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Knock Out Abuse, Fight Night: One-two fundraising punch

A "flower child" hands out blossoms outside the Ritz's ballroom Thursday night. (All photos Marissa Newhall/The Washington Post)

Peace, love, puppies -- and an eight-hour party.

That was Thursday night's 16th annual Knock Out Abuse gala, where Washington's upper-crust ladies -- and 700 friends -- spent a lot of money in the name of domestic abuse prevention.

This year's event had a '60s theme: "protesters" at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel's front door, flower child entry bracelets (worth $500 a pop), and male models in hippie garb, handing out flowers. Our colleague Marissa Newhall was there to soak it all in.

From 6:30 on, open bars kept the cocktail reception humming. Carol Joynt, Lisa Collis, Pamela Sorensen, event co-founders Cheryl Masri and Jill Sorensen and event chair Gina Adams, FedEx's top lobbyist, mingled; rumored "Real Housewives" Mary Amons and Lynda Erkelitian were there, as was Paul Wharton, a local style-setter linked to the in-production series. Meanwhile, Marlene Cooke perused the silent-auction spread (an assortment of laser lipo packages, baby clothes and Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses, among other things).

The real spending started after dinner, live-auction style. First on the block: A real live shih tzu mix puppy. Sleeping, in a basket. Until a shirtless guy picked it up and held it aloft. Boom: $3,250.

It was rapid fire after that. Eyebrow-shaping party for 30 at Erwin Gomez's Georgetown salon: $7,000. Private tango lessons with Robert Duvall: $3,000. Catered dinner for 10 at the D.C. Firehouse: $6,000.

And here are the firefighters, on stage in yellow "I Rescue Knockouts" tees, hoping to up the bidding. How about the very shirts off their backs? $500 a piece. Not many takers. "They sweated on them!" the auctioneer offers. A few more hands shoot up. A few more shirts come off.

A shih tzu mix puppy, on the auction block, sold for $3,250.

Of course, "this is a serious event," emcee Andrea Roane reminds the noisy crowd. Actress Robin Givens, a former Sarah Lawrence classmate of Knock Out committee chair Ann Walker Marchant, achieved the night's closest thing to hushed silence. After being introduced as a "domestic abuse survivor," she spoke of her marriage to ex-husband Mike Tyson.

"I know there is opportunity in adversity. He really helped make me the woman I am today," Givens said. "Far from perfect, but on a good road. I like myself, you know?" (We'd like to point out that she's got a bright career in motivational speaking, if she wants it.)

Among the missing: Knock Out fixture Clinton Portis. The Redskins running back was expected, but halfway through the live auction someone announced he'd had "a medical emergency." It's unclear what that meant, but the Redskins assured us he's OK now: Portis was at practice Friday and is set to play in Sunday's away game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Ritz-Carlton ballroom, awash in '60s fare.

Around midnight, the mostly male crowd from partner event Fight Night, held simultaneously at the Washington Hilton, peppered the Ritz with tuxedos. (Among them: Michael Saylor, Mark Ein and Late Night Shots founder Reed Landry.) How was that party?

Fight Night was its usual swaggering self -- 1,500 well-heeled men choking down scotch, thick steaks and cigar smoke. The entertainment: boxing matches, Redskins cheerleaders doing a stripper-ish bump and grind, a parade of aging former champs (Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard), a four-song set by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and an auction where suburban tycoons outbid each other on a single American flag from an Afghan military base until it sold for $62,500.

Amid the machismo, tribute was paid to D.C. philanthropist Joe Robert, Fight Night's founder. Robert looked fit and confident, but -- as everyone in the room knew -- is fighting brain cancer. Video testimonials praising his work came in from Colin Powell, Don Graham, Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones, Peter Pace, KISS and Oprah Winfrey.

By The Reliable Source  |  November 6, 2009; 5:52 PM ET
Categories:  Parties  
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Marlene Cooke, wow! Maybe someone could convince her to sit in the owner's box at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium during a Redskin's game. She might be able to conjur up the ol' mojo. Of course someone would have to provide a stack of telephone books for Dan Snyder to sit on or she would tower over him.

Ah, those were the days, when our team and it's leaders stood tall! Now we have a Marty Feldman/Danny DeVito mutant glowerring from above like a munchkin on a hate binge!

Posted by: SoCali | November 7, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Shirtless Guy holding the puppy looks like he gets a bikini wax. Those pants are being held up by what?

Posted by: margaretmeyers | November 10, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I despise this pseudo-charitable event that reinforces all the wrong messages about domestic violence. It forces you to recognize the shallowness and irresponsibility of the supposedly powerful women who put this thing on. It seems to follow the old Alfalfa Club model in which the expensively turned out wives give themselves a fancy party and meekly step aside to let the powerful men bond at a testosterone worship bacchanal of their own. Imagine how much more the charity that is the excuse for all this would benefit if the Glitterati would stay home and contribute to the charity the full amount of the money they spend on themselves at a gala like “Fight Night.”

How crass do you have to be to wear a yellow t-shirt boasting "I Rescue Knockouts"?

The more you think about it, the more “Fight Night” looks like a cruel joke on all the women involved – abused or just brainwashed.

Posted by: Amanita1 | November 12, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

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