Change of plans. Tonight I'm not returning to headquarters to identify and resuscitate leftovers, brief initiates bedtime stories and thwart attempts of sleep enforcers Panda, Froggy or Fruity Blanket from going rogue under the cover of darkness.
No. Tonight I'm on a different mission: World Domination by Decadent Food and Criminal Wine at Washington, D.C.'s swanky Jefferson Hotel.
I received my assignment for the Come as Your Favorite James Bond Character Dinner digitally. The e-vite animated the five-course-tasting menu details like retro movie credits, accompanied by the 007 theme song and gunshots.
James Bond Day is October 5th, and this November, with the release of Skyfall, marks the 50th anniversary of one of the longest running, most lucrative film series in history. But that's not stopping the The Jefferson from celebrating early, on September 20th. According to sources, the idea is a collusion of General Manager Philip Wood and some regulars.
"Your guess is very close to the mark," confirms D.C. businessman Ron Correa. "Philip and I hatched this plot over lunch. There might have been a glass of wine involved, but the actual microfilm records are in a safe deposit box in Switzerland."
"One of our clients, an 85-year-old woman, had her heart set on coming as a Bond girl," explains Wood. "Unfortunately, she's on a very restricted diet."
In fact, the menu clearly states, "Each phase of this Mission (Menu) is carefully planned and each part is key to its success. Deviations will be severely dealt with."
If 50 Shades of Grey proves anything, it's that there are many secret identities lurking in women's fantasies, Bond Babe included.
Working under such deep cover would require a disguise, so I head to T.J.Maxx, where I score a pair of silver, glitter-covered six-inch stilettos (reduced from $99 to ten bucks) and a white, silky, jewel-encrusted halter neck gown from the clearance rack.
Check and check.
I'm prepared -- until I hear from Wood, who is coming as Ernst Stravo Blofeld (a.k.a. Dr. Evil), the day of the event.
"I've been in hair and makeup for over two hours," he says gleefully.
Grateful for the alert, I rush to Blue Mercury on my lunch hour for a make over complete with Laura Mercier false eyelashes. They're so long they move my eyeglasses every time I blink. But no one at the office seems to notice.
A few hours later, I reapply my new hot pink lipstick and gloss, slip on my goddess gown and mount my towering glitter stilettos.
"You only have to be comfortable once," I reassure myself.
In the hotel lobby, I'm accosted by the concierge-turned-From Russia With Love henchwoman Rosa Klebb in full military garb.
Without a smile, Klebb leads me to the elevator, presses the penthouse button and, pointing a finger in my face, warns in a thick Russian accent, "Don't touch anything."
The doors open and I'm greeted by a blonde sylph in head-to-toe Goldfinger spandex. She leads me to The Jefferson suite, home away from home to everyone from Oprah and Bono to Obama and Kim Kardashian.
Dr. Evil hands me a glass of pink champagne. Clearly, those hours in the hair and makeup chair were worth it. He looks like he's been dipped in Elmer's glue, bald, with a deep scar gashing his face. In true Evil style, he pets a white plush cat.
The opulent room was animated with a cast of characters, all sipping pink champagne. While the women were White House-gala worthy in their glamorous gowns, the preening and the posing made it clear come photo op time that this evening is like a serious version of Halloween for men.
Carrera comes as a bow-tied Ian Fleming, holding a cigarette holder in one hand and a rare, first edition copy of The Man With the Golden Gun in the other. There is a tuxedoed James Bond, his CIA buddy Felix Leiter and a throng of henchmen; Casino Royale's bloody-eyed Le Shiffre, Thunderball's eye-patched Emelio Largo and From Russia with Love's leather-gloved Donald "Red" Grant.
"Many of the men called ahead to make sure no one was taking their character," Dr. Evil whispers confidentially.
Perhaps most impressively, Dr. Kevin Williams, who came as Live and Let Die's double villain, Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big, shaved half of his head and beard. In profile he looks like two completely different people.
"I wonder if they'll notice at work tomorrow," says Williams, a psychologist.
After several rounds of bubbly, Klebb returns and we are led, two by two, to the darkened boardroom, where the table is laden with candles, rose petals, voodoo dolls and nameplates for each of our characters.
I'm seated between Dr. Evil and 007, a tall, handsome gentleman who's there with his wife "Jinx," a stunning vision in lavender.
The chef comes out to announce each carefully themed course: Tuna carpaccio for The Spy Who Loved Me, followed by Octopussy-inspired grilled octopus, Moonraker pave of Kobe Beef, and Live and Let Die wild boar chops. Each is paired with copious amounts of a rare wine.
As we dine, Strawberry Fields, Miss Moneypenny, Vesper Lynde and the rest of us share our affinity for the characters we chose to portray. While I'm no 007 expert, I do have the honor of being the only guest here as myself; Melina was the chick who saves Bond in For Your Eyes Only.
For the dessert, the room goes completely dark, movie music plays and a conga line of sparkler-bedecked Baked Alaska, commemorating Blofeld's Volcanic Lair (à la For Your Eyes Only), is set before us on silver platters.
With our mission of killing the evening with decadence accomplished, we gamely stagger to the lobby. It's clear we've all been affected by Dr. Evil's influence.
"It's actually very nice to have only one eye when you drink this much," comments Emelio Largo, flipping his plastic eye-patch up and down.
Predicting food coma, Wood hands each guest a gold bullet keychain disguising a thumb drive of photographs taken of the evening as we say our farewells.
"It was so nice to meet you," I say to my tablemate 007, with whom I've spent most of the evening talking about the tea room he's building in his backyard, his work and his grown children. "Goodbye."
Without missing a beat, Bond looks into my eyes and murmurs quietly in my ear, "Oh, this is not goodbye."
Whether or not he was "in character" I will never know.