I love a good dinner party, which isn't the same as loving a dinner party. I love a dinner party when it is good. As much as I go out, and that ranges from 5-6 nights a week over the last several years, my barometer of what's good is highly developed. Generally I can determine what to expect well in advance, from the invite, the guest list, the location and the caterer. Often I'm right, sometimes I'm wrong.
I was wrong about the Hero Summit dinner.
I thought it would be just another corraling of the usual suspects with a lot of tedious speeches. Wrong. And I should have known, because of one essential and important ingredient: Tina Brown. I've been fortunate to have attended her events in the past, and one of her at-home dinner parties (and she's twice appeared on The Q&A Cafe), and Tina doesn't do boring. Even when everyone around her may be beige, she's consistently technicolor. And by that I don't mean she's one of those faux bubbly hostess types. No no no. She's not warm and cuddly. She's strategic. Heat-seekingly so. But she's very good at what she does: being Tina Brown. And fun to watch.
I wrote a report for Washingtonian on the Hero Summit dinner. It captures most of what I experienced, but let me add here that what made the evening a stand-out, apart from Tina and the setting (the U.S. Institute of Peace), and a provocative guest list (meaning NY imports), were the interviews conducted by Charlie Rose and Martha Raddatz. Dinner organizers try to stage Q&A's all the time and usually they don't work. I consider myself a master class of the Q&A, and what I've learned over the years is that an audience that's been drinking and a Q&A don't mix. The secret is to put the interviews right up front, and that's what Tina did. Charlie interviewed Adm. McRaven just as we sat down, and Martha Raddatz came right after to do a compelling talk with an actual Blackhawk team about a stunning rescue mission (to them routine, not to anyone in the audience).
It was a reunion for me with Charlie Rose. We go so far back -NBC News, CBS News Nightwatch, PBS - and I still believe we did great work together, certainly some of my best. We talked about a mutual friend Tom Mazzarelli, who had worked with me at Larry King Live and with Charlie at CBS News. We were both singing Tom's praises, and I told Charlie this: "Working with Mazz reminded me of working with you, in that I felt like sometimes we shared a brain, which made the work so much better and more fun." He said Tom's taking a wee break from the network news grind. I don't blame him. That's healthy. Soon enough he'll be the executive producer of some hot big show. On that Charlie and I agreed 100%, and then we hugged a lot.
One thing more: if you haven't yet been to the Institute of Peace, do check it out. The building reminds me of the East Wing of the National Gallery, with expansive clean spaces and grand views.