James Wolfensohn; philanthropist Catherine Reynolds; and Jim Kimsey and Joe Robert, part of the consortium trying to give Slatkin what he really wants for his birthday -- a baseball team in Washington. ("We'll see," Kimsey teased.)

Guests dined on lamb chops and butternut squash and noshed on assorted custom M&M's bearing the words "Happy Birthday Leonard" and "NSO Ball 2004" in teeny letters, but no big birthday cake -- with five dozen candles, the fire marshal might have objected.

Scoring an Assist for Local Sports

While we waited breathlessly for confirmation that baseball was finally coming to town, Washington's good sports gathered for a busman's holiday Wednesday at MCI Center. "You can look around and tell that there's buzz," said former Dallas Maverick Derrick Chandler. "The community really wants this."

More than 900 people, including a number of local sports stars, took the field (actually, MCI's floor) for the first Greater Washington Sports Alliance black-tie "SneakerBall" to benefit local charities that promote youth sports. That meant tuxes and gowns but no fancy footwear -- all the better to race over to Wizard Kwame Brown, D.C. United's Freddy Adu and Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell (who was overheard telling several concerned fans that his strained hamstring "feels good"). "It's a great way for them to strap on their sneakers and have some fun," said Michael Torbert, better known as "Boss Hogette."

The Redskinettes pom-pommed, the Howard University band boom-boomed, and the Capitals mascot gave high-fives to anyone it could. Folks filled up on baby back ribs between whoops for the night's honorees: Wizards owner Abe Pollin, former Redskin Darrell Green and Maryland Terps basketball Coach Gary Williams.

Throw a flag for too much speechifying. By the time the interactive games rolled in, the party was in overtime and tired guests sneaked out with complimentary Reeboks. Delay-of-game penalty, but a nice rookie effort.

The Salvation Army, Marching Toward Christmas

Aaaakkkkk! There are only 89 days until Christmas. "We're starting our Christmas shopping today," said Lt. Col. William Crabson, divisional commander of the Salvation Army. Friday's 55th Toyland lunch and fashion show kicked off the organization's holiday giving campaign, with proceeds from the luncheon funding gifts for disadvantaged kids. Six hundred guests purchased toys that had doubled as centerpieces at the event. Think of them as Santa's advance team.

With Laura Thomas