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Archive for Barack Obama

Anna Wintour Gets Run Through The “Sketchy” Rumour Mill by Talented Illustrator Lisa Hanawalt via [TheHairPin]

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Rumors I’ve Heard About Anna Wintour

By Lisa Hanawalt | The Hair Pin

Lisa Hanawalt lives in Brooklyn and does illustrations + funnies for publications like the New York Times, McSweeney’s, Vice, and Chronicle Books. She’s best known for her comic book series I Want You.

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The OpuluxeLtd.com Tribute to Über-stylish FASHIONGATE Scapegoat: The Forever Fabulous Ms. Desiree Rogers via [NYT]

via YouTube

Obama Social Secretary Ran Into Sharp Elbows

Globe Newswire

Desirée Rogers drew criticism for her high profile as social secretary in the Obama White House. More Photos »

By PETER BAKER

WASHINGTON — Long before the State Dinner party crashers and the tension with her White House colleagues and the strain in her relationship with the first lady, Desirée Rogers began to understand she was in trouble when David Axelrod summoned her to his office last spring to scold her.

Multimedia
The Rise and Fall of Desiree Rogers

Ms. Rogers had appeared in another glossy magazine, posing in a White House garden in a borrowed $3,495 silk pleated dress and $110,000 diamond earrings. But if the image was jarring in a time of recession, Mr. Axelrod was as bothered by the words and her discussion of “the Obama brand” and her role in promoting it, according to people informed about the conversation.

“The president is a person, not a product,” he was said to tell her. “We shouldn’t be referring to him as a brand.”

The confrontation that day between Ms. Rogers, the White House social secretary, and Mr. Axelrod, the senior adviser to President Obama, put at odds two longtime Chicago friends of the first family. And it foreshadowed a deeper, wrenching conflict that would eventually cost Ms. Rogers her job and tear at the fabric of the close-knit inner circle around Mr. Obama.

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The rise and fall of Desirée Rogers, the glamorous Harvard-educated corporate executive who brought sizzle to the State Dining Room but became a victim of a publicity stunt by a pair of aspiring reality show stars, is a tale familiar to almost any White House. A new president comes to town and installs friends he trusts, but inevitably some of them wind up burned by the klieg lights and corrosive politics of Washington.

While it has happened to past presidents, though, this was the first time it has happened to Mr. Obama, who prided himself on running a campaign free of the typical petty rivalries and personal subplots that distract other politicians. And it happened with a friend who at first was celebrated for personifying the fresh, new-generation approach that the Obamas promised to bring to Washington.

For Ms. Rogers, associates said the episode proved a searing experience that has soured her on Washington. She believes she was left largely undefended by the White House, by her colleagues, including Mr. Axelrod, Robert Gibbs and even her close friend, Valerie Jarrett. And while she is unwilling to discuss her story publicly, several associates shared her account in the belief that her side has been lost in the swirl of hearings, backbiting and paparazzilike coverage.

“As she put it, ‘They never lifted a finger to help me set the record straight,’ ” said one of the associates, who insisted on not being identified to avoid alienating the White House. “She didn’t get any help from Gibbs, no help from Axelrod, no help from Valerie Jarrett. Nobody came to her defense.”

White House officials who asked not to be named rejected that, pointing to instances where Mr. Gibbs and the others publicly defended her, even if it was not as vigorously as she may have wanted.

Asked for comment, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, Michelle Obama’s press secretary, praised Ms. Rogers’s “track record of success as an incredibly successful leader of a team here that turned out 330 events over 13 months.”

The tension with her colleagues was building long before November when Michaele and Tareq Salahi, socialites from Virginia, managed to slip uninvited into the State Dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. Ms. Rogers’s hip style, expensive clothing and presence at fashion shows at first were seen as symbolizing a new Camelot but ultimately struck many as tone deaf in a time of economic hardship and 10 percent unemployment.

The White House eventually clamped down on her public profile. She was ordered to stop attending splashy events and showing up in fancy clothes on magazine covers. When Michelle Obama learned one day that Ms. Rogers was on a train heading to New York to attend an MTV dinner, the first lady told her longtime friend to cancel, associates said.

After the Salahi incident, these associates said Ms. Rogers was barred by the White House from testifying before Congress or giving interviews or even answering written questions. She was told she could not attend the Kennedy Center Honors, a major annual Washington event. And even her decision to finally resign leaked before she could secure a new job.

So Ms. Rogers is leaving the White House and Washington never having been allowed to describe publicly what happened that night four months ago. But in conversations with associates, she has defended herself by noting that she had positioned a staff member to greet guests at the East Portico landing just as the Social Office had sometimes done in the past. And she has expressed disappointment that her work at creating a “people’s house” for the first couple has been overshadowed by one lapse.

“It’s been very difficult for her,” said Amy Zantzinger, who was President George W. Bush’s last social secretary and has become a friend of Ms. Rogers’s. “And I think what can’t be lost is there are all these unbelievable events they did at the White House when she was there, particularly bringing in all the artists and musicians. I don’t think that’s ever been done before to this magnitude.”

Representative Peter T. King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, faulted Ms. Rogers for not having a staff member at the outer checkpoint on the street and complained that the White House “just totally stiff-armed us” in terms of getting answers to what happened.

But Mr. King suggested Ms. Rogers was left hanging in the wind by the White House. “She was in a tough spot,” he said. “All of us in public life dread the screw-up which is going to come back to haunt you.”

Public life has singed presidential friends over the years with striking regularity, people like Bert Lance during Jimmy Carter’s administration, Vincent W. Foster Jr. and Webster L. Hubbell during Bill Clinton’s, and Harriet E. Miers and Alberto R. Gonzales during George W. Bush’s. Washington can be seductive and then destructive.

In some cases, they were ill equipped for the jobs they were given, unable to transform success in private life or smaller-scale politics to the White House. In other instances, the cutthroat politics proved too caustic to stomach. In the most extreme example, Mr. Foster, a law partner of Hillary Rodham Clinton before he became deputy White House counsel, committed suicide in 1993 leaving behind a note saying that “here ruining people is considered sport.”

Off to Washington

A native of New Orleans, Ms. Rogers graduated from Wellesley College and earned an M.B.A. from Harvard University. She got to know the Obamas some 20 years ago through her husband at the time, who went to Princeton University with Michelle Obama’s brother, Craig Robinson.

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Ms. Rogers’s glamorous looks, fashion taste and on-the-town profile in Chicago obscured a fast rise through the management world, as she served as head of the Illinois lottery, then president of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, and finally as a senior executive at Allstate Financial. During the 2008 campaign, she helped bring in roughly $600,000, according to a person familiar with campaign finances.

Tall and striking, Ms. Rogers can easily pass for younger than her 50 years. She seemed to the Obamas to be a natural for White House social secretary. The first African-American to hold the job, she swept into Washington brimming with ideas for executing the Obamas’ vision of opening the White House to a wider circle of people, and became an instant magnet for attention.

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After taking an apartment in the same exclusive Georgetown building as her friend, Ms. Jarrett, Ms. Rogers quickly became a hot Washington draw. She posed for a spread for Vogue and later accompanied its editor, Anna Wintour, to Fashion Week in New York. Within months, other magazines came calling, including Town & Country, Vanity Fair, Michigan Avenue and Capitol File.

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But it was a spread in The Wall Street Journal’s magazine, WSJ, with the expensive clothes and jewelry provided by the magazine, that got her in trouble in the White House.

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Mr. Axelrod called her in for a long conversation about her interviews and photo shoots, warning her explicitly that she was flying into dangerous territory and that Washington loves to watch people become too big and ultimately crash and burn, according to people familiar with the conversation. Ms. Rogers noted that everything she had done had been approved by the White House. She viewed her trips to fashion shows and other events as a way to make connections in the creative community and find talent to perform at the White House.

But her profile was deliberately lowered. Mr. Gibbs, the White House press secretary, had already canceled a proposed photo shoot of Ms. Rogers wearing an Oscar de la Renta ball gown in the first lady’s garden, officials said. Michelle Obama’s new chief of staff, Susan Sher, more closely scrutinized Ms. Rogers’s public activities, to her aggravation.

Praise and Criticism

Amid all this, Ms. Rogers earned widespread praise for the events she organized at the White House, including a summer luau for members of Congress, a poetry jam and a Halloween party for 2,000 trick-or-treaters. She managed to put on 309 events in 2009, compared with 231 produced in the last year of the Bush White House.

“If you look at the totality of her time here,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, “she did a good job of projecting a White House that was open, family friendly and classy.”

Shawnelle Richie, a Rogers friend from Chicago, said, “She is a multitasker of the first order.” Ms. Richie added: “She did a good job. If the impression is she didn’t, I think people are wrong. They’re misinformed.”

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For all the attention to Ms. Rogers’s photo spreads, Ms. Richie said, Ms. Rogers kept focused on the job at hand. “Glamour wasn’t a distraction,” she said. “If everybody were to look at her complete work and her history and her background, as opposed to an isolated event, they would see she was the right person for the job at the right time.”

The isolated event, of course, was the State Dinner in November, which in fact received near universal acclaim as an elegant, memorable evening until the next morning when the first reports of the party crashers emerged.

As she put together plans for the dinner, Ms. Rogers and her staff consulted records of two State Dinners held by Mr. Bush before leaving office. The records indicated that the social office in both cases sent a person to the East Portico of the White House, where the metal detectors are stationed for State Dinners, in case any guests are not on the Secret Service list. Her office copied that arrangement.

In the Spotlight

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At State Dinners in the past, though, the social office stationed a person, or even more than one, at the outer checkpoint. Critics like Mr. King faulted Ms. Rogers for not doing that. Still, the Secret Service acknowledged it was not supposed to allow the Salahis in without checking. And the officers on duty that rainy night as the long line of wet celebrities and power players waited impatiently did not check with anyone from the social office when the Salahis showed up.

The White House afterward issued a memorandum announcing the policy would be changed. In interviews afterward, both the president and first lady praised the State Dinner, with Mrs. Obama calling it “an outstanding success” and dismissing the gate crashers as “a footnote.” But she and Mr. Obama bypassed opportunities to defend Ms. Rogers. “I was unhappy with everybody who was involved in the process,” the president said. “It was a screw-up.”

Lisa Caputo, who worked in the East Wing under Mrs. Clinton when she was first lady, said Ms. Rogers had weathered the hothouse glare of Washington with grace. “She’s done a fantastic job of opening the White House,” Ms. Caputo said.

“She was put in a position where the spotlight was put on her in a different way,” Ms. Caputo added, “coming in as someone who was not a Washingtonian, coming into a high-profile senior role and being the first African-American in that role. The combination of all three makes it not easy. I would venture to say she’s had a larger mountain to climb.”



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The Most Expensive Hotels around the Globe. via [WSJ]

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Diplomats Help Boost Rates at World’s Most Expensive Hotels

by Tara Loader Wilkinson

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Starwood Hotels
The
Royal Penthouse Suite at the President Wilson Hotel in Geneva commands
$65,000 a night for its four-bedroom penthouse.

Amid the recession, rock stars, diplomats and other celebrities find
solace from the doom and gloom by spending their time in sanctuary
provided by the world’s most luxurious, and expensive, hotels. While
many of us are tightening our belts, shortening our summer holidays or
even abandoning them, hoteliers to the rich and famous claim to have no
trouble filling their most exclusive accommodations, and in the case of
the most expensive suite in the world, managing to double its rate to
$65,000 (€45,642) a night.

In an annual survey by Financial News’ sister publication Wealth
Bulletin, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the President Wilson Hotel in
Geneva, Switzerland, tops the list as the most expensive hotel room in
2009, commanding $65,000 for its four-bedroom penthouse — twice as much
as patrons paid a year ago for its luxurious setting and views of Lake
Geneva and Mont Blanc.

The hotel’s management puts the rise down to “buoyant demand” from
government officials and U.N. diplomats.

Last year’s winner, the iconic Ty Warner Penthouse at the Four
Seasons Hotel in New York, came second this time, at $35,000, $1,000 up
from last year.

New entries this year were the third-placed Presidential Suite at the
Hotel Cala di Volpe in Sardinia, the Villa La Cupola Suite at the
Westin Excelsior in Rome and the Presidential Suite at the Ritz-Carlton
in Tokyo.

Despite the past year’s financial and economic turmoil, prices at the
best hotel suites have risen by an average of 10% this year. Herbert
Ypma, founder of the Hip Hotels brand, said: “The very high end hasn’t
suffered all that much. A lot of hotels used to having upmarket
clientele are getting the benefit of them taking far more time off than
usual — so they have more time to stay in hotels. Money was never the
issue, time was.”

Hoteliers said that although the number of business travellers has
fallen in the past year, government officials have taken their place in
the best rooms and suites.

President Barack Obama and his entourage took over the entire
Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow for three nights in June. The President
Wilson Hotel said heads of state and other high-level government
officials are fuelling demand for its hugely expensive Royal Penthouse
Suite.

Vivian Deuschl, spokeswoman for Ritz-Carlton Hotels, said demand is
also coming from wealthy leisure travellers: “Last year they might have
taken three or four cheaper holidays. This year they are taking one big
vacation, but pulling out all the stops.”

The 10 most expensive hotel suites according to Wealth Bulletin’s
survey for 2009 are:


Four Seasons
The
library of the Ty Warner Penthouse at New York’s Four Seasons Hotel.

1. The Royal Penthouse Suite, President Wilson Hotel, Geneva
— $65,000 per night

Complete with a cocktail lounge, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the
President Wilson is so exclusive that bookings reportedly have to be
made through the hotel’s chairman. The suite occupies the entire top
floor of the hotel. It is reached by a private elevator, has four
bedrooms overlooking Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc and comes with six
bathrooms. Equipped with bulletproof windows and doors, it is almost
exclusively reserved for celebrities or state heads, ideal with the
United Nations headquarters a five-minute drive away.

2. Ty Warner Penthouse, Four Seasons Hotel, New York —
$35,000 per night

Business at the Ty Warner Penthouse at the Four Seasons Hotel in New
York has remained as buoyant as when the suite opened in 2007, according
to a spokeswoman. The nine-room suite has walls inlaid with thousands
of pieces of mother-of-pearl. There is an indoor-outdoor Zen garden, a
private spa room with a screen of living bamboo and a book-lined
library, which has a grand piano at its centre.

3. The Presidential Suite, Hotel Cala di Volpe, Costa
Smeralda, Sardinia — $34,000 per night

The Presidential Suite at Hotel Cala di Volpe near Porto Cervo,
averages around $34,000 a night, although during the peak summer season
will cost as much as $45,000. Located in the hotel tower, the
multi-level Presidential Suite sprawls across 2,500 sq ft and has three
bedrooms, three bathrooms, a private gym, a steam room and a wine
cellar. It is crowned by a rooftop terrace with an outdoor saltwater
swimming pool.

4. Villa La Cupola Suite, Westin Excelsior, Rome — $31,000
per night

Villa La Cupola Suite in Rome’s Westin Excelsior embodies all things
Roman and excessive: a cupola, a Pompeii-style Jacuzzi, frescoes and
stained glass windows detailing allegories of a mythological figure
paired with a modern one, such as Atlas and Television, Hypnosis and
Neurosis, Hermes and Marketing and Hermaphrodite and Fashion. Located on
the fifth and sixth floors, the suite covers 6,099 sq ft and has an
additional 1,808 sq ft of balconies and terraces overlooking Via Veneto.


Ritz-Carlton
The
Presidential Suite at Tokyo’s Ritz-Carlton.

5. The Presidential Suite, Ritz-Carlton Tokyo — $25,000 per
night

The Presidential Suite, on the top floor of the city’s tallest
building, has spectacular views of Mount Fuji and Roppongi Hills, as
well as an expansive vista of Tokyo’s impressive cityscape. It occupies
2,368 sq ft. For refreshments, guests may enjoy the $18,000
Diamonds-Are-Forever Martini, which comes with a one-karat Bulgari
diamond at the bottom.

6. The Bridge Suite, The Atlantis, Bahamas — $22,000 per
night

The 10-room Bridge Suite is actually a bridge spanning the two towers
of the Atlantis Hotel. The 23rd-floor suite is decked with marble
floors, a grand piano and a 22-carat gold chandelier. It was known in
former times as “the Michael Jackson Suite” because of his regular
stays. Prices have come down from $25,000 last year and fees are
negotiable. Nevertheless, the suite is so exclusive the hotel does not
even advertise it.

7. The Imperial Suite, Park Hyatt Vendôme, Paris — $20,000
per night

The Imperial Suite at the Park Hyatt in Paris provides guests with an
“in-suite-spa” concept — with the bathroom/spa comprising a whirlpool
bath, a steam shower room and a massage table. The 2,500 sq ft penthouse
suite has a huge living room, a dining room, a kitchen and a work area.


Burj Al Arab
The
Royal Suite at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

8. Royal Suite, Burj Al Arab, Dubai — $19,600 per night

Since it was built in the mid-1990s, the Burj Al Arab has become one
of the world’s most instantly recognizable hotels with its billowing
sail-like structure stretching out on an artificial island into the Gulf
of Arabia. The Royal Suite on the 25th floor has a marble-and-gold
staircase, leopard print carpets, its own private lift and a rotating
four-poster canopy bed.

9. Royal Armleder Suite, Le Richemond, Geneva — $18,900 per
night

The Royal Armleder Suite at the Le Richemond Hotel is named after the
wealthy family who used to own the famous hotel before Rocco Forte
bought it in August 2004. The three-bedroom suite, which stretches over
2,500 sq ft on the seventh floor, has a 1,000 sq ft terrace with
panoramic views of Lake Geneva, a real log fire and floor-to-ceiling
bulletproof windows. Olga Polizzi, Rocco Forte’s sister and well-known
hotel interior designer, designed the suite.

10. The Ritz-Carlton Suite, The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow —
$16,500 per night

To stay at the best suite in Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton would cost around
$16,000 a night — $500 less than last year. Furnished in Russian
imperial style, the 2,370 sq ft suite has views of famous Moscow sites
including the Kremlin and Red Square. The suite comes with that
necessity for the security-conscious Russian billionaire — a panic room
with its own energy and telecommunications facilities.

Research for this survey was compiled during mid-August. Prices are
rate per night including taxes.

From Financial News at http://www.efinancialnews.com


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