It was all about love. Love of each other, love and respect of human rights, love of diversity and the deep love between Chef Art Smith and his long time partner, artist Jesus Salgueiro. The wedding weekend took place in Washington, D.C. and there was something historic and exciting planned for every minute. Saturday began with a walk/run/stroll to the Lincoln Memorial. Art and Jesus had provided Nike running shoes and shorts for each and every one of almost 400 guests who had come from all over the globe to attend this much beloved couple’s wedding and celebration. There were friends from Sweden, Malaysia, Costa Rica and from almost every state in the country. It was a hot day Saturday but that didn’t stop anyone from taking part in the Blessing Ceremony on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Famed inspirational speaker, Marianne Williamson, joined Art and Jesus’ hands together and delivered a powerful speech to the crowd assembled. She touched on the human rights issue and invoked the names of Lincoln and Washington and the fact that the Constitution provided equal rights for all and not just for some. These two monuments were like bookends for the ceremony and provided a powerful exclamation point to the proceedings. Art’s dear mother, Addie Mae Smith, looked on adoringly while Jesus’ large family was in the crowd watching. The fact that the blessing was delivered on the same spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech was not lost on the crowd. Art also thanked the lady who arranged to have this ceremony performed on this historic spot as well as his trainer, Az Ferguson, who saved his life with his incredible wellness program. (Art has lost 95 pounds to date and looks like a GQ model!)
After the moving ceremony, Dori Wilson and I strolled over to the Vietnam Memorial. I had never been to Washington, D.C. before and had taken a delightful double-decker bus tour of the monuments that included the White House and Georgetown the day before but nothing had prepared me for the emotion we both felt at this sacred spot. Over 58,000 men and women died in this senseless war. As soon as you touch the wall with the names engraved there, tears flow. There is a 9-foot-tall bronze statue of three soldiers at the entrance and their haunted eyes are looking directly at the wall with the names of their fallen comrades. It was a very emotional moment and I was glad to have experienced it.
The next day, the wedding ceremony and reception began at 12:30 in Art’s famous Art & Soul restaurant which is located in the Affinia Liason Capitol Hill Hotel. The restaurant is the talk of the town and there are wonderful reviews in any magazine you pick up. Security was very tight and everyone had to be checked in on clipboards. The ceremony was also presided over by Marianne Williamson and was so very touching. (See their vows below). They both wore identical military style jackets with dark slacks and white tennis shoes decorated with the wedding date and hearts. After the touching ceremony, guests mixed and mingled and dined on delicious BBQ brisket, ribs, pulled pork, peach BBQ baked beans, lamb burgers, mac and cheese, homemade guacamole, heirloom tomato salad, buttermilk fried chicken, homemade potato chips, three different types of cole slaw and so much more. The food, as you can imagine, was sensational. I had spoke with one of the ribmasters the night before, Myron Mixon, and he said he was preparing 400 pounds of BBQ and it had been slow cooking for two days! The smell alone caused weight gain! I saw Fox News’ Chris Wallace with a plate piled high with fried chicken on my way for a second helping. The most noticeable aspect of this entire day was the amazing love and respect that everyone showed to each other. It was a direct result of the type of people Art and Jesus are so I wasn’t a bit surprised to be in the company of such incredible friends and felt very honored to have been included. For an after brunch surprise, Art and Jesus had arranged to have the popular group, Straight, No Chaser, perform. This is a 10-man group who can sing and dance like you couldn’t believe. They did Motown, gospel and pop to a crowd filled with camera phones. It was a surreal moment; former ABC newsman, Dan Ponce, helped get the group together. They had all attended Indiana University and had sang and harmonized for fun until a YouTube video of them started a sensation. After the brunch, I went back to my room to await the next event—a pool party which started on the roof at 6 p.m. My friends and travel partners, Ken Norgan and Pepe Conforme, met me in the lobby before the party and up we went. The pool was huge with beautiful floral arrangements everywhere you looked. Bars were everywhere and DJ Eric Jones was already playing the hottest mixes when we arrived. And, as you would expect, the food here was spectacular as well. They had even brought pizza ovens to the pool deck and chefs were busy making three types of pizzas from scratch right before your eyes. There were also amazing vegetable frittatas with three different kinds of dipping sauce, lamb burgers and vegetarian hotdogs were sizzling on the grills and the cupcakes!! OMG! Georgetown Bakery had created gorgeous cupcakes and the arrangement was so beautiful I didn’t know how anyone was going to take one! The guests came in all manner of dress—gorgeous patio dresses, colorful summer frocks, cocktail attire, shorts, swimming suits…everything and anything! Art and Jesus had on beautiful white Indian tunics over their little bathing suits and looked so very happy and THIN! When Art shed his tunic and did an Olympic dive into the pool, the photogs went wild! One photog from the NY Times told me this party was THE place to be in town and I could see why! After Art was in the water for a while, a buzz began again and there appeared Jesus. The DJ was playing a very hot song and Jesus was dancing for Art at the edge of the pool. It was so darling to see them looking into each other’s eyes and knowing their forever love had been officially and lawfully sealed on this special day. And then slowly Jesus shed his white tunic teasing Art for a minute and showing just his beautiful blue eyes. And then, voila, the tunic came off to reveal a tiny leopard bathing suit! Again, a roar went up from the crowd as the photog’s flashes went off. After spending some quality pool time, Art and Jesus walked over to the DJ and announced that world-famous Moby was in the house! ANOTHER roar went up from the happy guests as everyone crowded around the two newlyweds and then the dancing began in earnest! I must say I’ve heard plenty of DJs in my time but Moby really blew the doors off with his danceable, pounding mixes. It was MUCHO CALIENTE on the roof my friends! All through the evening, everyone was using their cameras, cell phones and recorders to make sure they captured this incredibly memorable and joyous occasion and I was happily one of them. After the pool party, guests wound up in Art & Soul’s bar on the main floor. I had left by then, my dancing feet had danced their last. The next morning, Jesus was in the lobby saying goodbye and he said that he and Art were the very last ones to leave. I wasn’t surprised since they had made every guest feel like they were the only ones at the party all day long. That’s the kind of people they are; here’s to a lifetime of love, health and happiness to two of the nicest people I know. They will be honeymooning in Cabo. And now, please read their incredible vows and feel as moved as everyone in the room did on that Saturday afternoon:
Jesus (who read this with such emotion his voice cracked) - Art, as here now the world is my witness, I say to you: Your love sustains me and makes me strong. You inspire me. I am an artist, but you are the Art—my Art. And it is with utmost pride that I say that you are my Art. Without you, the canvas of my life would be empty and bare. There would be no colors, no brush strokes, no desire to paint. So, Art, Art of my Heart, I ask you to be my inspiration, from now into forever, to be the colors, the brush strokes, the paintings that I make. And may God allow me to replicate, in no small measures, the gleam in your eye and the tenderness in your heart, and may the entire Universe recognize in me and in my work the life force that you are that so fuels my passion. I love you, Art, with an Infinite Love.
(After Jesus said these vows so lovingly to Art, Marianne Williamson said to him, “Gosh Jesus, I wish you were straight!” which broke the crowd up!)
Art - Jesus, as here now the world is my witness, I say to you: Your love for me has been transforming. Because of the gift that you are, because of the vision that you hold, it is as if I have been given new eyes. You have made my life a kaleidoscope of colors. While I may set the table, be it known that you are the banquet and the feast, the incomparable spice in my life, the salt of the earth. So, Jesus, heart of my heart and soul of my soul, I ask you to share with me my life, in every respect, to the very end of time. While indeed I may set the table before you, be there no doubt that it is I who eat from the palm of your loving hand. Yes, you are an artist, but you are also a great teacher, and above all I have learned humility from you. Jesus, I love you. I love you with these new eyes, with this new heart, with a never ending longing in my soul.
May everyone in the world experience this kind of love. For a complete photo album of this magical day, please visit www.chicagonow.com/blogs/candid-candace.
(Art and Jesus requested no gifts but rather a donation to their charity, Common Threads. This charity, as you know, is an after school program that teaches low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals. CT believes that through their hands-on cooking classes they can help prevent childhood obesity and reverse the trend of generations of non-cookers while celebrating cultural differences and the things people all over the world have in common. If you would like to send a wedding donation in honor of Art and Jesus, please click here or call 312-329-2501.)