Victoria’s Secrets: A wondrous week

With violinist Miri Ben-Ari (l.) and Erin Sweeney

The sun was shining brightly when I arrived at the 110th First Lady’s Luncheon, but as I stepped into the Washington Hilton’s enormous lobby to register for the event, the smiles of the hundreds of women from around the country were just as bright and lit up the grand ballroom where First Lady Jill Biden was set to speak.

I had been invited to the luncheon by Erin Sweeney, president of King Sweeney Strategies,  LLC. She also invited Siya Vansia of ConnectOne Bank and Cindy McLoughlin of CohnReznick’s accounting firm, as well as Meredith Berkman and Dorian Fuhrman, who are the co-founders of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes. The future generation —  Isabella Poole and KatieMae Sweeney — joined us as well. What a collection of extraordinary women in an extraordinary setting!

My powerful table of ladies at the luncheon

It was an electrifying moment when the First Lady, a working professor teaching English and Writing at Northern Virginia Community College, walked into the packed ballroom. Her warm and eloquent presentation of her and President Biden’s shared goal of eradicating cancer in our lifetime is based on their personal loss of their son Beau to cancer and she spoke passionately about their mission to fight the battle so others may live.


Jill Biden

The stately Hilton — made infamous as the site where President Reagan was shot — has a massive ballroom and it was filled to the maximum with tables almost touching each other. I squeezed myself to the front of the crowded ballroom to see the First Lady before she spoke. 

She received a standing ovation after delivering her address and then left to meet the president on his trip overseas.

The event continued with the theme of New York, as the chairwoman of the First Lady’s Luncheon was Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado’s gorgeous wife Lacey Schwartz Delgado

Lacey Schwartz Delgado

The traditional luncheon was chartered in 1908 by The Congressional Club Museum and Foundation, a nonprofit organization of current and former spouses of members of Congress, the United States Supreme Court and the president’s cabinet. Many of the current leaders’ wives walked the red carpet on the arms of tall, handsome, straight-as-an-arrow armed forces escorts. 

The money raised at the luncheon will benefit New York causes because the chairwoman is from New York. The Congressional Club promotes volunteerism, supports bipartisan efforts and the need to raise awareness for charities and causes throughout the nation. They support educational enrichment by preserving, collecting and exhibiting historical memorabilia. 

Lucky for our state, the chairwoman was a New Yorker and brought the theme, “The Empire State of Mind,” to all the entertainment.

One of the entertainers even sang my favorite song, “New York, New York,” but the room roared and the audience couldn’t stop applauding as New York electric violinist Miri Ben-Ari performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” like I’ve never heard it before! It was as if her violin was singing! She’s a great talent who, after the luncheon, I met and asked her to alert me when she appears in New York. I must hear her play again!

Miri Ben-Ari delivered a stellar performance

The audience was also delighted to see Anna López, a graceful dancer from LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. What a talent she is!

Kendell Pinkney, a Black rabbi from Brooklyn, delivered a powerful opening prayer, while Brooklyn painter and muralist Danielle Mastrion created the art for the cover of the event’s program. Learn more about her from her website, daniellemastrion.com.

The afternoon seemed to fly away, but it will live forever in my memory bank!

While staying in Manhattan last weekend at my friend Dan Rattiner — the founder of Dan’s Papers — and his wife Chris Wasserstein’s apartment, I visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue to see the glorious creations of Karl Lagerfeld in an extraordinarily popular exhibit. 

Karl Lagerfeld designed for Chanel, Fendi and Chloé

He was the designer at Chanel, Fendi and Chloé and the galleries were alive with his creations. It was like candy for my eyes!

Then, to my great surprise, my art dealer friend Ted Vassilev (he owns DTR Modern Galleries in Boston, Nantucket, New York, Palm Beach and Washington, D.C.), invited me to join him and his wife Simone in London to attend the historic Royal Ascot Derby horse racing event in June. Of course, since I believe life is a great adventure, I’m off to the races!

Felicity Barnard, Scott Wimsett and Alexandra Bertram at the Royal Ascot pre-party

To my delight, I attended a media event to celebrate the traditions of the derby that featured the  unique and fanciful hats and matching outfits. It was a treat to meet representatives of London’s Tourism Board, with one member wearing a hat with flying butterflies that I tried on and then ordered for the derby. What fun! 

Stay tuned!