The indelible motto, “The chief business of the American people is business”, might well have been spoken by the current President-elect: Donald Trump. But the originator of that catchphrase was actually our 30th (and most taciturn) President: Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge presided during the period affectionately known as The Roaring Twenties; a time of transition, titillation and unbridled optimism – underscored by sizzling styles and sumptuous soirees. The Roaring Twenties was also the backdrop of The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s cautionary tale of idealism, excess and ennui. Gleaning the best from that by-gone era, Dardanella – those devotees of all things ducky – are puttin’ on the Ritz with what promises to be the gayest Inauguration Day party of this political season: The Great Gatsby Presidential Inaugural Ball.
The Great Gatsby Presidential Inaugural Ball is set to kick off at 8 pm on January 20th at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Dardanella (named after one of the most recognizable songs of the 1920’s) first came to life last March for an Easter gathering of 150 like-minded individuals at the Plaza Hotel in New York. An experiential lawn and garden party at the National Cathedral in D.C. soon followed – and each was an exciting homage to the high-spirited years between The Great War and The Great Depression.
Paul Ervin, the founder of New York-based Dardanella, told the Los Angeles Post-Examiner the group grew out of a sincere affection for the glittery Jazz Age.
“We have a great love for this era and love to bring it back, with impeccable vintage enthusiasts as well as younger more modern takes on the same styles. We think we have the best job in the world and are so warmed to see so many people ditch the sweatpants and embrace this fantasy with us, however fleeting, for the duration of our events!”
Ervin said the idea for the upcoming Great Gatsby Presidential Inaugural Ball stemmed from his desire to provide people with an elegant, affordable, and (most importantly) apolitical way to celebrate Inauguration Day.
“Personally, I have always wanted to go to an Inaugural Ball. However, I have never been able to afford one, and I don’t give any significant amount of money to any candidate or political party. Inaugural Balls in Washington are typically another form of a fundraiser for the Democrats and Republicans; a way to thank major donors and contributors, and a chance to curry favor among lobbyists and the Congress.
“Oftentimes in life, when you’re not invited to the party, you have to make your own party! I began planning for this event way back in April 2016.”
Ervin told us he had several goals in mind, as he was designing the Great Gatsby Presidential Inaugural Ball:
Keep the costs down: “This is very much an event ‘by the people’ and ‘for the people’. There are obviously astronomical expenses when you’re producing something in the heart of Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day. Especially when it’s in such an historic site as the National Portrait Gallery. Some events are ‘Open to the Public’ for a $5,000 ticket, which certainly narrows down those who could or would attend, and we didn’t want to do that. Of course, we want to recoup our expenses, but beyond that, we just wanted to have a great event.”
Make it apolitical: “When we announced the event, it was always above party politics, above candidates and elections. We made it a point to be very clear that we were a non-partisan event and open to all, as long as they left their politics out in the cold January air! Obviously, this election has resulted in some very deep-set divisions across the country. We find that to be very profound, which makes it even more important now that we continue to be an apolitical event.”
Stay on brand: “Our brand is the 1920’s. That’s what we do and we’re good at it! It became even more critical after the election to lean on this concept. We were very lucky that, after the election was called, we did not see many ticket exchanges. That really demonstrated to us that our theme was resonating with the general public. We can’t think of a more important time to come together, and we’re glad that we can do that through our Inaugural Ball.
“Shared experiences can be the most powerful, and music has a very special quality and ability to bring people together. Particularly the music of the 1920’s, which was so upbeat and very distinct from 1930’s and 1940’s jazz which most people are familiar with. The big band scores of the 20’s were much more vibrant and fun in our opinion!”
Make it better: “We’ve heard recounts of what most Inaugural Balls are like. There’s an open bar, no food, a DJ, and a bunch of tables for people to sit. The experience is you simply attend, stand around and chat – maybe see the President for 10 minutes if you’re at an official ball – and that’s it! That doesn’t sound like a very good time to us. We wanted to add real value and raise the bar for everyone. That’s why we have 3 full orchestras, dance lessons, vintage photo booths, vintage gramophonists, performances, open bar, food, etc. If we can be better, then we should be better. We don’t have the support of massive donor bases, so everything we have is from our guests, who trust in our vision. We’re a very small operation, but we hope to cast a very large shadow!”
While being apolitical, Ervin stressed that Dardanella remains strongly committed to the Republic and the freedoms afforded every citizen by our Constitution. To that end, all will be welcomed at the Great Gatsby Presidential Inaugural Ball.
“We invite all those who may be coming to town to protest, who want to celebrate the legacy of an outgoing President or welcome in a new President and a new era. Come to our event and join us in this common theme of 1920’s revelry. Everyone is welcomed!”
Including President-elect Donald Trump and Secretary Hillary Clinton?
“If the President-Elect wishes to attend our event, our answer is of course, yes. It would be a privilege to even be considered by any President of the United States. He would be just as welcome as his opponent, who continues to be an icon for so many Americans. It would be our honor to host both of them, as well as President Clinton, President Obama, Presidents Bush, or President Carter!”
Absent an official visit, party goers will have to be content with sitting pretty, enjoying gallons of giggle water, peeping floor-flushers and flappers along with a sprinkling of gold diggers and sugar daddies, cuttin’ a rug with a choice bit of calico, or doing a little petting with your sheik or sheba – somewhere off in your struggle-buggy.
And perhaps (if you can get the crew to pipe down), you might catch a short series of one-word tweets from the taciturn but ever-quotable ghost of Calvin Coolidge.
Wouldn’t THAT be the bee’s knees?
It will be a panic!
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The Great Gatsby Presidential Inaugural Ball takes place January 20, 2017 (Inauguration Day) at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. The Gallery is located at 8th and F Streets, NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20001. Tickets range from $200 – 450. Advance purchases are a must, as sales will end 24 hours prior to the event! For more information, please visit Dardanella and the Great Gatsby Presidential Inaugural Ball Facebook page. And mark your calendars for the next two Great Gatsby Lawn Parties at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. scheduled for May 27th and again on September 23rd, 2017!
Lede photo credit: Nishell Falcone
Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A former reporter at The Washington Herald and an occasional contributor to the Voice of Baltimore, Tony’s poetry, humor and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore; Magic Octopus Magazine; Destination Maryland, and Tales of Blood and Roses.