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Farewell, My Finger Bowl

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2007-11-07-Camelot.jpg
Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth laments the loss of the elegant D.C. society of yore, when glittering figures of politics, literature, culture and society would mix and mingle, but never in each other's finger bowls because those were delicately set to the left of each person's 50-piece place setting. She blames that loss on the Clintons (too many state dinners for too many people!) and the Bushes (not enough state dinners — and with all the wrong people!), but also on the fact that the Washington hostess has been replaced by working women with the temerity to want careers. Well, Maureen Orth, instead of interviewing an intimate soirée's worth of people and writing an article for money (insert nose-wrinkle of distaste) you could instead have used that energy to throw a lavish dinner party for the fancy and important friends of your husband Tim Russert.

This is one of those quintessential Vanity Fair stories that you love and hate — love the intimate, nostalgic look at a bygone era, hate the class worship — but it's incredibly hard to resist the Gatsby-esque reminiscences of people like Letitia Baldridge, who was Jackie Kennedy's social secretary and who literally wrote the book on Taste, plus someone whose name is actually given as "Buffy." (It's also hard not to see their point when being reminded of Ozzy Osborne drunkenly standing on a chair at the White House Correspondents Dinner and screaming, "I am fucking more famous than all of you!") It's also highly amusing to read lobbyist Ken Duberstein trying to rationalize why lobbyists didn't ruin everything while everyone else quoted pretty much agrees that lobbyists ruined everything. Oh, Jack Abramoff, something else to hate you for. The best part, though, may be where Orth cites Bob Barnett: "book representative for Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bob Woodward, and Alan Greenspan; lawyer for my family; and husband of Rita Braver, of CBS News." I'm pretty sure that's a dinner party right there.

We had a whole, delicately-constructed finger-bowl-worthy post written deconstructing the piece but we lost it, which as any blogger of taste and refinement knows is as heartbreaking as seeing someone using a salad fork to spear their main course. Nevertheless, we were so excited about finally having an excuse to create a "Letitia Baldridge" tag that we were moved to redo it, albeit in the hire-a-caterer way, not the employ-your-own-cook way (and yes, there's a difference, heathen). Either way, just trust us when we say that we managed to artfully work in references to the Swiftboating of Hillary Clinton (and don't think we didn't notice that it was Tim Russert's wife writing about how Hillary was no Jackie O! Coincidence? We think not!), Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet, and the Finer Things Club group on Facebook. If you're wondering how we managed to work in a Goulet reference, well, you're a Philistine and you can't come to my next party, but also it's because there perhaps has never been a more appropriate moment for a showtune reference:

Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment
That was known as Camelot.

...that is, until the lobbyists ruined it.

When Washington Was Fun [VF]

Related:
White House State Dinners For Sale?
[ABC News]

Related:
Julie Andrews: Camelot
[YouTube]
Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet [SNL]
If Ever I Would Leave You [YouTube]*

*Lip-synched by a guy in a fake mustache and a toga. Who is frickin' reading the words. For shame. Also, for the record: Robert Goulet was Canadian. RIP.