City Desk

Today in D.C. History: Catching Up on January

Today, we’re kicking off a new semi-regular City Desk feature, Today in D.C. History, where we’ll examine the big events and obscure happenings that have shaped the District of Columbia we know today. While not every day in local D.C. history is notable, we hope to cover a lot of ground. In February, Washington City Paper will celebrate its 30th anniversary—what better excuse do we need to take readers back through the District's past?

We’ll detail Jan. 24, 1966, later today, but to kick things off, let’s do a quick review of some interesting historical events that have already passed this January, including Marion Barry's big night at the Vista Hotel and the time when Sharon Pratt didn't want the windows of the Wilson Building washed.

  • On Jan. 3, 1997, a senior minister in Georgia’s embassy in Washington was involved in a drunk-driving accident on Connecticut Avenue near Dupont Circle, killing a 16-year-old girl. Georgy Makharadze, the Georgian official, had his diplomatic immunity waived by his country’s president, Eduard Shevardnadze. Makharadze stood trial and was eventually sentenced to 7 to 21 years behind bars. (He spent the first three in a North Carolina prison, and was then repatriated to Georgia.) Makharadze later said he could only “pray for forgiveness.”Washington City Paper did find a silver lining in the whole affair, however. In our Jan. 10 issue that year, we reported:

    Last week’s fatal crash near Dupont Circle... has prompted embassy officials in town to take a closer look at their back yards. When Marie Drissel informed her neighbor, the Embassy of Guinea, that she was going to cite its humongous garbage pile as a flagrant example of diplomatic disregard for the District, embassy officials scrambled....[Drissel] says she has been trying for 17 years to get the embassy to hire a private trash hauler, as required by D.C. law.

    This week, in the wake of the Dupont Circle crash and the ensuing uproar, embassy officials finally promised to do just that.

    “A 4-foot-high mountain of trash is about to disappear,” a gleeful Drissel said Monday.

  • On Jan. 18, 1990, then-Mayor Marion Barry was arrested on cocaine charges at the Vista Hotel, as part of an FBI sting operation. As The Washington Post reported the next morning:

    D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was arrested on charges of possession of cocaine last night at the downtown Vista International Hotel after a fast-moving undercover investigation by the FBI and D.C. police that began several weeks ago....

    Sources said that the mayor, who was arrested shortly after 8 p.m., smoked crack cocaine in the hotel room. The sources said the mayor was with a longtime female friend of the mayor who agreed to work with federal authorities.

    The woman, who came to the District recently from California, did not smoke cocaine or engage in sexual activity with mayor before his arrest, the sources said. The encounter took place over about an hour and was video and audio-taped, sources said.

    While Barry was smoking crack cocaine with girlfriend Rasheeda Moore, tapes record him exclaiming “Maria, Maria,” after taking a puff. (This is, of course, before he infamously explained he was being arrested because "the bitch set me up.")

    That "Maria," Rose "Maria" McCarthy, who now goes by Rose Anding, recently chronicled her relationship with Barry in the book High Heels, Honey Lips & White Powder. Filled with interesting tidbits, like that Barry "had a harem of black women," and that Anding was disgusted with Barry’s arrest because he’d neglected to sweep the hotel room like she always did, the book did answer a crucial question. As Washington City Paper's Alan Suderman wrote last month: "Barry was both guilty and framed. Or put another way, Barry was a womanizing crack user, but the bitch really did set him up."

  • On Jan. 21, 1993, D.C. Council members condemned a move by then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly that prevented them from viewing the presidential inauguration parade from the District Building, today known as the John A. Wilson Building. While Kelly had been inserting herself in photo ops with newly-inaugurated President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, she had left the Wilson Building’s windows unwashed, and changed the locks so councilmembers couldn’t use the building to watch the inaugural parade. (The mayor had earlier dragged her feet on allowing the council to use her official reviewing platform.)As Washington City Paper wrote in its Jan. 29 issue:

    The council thought it had found a way to get around its exclusion from the mayor’s reviewing stand by having the windows washed on the District Building so council-members and their staff could watch from the offices... but the mayor’s Department of Administrative Services said it did not have the money in its budget to clean the windows.

    Then, the Friday before the Inauguration, the mayor had the locks changed on her old offices at the District Building because the council had a key to get into the prime parade-viewing space. By that time, the Apartment and Office Building Association (AOBA) an organization of downtown landlords eager to curry favor with the council, had a found a Virginia firm willing to clean the windows for free. So the council had the locks changed the following Monday to let the window cleaners in. The next day, the mayor had them changed again.

    LL [Loose Lips] is not making this stuff up. This is the way your elected officials really behave when their egos are swollen.

    With research contributions from William F. Zeman; Photo of Marion Barry by Darrow Montgomery

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    • Skipper

      The buffoonery of Sharon Pratt. Her legacy is financial bankruptcy for the city.

    • Rick Mangus

      I didn't know it was, The Bitch Set Me Up Day!

    • noodlez

      DAMN MANGY YOUR QUOTES ARE GETTING A BIT noodlezy THESE DAYS!

      I GOT A FEELING THAT MS PRATT-KELLY-DIXON . . . WAS GLAD THAT FAGGIE FENTY CAME ALONG AND REPLACED HER AS THE WORST MAYOR WDC EVER HAD.

    • American Rogue

      sharon pratt kelly = snooty bitch

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