Last week, I had one of those cool, insider-Washington experiences unique to living in this area. I linked up downtown with my friend, Sara for both lunch and a visit to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. And, upon leaving the museum, enroute to Metro, I encountered a very prominent, ripped-straight-from-the-headlines, Washingtonian.
But first things first. The main purpose of Sara and me meeting up was to check out the “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power” exhibit, which is in town through January 6 at the NMWA. It is a display that showcases the contributions of women in the world of popular music from the 1920s to present day.
Normal admission is $10 but the first Sunday of every month is reserved for free admission community days. Student admission is $8, which is what I paid, after being challenged and carded first. Not amused.
Per NMWA’s website, the exhibit “highlights the flashpoints, the firsts, the best, and the celebrated and sometimes lesser-known women whose artistry advanced the progress of rock-and-roll music. Featuring more than 250 artifacts and performance videos, the exhibition moves through rock- and-roll eras, demonstrating how women have been engines of creation and change.”
We enjoyed seeing the many costumes and collectibles from the wide range of female performing artists. One of the more notorious items on display was the meat dress Lady Gaga donned for the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards when she won “Video of the Year” for “Bad Romance.” I nearly missed it though as it no longer looks like red, raw meat. Rather, it’s now black and appears manufactured from hard plastic due to the treatments required in order to maintain it for public viewing.
Another display was a tribute to Lesley Gore. She of the, “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry if I Want To) album. To which Sara replied, “That song never made any sense to me. Why was she crying at a party?” We concluded that it must have been P.M.S.
Many of the outfits were instantly recognizable: Cher’s Bob Mackie, garish, Native American head-dress get-up; Madonna’s cylindrical-coned bra unitard; Britney Spears’ two-piece outfit, sans yellow python around the neck, which she wore at a past MTV Video Music Awards. You probably remember it — the barely-there, flesh-colored number she sported while gyrating to, “I’m a Slave for You.”
Aretha Franklin had a dress (the biggest one, by far, especially in the cleavage department, on display; bless her heart) exhibited too. They should have shown her Inaugural Swearing-In hat instead.
In addition to the temporary “Women Who Rock” display, the museum — which features gorgeous architectural details because it is a former Masonic temple — showcases numerous exhibits of women artists. We were most intrigued by a beautiful creation made out of tires, of all things, and by a sculpture that had a vulvular look to it. As we walked by the latter, I remarked, “Uh, Sara, is that supposed to be a vagina?” Only to find out, upon reading the card, that indeed, that was part of the inspiration. Alrighty then. (Would love to share with you, but photography wasn’t allowed in the museum. You’ll just have to take my word for it or go visit and see it for yourself.)
Once our museum tour concluded, we grabbed a late lunch at the Mezzanine restaurant which is located on the second floor of the same building. At about 2:30, we headed out and went our separate ways. Sara had driven in while I had opted to ride Metro, stopping at Metro Center since it was closest to the museum.
Leaving the museum, I was on my phone talking and lollygagging down 12th Street, when I noticed two men, hastily walking and looking around, about to intersect my path. I stopped in my tracks in order to avoid a collision and then realized that one of the men, who was close enough to touch, looked familiar to me. It wasn’t the burly, Cee Lo Green doppelganger with the earpiece either. But rather, the other, more slightly-built man, a step behind him. In my head, I was thinking, “How do I know that guy? Gosh, he looks familiar.”
And it was at that moment, just as he passed in front of me on the sidewalk, that the revelation came to me. “OMG! That’s General Petraeus!” I almost exclaimed it out loud, way too zealously, but then regrouped and maintained “my, my, my, my, my, my, my poker face,” having just been inspired by Lady Gaga and all.
Petraeus was wearing a navy blue suit with a white shirt and tie, as was the man accompanying him, who appeared to be Secret Service. As we all know, Petraeus has committed many offenses of late. But in my opinion, the tie clip he insists on wearing whenever he puts on a suit ranks high among them. That was partly how I knew it was him. That, and his striking resemblance to another high-profile Washingtonian — Redskins’ coach, Mike Shanahan. There is something ferret-like to me, about both their faces. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
But I digress. So, right as Petraeus passed me, he stumbled on a street grate and had to regain his balance. (Upon telling my friend Pat about this part of my encounter, he offered, “Not the first time he’s stumbled.”) After his trip, he was quickly ushered into the backseat of a waiting, ubiquitous-on-the- streets-of-Washington, black sedan – engine idling, driver at-the-ready, sitting in an illegal parking spot on 12th Street. Petraeus’ escort hopped into the front passenger seat and then, they all drove off in the direction of G Street. (Which was straight ahead. Sorry, I'm a girl. We don't do north/south/east/west when it comes to directions.)
It all happened so briskly that it nearly didn’t register. But once I realized who I had seen, I was curious to know what had brought him out in public. That question was soon answered as I looked over my left shoulder, only to stare directly at the entrance to the law offices of Robert Barnett, the attorney Petraeus has hired to represent him.
Needless to say, on the train ride back to Huntington, I burned up my iPhone. I changed my FB status to reflect my A-lister V.I.P. encounter and texted my husband and several of my friends. Upon returning home, I told my kids, but they were unimpressed because one, it was coming from me, and two, they weren’t really sure who Petraeus was so didn’t understand the magnitude of the scandal he was entangled in.
But later that evening, while in the grocery store checkout line with my daughter, she noticed a People Magazine in the rack. She pointed to the woman and man on the cover and said, “Is that the man you saw in D.C. today?” It was.
So, thanks to People Magazine, I became validated in the eyes of my teenager. At least temporarily. It wore back off about the same time we got to the Safeway parking lot.