FishbowlDC Interview: Janet “JDo” Donovan

Janet Donovan & Matt Drudge. *Photo by Patrick G. Ryan

If you don’t know Janet Donovan, you probably don’t get out much.  A fixture of the Washington social scene, you can find her at everything from charity functions and book parties to galas, media fetes and embassy events.  You may know “JDo” from her nightlife pieces for Hollywood on the Potomac, NBC Washington Niteside, The Georgetown Dish and Washington Life magazine.  Or you may recognize her as the sassy, smoking pantsuit at the party…but do you really know Janet Donovan?  

Find out more about this dishin’ diva in today’s FishbowlDC Interview:

How long have you been in Washington?  I came here in 1971 with my Spanish friends from Harvard who all got great jobs with The World Bank and IMF.  They suggested I come with them– and so I did, along with my two small children.

What jobs have you held here?  Social Secretary to the Ambassadors of Argentina and Italy, a short stint under the Ford administration and Council of International Economic Policy, before launching Creative Enterprises Int’l, a publicity firm.    

What is your fondest memory of nightlife in DC?  Hard to single out because when the exclusive Pisces Club was here, every night was a fond memory (and yes, as wild as they were, I do remember).  Iranian Ambassador Zahedi used to show up at Pisces, invite us back to the residence to swim and then serve breakfast which he prepared himself.  Always lots of caviar and champagne. Elizabeth Taylor used to go there before she married Senator John Warner. 

How has the social scene changed since you came to Washington?  It is less edgy….more networking driven without as much fun. I think we took ourselves less seriously in terms of social activity. 

You attend a lot of parties. What makes an event great?   The guests, hands down. You can have the best venue and food in the world, but if you’re bored, why bother?

As a journalist, is it important to be seen on the scene?  Yes and no.  Less necessary than before the electronic age.  However, for getting spontaneous insight/quotes, it’s always helps if people recognize your name or face. 

Who is your favorite working journalist?  Myra MacPherson (formerly political style writer for The Washington Post) now with Neiman Foundation and writing another book. She is brilliant.

Who gives the best and worst interview?   When the President gives me one, I will let you know.  Worst was Ted Turner by far. 

*JDo’s thoughts on party crashing, her favorite people and career moments after the jump. 

During what administration was Washington’s nightlife at its peak? Kennedy and Reagan.  I wasn’t here for the Kennedy administration, but the Reagan’s brought the California crowd and the Bloomingdales with them – they were very socially accessible.

 The Salahis made party crashing famous but is it really a new phenomenon in the District? Definitely not new and is definitely here to stay.  The difference is that the “alleged” crashing of The White House is bad behavior and a step beyond where one should go with crashing.. 

Who are the most memorable people that you’ve met in Washington?Hard one. Lots of memorable people make up the mosaic of Washington.  Personally, Baron and Baroness von Stackelberg who ran the social scene for most of my time here and “adopted” me as one of their daughters along with Lynda Webster, Aniko Gael Schott and Tandy Dickerson.  Professionally, gotta love the Clintons.

What’s been your best scoop or proudest career moment?  I have had tons of “scoops” available over the years, but more personal ones that I would never reveal — they remain in my head.  It was exciting when I was working with Anthony Quinn during Zorba.  He singled out my daughter Chantal, who was very young, at one of his performances.  Quinn was great to work with.  He always made time for the little people (no pun intended). I also loved working with Art Buchwald, who wouldn’t.