Writing a book is “damn hard,” said Ed Whitacre, former chairman of AT&T Inc. and General Motors Co., and overseer of major corporate mergers.
“American Turnaround: Reinventing AT&T and GM and the Way We Do Business in the U.S.A.” was released earlier this month. The retired businessman celebrated with his Washington friends last night at the Roosevelt House.
The building is now the office space of a lobbying firm run by Ben Barnes, a co-host of the evening in absentia. Barnes’s colleague Kent Caperton filled in.
For Whitacre, the most challenging part of writing was “trying to tell the truth but not hurting anyone’s feelings.”
He vowed last night he’d never venture into writing again.
His advice for young people coming up in corporate America: “Be persistent and treat other people how you want to be treated. And don’t write any books.”
Guests had books signed and nibbled on shrimp appetizers. Lobbyist David Leiter, former chief of staff to then-Senator John Kerry, and his wife, Tamera Luzzatto, the managing director of government relations for the Pew Charitable Trusts, were there along with Congressman John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat, and his wife, Deborah I. Dingell, a consultant.
A cadre of AT&T executives attended, including James Cicconi, senior executive vice president, external affairs, and another co-host of the evening, and Bob Quinn, senior vice president, federal regulatory, and chief privacy officer.
Former congressmen Max Sandlin and Jim Turner, who both represented Whitacre’s home state of Texas, were also present.
Whitacre lives in San Antonio and enjoys coming to Washington to see old friends, but not necessarily the city.
“Not much has changed here,” he said.
For its Saturday night gala, the Studio Theatre asked guests to dress in honor of its production of “The (Expletive) With the Hat.”
Sporting a black fedora and a long title was Mark Elliot, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center. Michael Bahar, general counsel on the House Intelligence Committee, donned a Navy ball cap.
Jamie Bennett, the chief of staff at the National Endowment for the Arts, wore an elaborate czarina headdress. Mona Elliot, in regulation at the Federal Reserve, turned to classic literature for inspiration.
“It’s sort of Great Gatsbyish,” she said, referring to her feathery fascinator.
David Muse, the theatre’s artistic director, wore a classic black bowler while thanking supporters for doubling the number of students the theater can educate.
After dinner, guests were treated to card tricks by master illusionist Ricky Jay.
Elsewhere Saturday night, scantily clad samba dancers posed for pictures with Bruce Lipnick, the chairman and founder of Asset Alliance Corp.
The occasion was a Carnival celebration at the home of Brazilian Ambassador Mauro Vieira, on behalf of the Washington Ballet.
A Conga line went past Interamerica Group President Jerry Pierce and Jimmy Lynn, co-founder and managing director of Human Equity. The 425 guests raised more than $100,000 for the Washington Ballet Latino Scholarship Fund.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Philip Boroff on theater, Max Abelson on music.