Imagine if it were possible for 16 of this nation's most distinguished presidents, past and present, to come together in a relaxed setting, roll up their shirtsleeves, and sit down for a few friendly rounds of poker.
Thanks to the creative genius of Andy Thomas, ranked among the country's finest painters of people and events from centuries ago through modern times, it's not difficult to fathom.
What are turning out to be a pair of the artist's most popular paintings ever — "Grand Ol' Gang" and "True Blues" — caught the eye of everybody from Jay Leno to political junkies from both major parties.
The former depicts Abraham Lincoln, his back to the audience, making a wisecrack that has his Republican poker-playing pals — Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush — laughing hysterically.
Similarly, the latter canvas features Andrew Jackson sharing laughs and good times with Democratic chums Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
"I knew the project would be popular when I began working on it," Mr. Thomas tells Inside the Beltway in a telephone interview from his Carthage, Mo., studio. He says purchasers of canvas editions, giclee on canvas, and paper prints of the two paintings are most taken by the facial expressions of the American leaders.
"Presidents are presidents," he says, "and people almost get emotional about them, like they do with the American flag."
Readers can find both works on display at P&C Art at 212 King Street in Old Town Alexandria.
SAY IT, BILLY
Billy Joel will appear in Washington next month, but not on stage, so to speak.
Rather, we're told the Grammy award-winning musician will be the featured speaker at an Oct. 23 luncheon of National Press Club members and their lucky guests.
"Fashion. Washington. Together at Last."
So reads Monday night's invitation to the Georgetown home of The Washington Post's original power couple, Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, to celebrate with newspaper publisher Katharine Weymouth the launch of yet another colorful glossy geared to the nation's capital: FW, for "Fashion Washington."
"Fashion Washington covers everything from luxe jewelry lines, trunk shows and store openings to profile … style-world insiders and star-studded parties," says a promo for the monthly magazine, soon to be delivered free-of-charge to select Post subscribers ("most affluent" households, numbering just under 100,000).
In addition, like other advertiser-heavy local glossies that have been sprouting up like scandals in Washington, FW will be available in "luxury hotels, elegant spas and FW events."
The big question: Is there room for another Washington-based magazine?
"Ultimately, I think that anything that reflects and supports the growing excitement about fashion and the arts in Washington is a fantastic thing," says Rachel Cothran, founder of ProjectBeltway.com. "Much of the content will remind readers of what they've seen in the existing magazines around town (and they'll all have to fight that much harder for exclusive content), but I think that FW has an opportunity to do things a bit differently and stand out.
"The publication is broken down into sections, including 'Style Setter' (checks in with 'big names on the national and local scene, including designers, shop owners and other celebs'); 'Lush Life' ('what's new and hot, from just-opened boutiques and fresh jewelry lines to design-minded books and exhibits'); and a style-advice column called 'Obsessed by Dress.'
"There's also a 'Scene Stealers' section dedicated to 'high fashion at high-profile events.' This will, I suspect, work much more like the who-was-there pages we've all seen in local magazines around town (but way more condensed, thank goodness)," says Miss Cothran.
"Yet one question remains," Erik Wemple, editor of Washington City Paper, wrote recently of the new magazine. "In its promotional lit, FW says that its audience will 'read about the fascinating cast of characters-designers, shop owners and famous faces contributing to Washington's fashion scene.'
"Just who are they talking about here? And where's this fashion scene? At Cosi or something?"