Whatever Lolo wants……

Whatever Lolo wants……

Photo credit: intern Andrew Dubbs

“Marlene Dietrich” – the gravel voiced German-born femme fatale movie star of the 1930’s – showed up at The Residence of The Ambassador of Switzerland and Mrs. Manuel Sager to serenade Lolo Sarnoff, – a Swiss-German artist, scientist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of Arts for the Aging.


Christine Sager and Lolo Sarnoff

Performance by Cabaret Sauvignon:

Mat Hastings, a long time Sarnoff friend, relayed a tale regarding her early years when she was a young girl at sixteen in Berlin (although she was a citizen of Switzerland):  “Her father’s chauffeur,” he said. “found a beat up old Mercedes sports coupe, so the two of them put it back together.  She was never allowed to drive it, but she was allowed to ride in it.  They lived in a very tony Tiergarten building in Berlin and one day someone knocked on the door – the maid answered the door – and it was a high ranking Nazi officer.”


Mat Hastings and Christine Warnke

“Not only was he a Nazi officer,” Hastings continued, “but one of Hitler’s closest Nazi friends pounding on the door asking to see her father Herr Dreyfus.  So Herr Dreyfus came down to see him and the man sat down and said: “I’ve come to talk to you about your daughter.”  And Herr Dreyfus said: “I see,” to which the office responded: “Your daughter has an automobile I would very much like to buy.” Her father was very much relieved.  We’re not sure if the car was ever transferred though because Lolo was very independent, even then.”


“The year of the Washington riots,” Hastings recalled, “was the year Lolo was Chairwoman of the Corcoran Ball.  She said you could literally smell the city burning and people’s nerves were raw.  She was told to cancel the event.  Mistake #1: telling Lolo what to do.  Mistake #2: telling Lolo she can’t do something.  She thought about it and decided to simply invite the police chief’s wife as her personal guest.  End result: there were no problems with security.  It was a wildly successful event.”


Judith Terra, Christine Sagar and Didi Cutler

“Anyone who has ever known my mother knows that whatever Lolo wanted, Lolo got.  There was no saying no.  She has lived to make a difference in one way or another, in other peoples’ lives,” said Lolo’s daughter Dana Bargezi.  “There was no halfway of doing anything in Mom’s life.  If you participated in sports, you played to win.  If you made sculptures, you put one in the Kennedy Center. If you entertained, you gave the best party in town.  If you wrote a book you made sure that everyone read it.  Whatever Lolo did she was the best at it.”


Susie Eisinger, Monique Summers-Mally and Bill Dunlap

We asked Bill Dunlap, Master of  Ceremonies and Chair of the 25th Anniversary Host Committee to describe Lolo Sarnoff in one word.  “Indefatigable,” he responded without hesitation.  “Inevitable, irreplaceable,” he added.  “She pulled me into her little army of supporters and it changed my life; it made Washington bearable.  Lolo Sarnoff can make it livable for an artist.  It’s a company town and if you don’t work for ‘the’ company you can have a lot of fun in Washington.  Lolo and The Arts for the Aging, her obsession has become mine.  At our plenary session we looked around and said: “Who is our audience?”  Well, look at yourselves, you’re the audience.  We’re art and we’re aging, but it also applies across the generational board.”


Gabriela Coman and Emily Nestler

Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg weighed in by sending a personal note: “When I first met Lolo Sarnoff, more than 20 years ago, someone observed a resemblance between us. .. a great compliment.  On AFTA’s 25th anniversary, I lift my glass to founder Lolo, truly a woman never at a loss, and to the organization she launched and nurtured.  May there be encores galore of tonight’s gala celebration.”


Manuel Sager, Ambassador of Switzerland

Arts for the Aging presented Ambassador Donald Bliss with the 5th Lolo Sarnoff Award. “We have always enjoyed Lolo’s sculpture – Promethean combinations of metals and Plexiglas.  Nancy and I came to her shows, visited her studio and have enjoyed seeing her work displayed in such diverse places as The Kennedy Center and The Naples Art Museum.  On one such visit we saw a sculpture that had special meaning for us,” he said. 


Paul Lee and Perniell Elbech

“Don has a longstanding interest in Mark Twain,” said his wife Nancy, “and has written a play – The Return of Halley’s Comet – and a book about Twain – Mark Twains Tale of Today – Halley’s Comet Returns.  Twain was born the night Halle’s Comet graced the sky and predicted that he would die when it returend 75 years later; indeed, he did.  Lolo’s beautiful Plexiglas sculpture of Halley’s Comet with a sparkling display of colored lights was impossible to resist.  For over 25 years it has occupied a prominent place in our living room.”

The evening was peppered with performances by Cabaret Sauvignon as Lolo’s life came full circle at the Embassy of Switzerland.