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NEW YORK — Far from inner-Beltway bickering, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid looked as relaxed as can be Friday night at a low-key meet-and-greet at Oleg Cassini Inc.
Fifty-five guests cycled through the Beaux Arts townhouse, and the Democratic politician chatted with every last one. Wearing a glittery Oleg Cassini T-shirt beneath her jacket, Marianne Nestor Cassini, who was married to the designer and now runs the company that bears his name, said Reid was an excellent conversationalist. So much so that the Searchlight, Nev., guest of honor was often encircled by guests, who included Lavelle Olexa, Ken Greenfield, Peggy Nestor, Brenda Nestor Castellano, Bomoda’s Andria Chang and Bollywood actor Sal Khatri (at work on “The Three Duffers,” which will be India’s first 3-D comedy).
Whether discussing gun control or multipoint scalable video broadcasting (more easily understood as a radio call-in show with video), Reid was a willing audience. Approached by WWD, he literally waved off the suggestion that he might not want to answer a few questions. “Oh, I don’t care,” he said. In a baby blue tie and a striped suit, with a gold watch on one wrist and a red banded bracelet on the other, Reid took in the airy room, occasionally looking out the open massive arched French windows. After a week steeped in debate regarding probes into Benghazi, the IRS and subpoenaed phone records from the Associated Press, Reid wasn’t about to acknowledge the obvious, “You have had quite a week.” His expression was one left best to an animator.
“There was no excuse for what was done,” Reid said of the Department of Justice seizing AP phone records last year. As for whether the American media should be concerned about how their research is conducted, he said, “No, that was an aberration.”
Reid was less outspoken in regards to whether he was satisfied with Attorney General Eric Holder’s testimony about the AP investigation. “I’m not going to comment about that.”
He was more willing to discuss American manufacturing in the wake of last month’s factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,000 people. Asked what might be done to prop up U.S. production as a result, Reid said, “Hopefully some of these manufacturers now understand that their short-term goal of saving a few bucks is not worth it. The pain and suffering should end here.”
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A national consumer awareness campaign is not the route to take, Reid said. “A lot of the production is done overseas for tax purposes. It’s about saving money,” he said. “The only thing we can do is get tax advantages in place.”
After an hour at Friday’s fund-raiser, Reid was off to Rogan Gregory’s Bond Street showroom to catch a performance of “One Day in the Life of Henri Shnuffle.” Written by his granddaughter Ryan, the “Sleep No More”-type piece encourages guests to immerse themselves in the life and apartment of a simple elderly man. The Sprat Theatre-produced work aims to debunk mistruths and stir up empathy about the elderly, who account for 12 percent of the U.S. population. (The Clinton Global Initiative provides some of Sprat’s funding.)
The show no doubt was a welcome break for Reid. Once he was en route there, Steve Lee, who cohosted Friday’s cocktail party, said the New York mingle had been a welcome change. Even his assistant said he had never seen the senator looking so relaxed. “You know in Washington, it’s policy, policy, policy. That’s all people want to talk about,” he said.