On Sunday afternoon Mama Ayesha’s Calvert café, a decades-old haunt of the late UPI White House reporter Helen Thomas, held a memorial in her honor. There were friends, family and a handful of her closest journalist colleagues. This is not the big, public memorial service that’s in the works, which is scheduled for Oct. 5 at the National Press Club, but we’re told it was a gathering of people Thomas would have wanted to party with at least one more time.Mama Ayesha’s staff called for and paid for the celebration of what they consider Washington (and maybe even America’s ) most celebrated Arab-Americans. Thomas’ nieces, nephews and great nieces were all in attendance. About four dozen people showed up.
Said one attendee, “The spread was sick, wine flowed, tales were told and her legacy lives on.”
Kathleen Silvassy, an editor at WaPo and the Washing Bureau Chief for UPI in the 1990s, shared a great yarn with everyone about Thomas running amok at Georgetown Hospital looking for UPI‘s managing editor Lucian Carr, who was laid up with a dislocated prosthetic hip, no doubt the result of being overtaken from a rogue swell while sailing on the Chesapeake. According to an attendee, “So Helen was lost, but not far so lost that Lou couldn’t hear a voice that bounced off the eardrums of presidents passed and those still with us pleading for assistance to find her friend. She walked into Lou’s room escorted by a couple of nurses, an orderly, and a technician.”
Apparently the “best stories” were told around the tables. They were not stories about her days in journalism, but rather her “real life experiences and episodes” that did not include that explosion about Jews and Israel. Attendees shared stories of “Helen’s goodwill and charity, lending her speaking time and name to charities, schools, scholarship funds and friends in need.”
And they dined on salad known as “Helen’s Salad,” which consists of diced tomatoes, red onion, olive oil and lemon and can include feta (price tag: $6.50). Guests also ate meat pies, feta and spinach pies, hummus and pita, chicken kebabs with veggies. They imbibed wine and turkish coffee and, for those few who stayed, there was baklava.