About 350 Virginia political insiders crammed into a hotel ballroom in downtown Richmond on Tuesday.
It was a roast for bow tie-wearing, professorial Richmond Times Dispatch columnist Jeff Schapiro, a longtime figure in the Virginia Capitol press corps whom politicians of both parties love to hate.
“This is something I’ve been fantasizing about for some time,’’ House Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford) said. (We know how you feel, Mr. Speaker).
Howell, former governors George Allen (R) and Tim Kaine (D), now likely rivals for the U.S. Senate, and Gerald Baliles (D), as well as Associated Press reporter Bob Lewis, roasted Schapiro. (Baliles tells us the goal is to “singe, not burn.”)
The topics (which will not be a surprise for those who know Schapiro) were his liberal slant, his wardrobe, his vocabulary and, of course, his arrogance.
Baliles recalled that when he was governor, he would ask his security detail whether they had seen Schapiro lurking around, as he tends to do even to this day. (Apparently that was common among governors.)
“A week without a Jeff sighting is a good week,’’ he quipped.
Howell was the most biting — as he tends to be — calling Schapiro “a snarky ankle-biter hamster.’’ Ouch.
“What Jeff lacks in genuine talent, he makes up for in self-esteem,’’ Howell added.
Kaine poked fun of everyone in the room — including Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), likely gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe (D) a nd Howell — and even those not in the room, such as Del. Bob Marshall (R), who prompted the legislature to vote down a gay judge this month.
Kaine dubbed the 2012 legislative session “The Virginia Monologues,’’ and said that he would have hugged Schapiro but it would probably make Marshall uncomfortable.
A few other zingers:
“Seeing Jeff Schapiro silenced and shut up. Priceless,’’ Lewis said.
Allen, who joked that Schapiro’s son, Felix, was named after him (Felix is his middle name), and said: “You’re one of a kind. Thank goodness.”
Even former governors Doug Wilder and Mark Warner, now a U.S. senator, did not escape ridicule, though neither was in attendance.
Schapiro had the last word. But much of what he said is not fitting for a family newspaper. “I really am the leper with the most fingers,’’ he said,
This post has been updated since it was first published.