This Fine Social Scene

Photo by Jada PratherIt’s black. It’s beautiful. It’s the emerging D.C. social scene.

Recently I was in Washington, D.C. to cover the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual gathering and found myself spending every night up well past 5 a.m. “caucusing” my way through social hoppers and trend-setters, trendy spots and the dead zones that make up the rapidly growing scene, still blossoming in the post-inaugural after-glow. Grab your elusive golden wristband to get into the VIP and avoid the “purple tunnel of doom.”

Welcome to Washington, D.C.

More after the jump.

Wednesday “Ozio’s Wuh Dead”

The cigar bar party wasn’t as good as last year. Or at least that was what I was repeatedly told. Ozio Martini & Cigar Lounge on M Street was dead, so dead that despite being full with people the group of women I was with could not wait to leave. Besides, the smoke was disturbing their tender throats as we stood around makeshift pictures of President Obama and televised scenes from a presidential documentary hosted by Roland Martin.

“Everyone is being so double-o-seven,” was the no. 1 complaint. Meaning, it was like inauguration all-over again. People recalled the “purple tunnel of doom,” when A-listers spent inauguration trapped in traffic instead of watching Obama be sworn in from the good seats. The list of receptions and after-parties had come out as late as possible, people were being tight-lipped about where the hot spots were. If your name was not on the list you were not getting in.

“This is D.C., not New York,” one friend lamented. Yet there was an endless sea of lists following the endless number of phone calls to get on those lists and get the little precious tickets and wristbands that would grant entrance into hot spot after hot spot. So we got into Ozio, goody for us, but Ozio was pronounced dead-on-arrival, so everyone in it abandoned the place en masse and filed into “the Wuh,” aka The W aka the former Hotel Washington.

There, among the purple lit chandeliers and ambient music, we pondered our sore feet and watched the caucus attendees dance, one drunk off of one glass of white wine, while dressed in their business suits and ties. It was the night the nerds threw down and the scenesters rolled their eyes.

The Wuh just wasn’t getting it. We would close the evening hiding out, incognito at The Gibson in the U Street Corridor, the world’s most secret bar. There was no sign in front and no windows. You can only get there if you already know it’s there. It was pronounced the new favorite hideaway of the members of my party. They had found a new home away from home in the plush red and black booths, noshing on cheese and sipping champagne.

Time I got home: 4 a.m.

Friday “Twinkle Toes”

We were still a-glow from the above and beyond efforts of one DJ D-Nice at the Essence Evening of Excellence after-party at the Ronald Reagan Building. People threw down and got sweaty and dined on cupcakes. It was the one spot everyone seemed to want to get into Friday night and didn’t want to leave, but the point of caucus is to network, network, network and have a good time while doing it. One couldn’t simply hole themselves up in one place for too long even if they were having a good time watching CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux chat up NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous while actor Robert Townsend wandered about.

It was off to warehouse-turned-club Love on Okie Street in the Northeast, where the floors were sticky from God only knows what was spilled on the floor. Where caucus goers got to post up like rap stars in their own surreal video with overturned, empty bottles of champagne sitting in melting buckets of ice.

My posse was probably the sourest and saddest one on the dance floor, tired of people bumping into us, scowling our way through “Baby Got Back.”

So exhausted, the surreal evening was brought to a bizarre climax in the VIP. While blithely sitting on the couch my friend’s foot was molested by a randy stranger, offering the foot-fetishy gift of a free massage. Before she knew what was going on, he’d flung off one of her Dominatrix style heels and tossed the shoe in her lap. As he then attempted to make a meal of her toes, another friend came and shooed him away like he was cockroach. Our spot was supposed to be reserved for congressional staffers and he didn’t belong there. My friend asked me why I didn’t say anything, but over the thundering music and Salvador Dali-essque nature of the evening I’d assumed she knew him. After all, who expected there to be a great toe-sucking bandit loose on DC’s social scene.

Time I got home: 5 a.m.

Saturday “Are you Haitian?”

I’d spent most of my days at Caucus either attending panel discussions or going to functions like the fundraiser for Haiti at the home of Rev. Marcia L. Dyson. There I enjoyed various Haitian delicacies while being educated on the plight of the Haitian people and learning of the efforts of one Jacques-Philippe Piverger. He was there representing The Haiti Project, speaking with passion about his homeland.

That afternoon I also learned that I “looked” Haitian, as after every introduction someone in a lovely French-tinged accent would smile and ask quite blithely, “Are you Haitian?” Nope. Just your generic, Midwestern African-American mutt. As they were ever-so-lovely and polite about it, I quickly took it as a compliment.

Saturday was the last night of caucus and I spent it at The Park at Fourteenth, enjoying complimentary drinks with the staff of one Senator Roland Burris of Illinois. The senator was there, as well as countless other people wearing everything from business wear to shimmery sequined hot pants. After Sen. Burris left (but not before posing for many pictures with party-goers and friends), the party roared on to the tune of “Brick House.” I met one of his staffers, Kelechi Kalu, who wordlessly told me of his love for my weblog,, then took to dancing on the same couch the senator had sat.

As I watched Kalu dance I thought of how DC’s scene, upon which I was frequenting now for the third time this year, was home to the belabored congressional staffer longing to just get down, even if it was in their Brooks Brothers. That it was home to lobbyists and activists alike, aspiring socialites and hipsters, government office dwellers and non-profit purveyors coming together to hold musical congress in places like Little Miss Whiskey’s on H Street and at rooftop gatherings like “The Coolout.” Where masters of the turntables, DJ Adrian Loving and Rhome Anderson, aka DJ Stylus, spin people into submission and out of their ties.

Long live party night in the Chocolate City.

Time I went to bed: Didn’t

24 thoughts on “This Fine Social Scene

  1. So when you mentioned the guy that approached your friend in Love and reached for her shoe, I knew exactly where that story was going to end up. Because the SAME EXACT THING happened to my friend in the SAME EXACT PLACE two years ago. I have to believe this guy is Love regular with a foot fetish and an alterned sense of boundaries. Because I refused to believe that there’s more than one fool out there stalking Love to make meals out of strange women’s toes.

  2. Wow, I live in DC and haven’t been to any of these places and it sounds like you did more in a few days than I’ve done all year! Get back with you bad self.

  3. Hey! There’s nothing wrong with being a "generic Midwestern African American mutt" as you put it! ;)I lived in D.C. for seven years during the early ’90’s. It was the era of parties thrown by Sean "Puffy" Combs and other entrepreneurial folk. It seems like the scene has grown up since then…

  4. I agree with Lisa J! I havent been to any of these places, yet I’ve lived in the DC area for as long as I can remember. Well, I suppose thats why we have you Snob, you go to all these great spots and tell us stories about them. I’d love to see more pics from this DC-NYC trip of yours….so post when/if you can!

  5. I died laughing, because my friend and I also met the DC Foot Fetish Bandit at Love that Friday night. He was so freaky and grabbed my friend’s foot and massaged/kissed it like he was about to get an orgasm. It was too much and she ended up using her other foot to kick him away.

  6. In agreement with LaJane Galt – that’s not my kind of scene either. The thought of elitist pretentious bourgeoisie "upwardly mobile" Black people (same goes for White and other non-Black folks) in one place makes my stomach hurt & kills my brain cells. Being around them, for me, is even worse. 😐 But, glad that you had a good time. Don’t forget the little people. Being in that kind of scene makes it easy to forget us. 😐 (I’m dead serious. Nonetheless, I wish you VERY well.)

  7. @Spinster: What an interesting perspective you have of the people who frequent these spots–using 4 strong modifiers, even! I am surely not the only one interested in hearing more of your theories about these places since @Blacksnob did not seem to mention any of these horrible types of multiethnic pariahs in her story. Do tell: how familiar are you with any, or all of these places in DC? Are there others you can list that should be avoided at all costs so that we might maintain The Realness? Please respond–it’s so easy to lose one’s Blackness Membership Card these days…they keep replacing the clipboard-holding Negro at the Obsidian Gate and I’m tired of constantly having to reacquaint myself with the new one.Thanks so much!

  8. LOL. these comments are hilarious. Can I encourage everyone to have an each to his own perspective on what is or is not considered a good time?!Snob- Glad you had a fun. Just remember DC @ special event time, like CBC & Homecoming @ HU is still not quite like DC on a regular day. DC invented the insiders only thing yet we’re still working on this glam party people shtick. The population is definitely in the midst of a shift but most of us are still geeky workaholics.That said. I always thought LOVE sucked anyway!!! LOL.

  9. I’m with The_A, on everything he said. I guess I do believe that DC is work hard play hard tho, which is why I still love it. The only issue I have with calling it an "emerging" scene is that we do this every 4-8 years, the city gets a makeover. πŸ˜‰ When Bush got elected, bbq places and cowboy boots were in, now its hipster ties and speakeasies. It all depends on what you consider "emerging". But I think I’ve made this point before.

  10. You did it up, girl ! I’m co-signing with Dorothy and devessel on the "emerging" bit. Did you come to LOVE late-ish or were you in VIP when T.O. rolled through? I’m asking because from where I was halfway across the dancefloor, his earbling was dazzling like those campy tooth commercials when they SFX a ray of light sparkle on someone’s smile. It was surreal.I do hope you end up here. In the off-season, you can do the festivals, museums, Cherry Blossoms, Adams Morgan, Eastern Market on Saturday, ride the trains [Metro and MARC] at random…without the gloss of "extra"-ness.Keep your hustle strong, Snob!

  11. Wow…the foot fetish guy is hilarious!I guess a foot fetish is the only weird sexual taste you can "expose" in public ;-)It is nice to see a social scene for well connected upwardly mobile black folks.I say diversity is wonderful….a little something for everybody.A growing social scene of well dressed beautiful black people. Just Fab.I am just soooo tired of going to clubs or events and seeing 30 year old black men show up with their pants hanging off their a*** and blaring perverse rap in the background or maybe that’s just New York πŸ˜‰ . They guys above in well tailored suits….love it!!!!!

  12. the women in DC are comparable and equal to those in the A. i love each city equally. DC is the only place i’ve moved to if i had to leave the A.

  13. i’m an old hand on the Gay Scene, and i have to confess: i found the nightlife in DC rather lame, contrasting it with my experiences in NYC, London, SF and Chicago. truly, DC seems small and insular, and nowhere as sophisticated. i lived in DC during the Boosh years, and i agree with the previous posters, the DC social scene ‘reinvents’ itself with every new administration, each as fleeting and limited as the last. i’ve always found the value of "networking" in purely social environments rather limited. which is not to say it has no value, of course it does and depending on where you are on the ladder, it can be very valuable to the individual. but as i’ve aged, i find that the true "power brokering" takes place not at the posh parties with the lovely ladies and fabulous shoes, but in truly exclusive meeting between the actual players involved in the creation of (whatever). i would posit that the dinner parties in McLean, VA, for example, held in the gigantic homes of super-rich party donors, are much much more "important" than what goes on in DC bars, NW SE or otherwise. i think i know a couple of people in your pic, and that makes me laugh. i wonder how many locals over the course of your night were gay. DC has many flaws, but i’ll say this: it’s a totally Gay town. even the chocolate parts, in my experience. that was the part of life in DC i enjoyed the most, for all that the women i dated were vicious bitches. πŸ™‚

  14. Spinster,A wise old lady of the bourgeoise elite once said ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your permission’That was Eleanor Roosevelt. Perhaps ole dude at the obsidian gate got fed up by the buckwheat elite asking him to check their coats took her advice and quit. πŸ˜‰

  15. devessel – I wasn’t specifically talking about D.C., nor did I mention anything about anyone being "real" vs. "unreal". I meant in a general sense. I voiced my opinion and I stand by it. If you don’t understand what I meant, then it might not have been for you to understand. As long as I understand, that’s all that matters. And please, don’t put words in my mouth. :-/

  16. krystal – I don’t feel inferior at all, trust me. Again, if you or anyone else don’t get what I’m saying, than I don’t know what else to tell you.. This is the internet. Anything said on here can be misconstrued and bent for people to take what they want to take from it. So I’m not gonna bother explaining myself. Take it as you will.I just knew that I’d get at least one reaction from what I said, and I knew that the reactions would be exactly what I expected. Ain’t life grand. :-/

  17. It doesn’t sound anything like the DC I know.I guess I’m more out of touch and insular than I thought.Hope you enjoyed yourself DB.

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