Adele Buckhantz is a veteran of bat mitzvoth. As she looked over the party in honor of the 13th birthday of Katherine Korman of Arlington, she said: "The format never changes. It's a big party with a lot of food and music and everyone gets dressed up. And the little girls are wobbling on high heels and towering over the boys."
She had it right. In each corner of the room at the Watergate Hotel was a different food "station": Chinese, Italian, American and fruit and vegetable. The band, Odyssey, on the first of two bat mitzvoth it would play that day, alternated top-40 tunes with limbo and breakdancing contests. The girls, in hip- wrapped silk dresses, made the boys, in blue blazers and Topsiders, look like Lilliputians.
At the doorway was a larger-than-life-size poster of Kathy, on which was printed: "Kathy for President in 2008." On it her friends wrote sentiments such as, "You can be President, but I will always be Queen of Tickle Fights!!"
After business groups and charitable functions, private parties are the bagels and cream cheese of the hotel business. They are also, along with weddings, the most demanding because, unlike the corporate events, at private functions the client himself pays.
And such shows don't come cheap. James Korman, Kathy's father, a partner in a Virginia law firm, says the celebration cost "between $8,000 and $10,000 . . . you pay piecemeal, so it's less painful . . . It was a beautiful party. It's easy to rationalize," he says.
Private clients also require extraordinary attention to detail. The hotel staff put on a rehearsal for the family to show them what the decorations would look like. The Kormans thought that the jelly beans, strewn around the centerpieces, weren't the right shade of pink, so a more appropriate hue was found.
About 30 hotel employes were needed to keep the party for 187 running smoothly. "We're able to be here almost like guests," James Korman said. "They're throwing the party; we're paying for it."
The center of activity was the dance floor, which was mobbed with 13-year-old girls dancing with each other and wearing the "Shalom y'all" painter's caps the Kormans handed out as favors. (Kathy's mother is southern.) The boys hung around at the soda bar and tried to avoid dancing with the girls.
The adults were not so inhibited. By 4 p.m. Odyssey had moved into the traditional selections of "Hava Nagila" and the hora, as the guests -- even the boys -- snaked their way around the floor. In the kitchen, waiters cleaned out bins of Korean beef, tortellini and hot dogs.
An hour later, only a few stragglers remained. A new shift of hotel employes began clearing the tablecloths and rearranging the room for that evening's wedding reception. One of the last guests, complimenting Kathy's father on the bash, asked, "What are you going to do for the wedding?"
"We'll give her a ladder and hope she elopes," he said with a smile.