After a 25-year career as a distinguished editor, feature writer, investigative reporter and war correspondent, Richard Leiby has never, ever won the Pulitzer Prize. Now he's found his life's calling as a gossip columnist. He'll take your tips, chew the fat, discuss the dish and babble in cliche-ridden prose right here once a week.
This Week's Columns:
Throwing His Chair in the Ring?l (Post, April 7)
A Lewis Black Flashback (Post, April 6)
Queen Latifah's Take on Condi: It's Enough to Make Her Hair Curl (Post, April 5)
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Richard Leiby: Awake. Yawn. Stretch. Feel dyspeptic. Peel off tuxedo. Gobble Advil. And thank the Lord Above that my tedious Washington partying days are coming to an end ...
Such was my regimen this morning. Yeah, I know it's noon, but I had a late night. A couple Cape Codders (vodka and cranberry) at the gloriously underwhelming 61st Annual Radio & Television Correspondents dinner last night, where hundreds of glamorous Media People and sexy Political Types listened to Vice President Cheney (subbing for G.W. Bush) tell about three of his standard, safe jokes, then launch incongruously into a lenghty paen to the late Pope.
Then again, as the VP said at the top, "I don't do funny."
And I'm warning you, I don't feel funny either. I feel like keynoter Lewis Black ("The Daily Show") who gave an understated performance last night to suit the penguin-suited pols. He did not, sadly, self-combust -- and Lewis is best when he rants himself into flame.
You know it's a going to be one of those evenings when you're seated at a table with the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, the former acting director of the CIA, and the general who heads the National Security Agency. I suppose it was a good rehearsal for my next incarnation, covering Important Policy Developments.
Yawn. Belch. Good night.
Quid, when you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Richard Leiby: Acting director of the CIA.
I bought glasses like yours. Will they make me hot?
Richard Leiby: Absolutely NOT. During a Fox News after-party last night, I approached a table-full of young PR types who represent the Saudi regime. They were handing out Mardi Gras beads, attempting to make a Fox News gathering festive.
Immediately I saw one of the glamous gals whispering, "He looks like Woody Allen ..."
So be warned: These frames make you look like a withered, aging, formerly brilliant film director. On the other hand, Woody DID end up married to his young, adopted step-daughter.
I have to ask: Is that the vibe you're going for, Mr. Anywhere USA?
Richard Leiby: Oh, and I also want to solicit your Prom Memories today. Why? Because last night Lewis Black, who grew up in Silver Spring, Md., noted that his 1966 senior prom was held in the very same ballroom of the Washington Hilton. That's a thin reed to grasp, but I gotta gin up some copy here, people.
No "shocker" responses, please.
What the ???:
Could you or one of the chatters clue me in on how Snoop Dogg has become such a mainstream figure? Is it his rap filled with obscenity, misogyny and homicidal thoughts toward the police? Is it his ever-present blunt? Is it his "girls gone wild' stuff? Is it that whole "for-shizzle the izzle" crap?
I mean, how long before we see him on Regis and Kelly hawking his "doggie-style" line of housewares? (or have I already missed that?)
Richard Leiby: Great idea! How about Doggie Style pet-food bowls too?
By the way, thanks to all the readers who clued me to the "shocking" message that Snoop was sending with his hand gesture in the photo we ran of him Wednesday.
I assure that nobody here had a CLUE what his finger positions meant. And I assure you we won't elaborate further here. Just use your imaginations. And Google "shocker."
Any amusing andecdotes from the correspondents dinner? Did Cheney really attempt to make a joke comparing his alleged cardiac distress to laughter?
Richard Leiby: Yes, me made that joke, but I understand that he's used it before. Chest pain references always get a laugh when they come from from Dick Cheney. I hear's actually a funny guy and he was cracking up repeatedly during Lewis Black's stand-up routine.
A Democratic staffer I talked to after the dinner said it would have better for Cheney to have taken the stage, announce he was subbing for his boss, and then read a list of one-liners. But that would NEVER happen.
As for other amusing anecdotes, perhaps you want me to recount my conversation with Geraldo Rivera? He held me in rapt attention with his effusive support of Michael Jackson.
In your h.s. graduating class, were you voted "most likely to succeed," "class clown", or "best school spirit"?
Richard Leiby: I was voted "Most likely to one day look like Woody Allen."
I'm shocked, shocked, that jurors were heard joking at the Jackson trial. What could they possibly find funny in a trial about a bizarre, surgically addicted freak of nature who lives in a place called Neverland and keeps porno magazines about older women, calls wine "Jesus juice," etc., etc.?
Richard Leiby: Here's something even funnier. Geraldo on the M.J. case last night: "Where's the EVIDENCE!"
He's repeatedly said Michael will get off. (And I don't mean it THAT WAY.)
Quiddy: I read in the N.Y. Post today (so it must be true) that Jenna Bush is planning to teach school next fall. Last year I read that she planned to teach school in January. Nearly two years out of college and neither twin has a job -- wrong majors perhaps? Or did they go to inferior universities? Perhaps they should consider military careers.
Richard Leiby: I basically have no idea what the twins are doing career-wise anymore. We report periodically on their alleged plans, but the White House is typically opaque. Nothing is confirmed outright because of Security Concerns.
But they didn't go to bad colleges: Jenna went to University to Texas, a GREAT party school, and Barbara went to Yale, which is known for at least one successful C student.
Saw Fred Thompson at Chez Fancois L'Auberge last night dining with a pretty young thing. (Made the evening for my wife who is a big Law and Order fan). Does he still live in the area? Does he still have a bevy of beauties?
Richard Leiby: No scandal there, sorry. I'm guessing you saw "Hollywood" Fred, a former Senator, with his relatively recent and 24 years younger wife, Jeri. As my predecessor Mr. Grove reported a couple of years ago:
"Fred Thompson and Jeri Kehn met six years ago on the Fourth of July in Nashville. Since then, the Republican senator and the GOP media operative have been romantic, rocky, stormy, passionate, hot and cold, but never lukewarm. "Hollywood Fred" -- as the divorced Thompson was nicknamed because of his successful movie career -- has been linked to a variety of women, including country singer Lorrie Morgan, pundit-pollster Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, Time magazine writer Margaret Carlson, Nathans restaurant owner Carol Joynt and Washington PR executive Sydney Ferguson.
"Now we're pleased to report that Kehn -- whom we've occasionally imagined strapped to a fighting chair on a metaphoric fishing boat, gripping her metaphoric rod and reel -- landed the big one Saturday. The 35-year-old Kehn and the 59-year-old Thompson were married at the First Congregational Church of Christ in the bride's home town of Naperville, Ill. Yesterday the newlyweds were bound for a week-long honeymoon on the French Riviera."
Ain't love grand? Don't you miss Lloyd Grove? I do! That man could really dish.
I don't have any. Is that good?
Richard Leiby: Yes.
Tenleytown, Washington, D.C.:
Dear Leibensraum: Were there any funny lines at the dinner last night? (by the speakers, that is.) Any A list celebs? Or even B- list celebs? Any prominent heaving bosoms? At least I hope the beef with horseradish crust was cooked a decent med rare.
Richard Leiby: I'm too tired to type up all of Lewis' jokes, but he said things like "I was born near Washington, which is why I immediately wanted to leave here." And, on the Schiavo case:
"Two sets of doctors. One said she's dead, one said she's alive. If that's where modern medicine is today, we are screwed."
As for celebs: There weren't any. Just famous-for-D.C. types like Alan Greenspan, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, Howard Dean, George Stephanopoulos, Andrea Koppel, Bob Schieffer, etc. See today's story in Style and you'll get the drift.
Enquiring minds want to know:
Have you received your "As Seen on Page Six" T-shirt yet?
If so, will you wear it with pride or timidly hide it behind a hideous 70's Rubik's Cube extra wide necktie?
Richard Leiby: YES, and thanks very much for that apt send-off gift. I was mentioned in Page 6, and it's a clip I'll cherish forever. Luckily the shirt is an X-tra large, so I can wear it over my vomitous ties, thus protecting the Common Weal.
Can you comment on Ana Marie Cox as your successor? And where are you going?
Richard Leiby: No truth to that rumor. If she gets this job I'll eat my Page 6 T-shirt -- and Geraldo's moustache after he shaves it off (he said he would if M.J.'s convicted).
Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.:
Assuming your successor will continue these chats, will you do your best to make sure he or she continues to give us the punk and new wave allusions that we've come to know and love?
Richard Leiby: Yes. There's just no substitute for making references to the Cockney Rejects's "So What" when you're trying to fill an hour-long chat that has very little to do with Actual Gossip.
Am I right?
washingtonpost.com: Laughs Are Muted at Radio-TV Fete (The Post, Apr. 7)
Richard Leiby: Here's Mark Leibovich's breathtaking Radio-TV dinner report, filed right after he shot me the "shocker" sign.
White Trash, Sou, TH:
Why are you leaving all your simple-minded folk for your big time ideals? We LOVE gossip!
Richard Leiby: I'm not leaving The Post, so it's possible I'll write compelling, lengthy features at some point about Paul Wolfowitz's girlfriend, or something.
I just feel it's time to turn the column over to someone who delights in exposing the Shocking Personal Secrets in our Infinitely Dull Nation's Capital.
When you go to a party and the glitterati consist of the "just famous-for-D.C. types like Alan Greenspan, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, Howard Dean, George Stephanopoulos, Andrea Koppel, Bob Schieffer," not only do I cease to wonder why you want out of the gig, but I am frankly shocked, shocked, I tell you, that you haven't already blown your brains out.
Glad to see you're gettin' while the gettin's good.
Richard Leiby: Noted. And what makes you think I already haven't self-combusted on several occasions? I'm just among the Walking Wounded (see also, Everything But the Girl, circa late-90s.)
It looks like Snoop is doing the "shocker" in that picture, sure. But I would imagine it's probably more prosaic: "West Side." People have died over such hand gestures.
Just a thought.
Richard Leiby: Ver-shizzle.
Nah, we don't miss Lloyd. He was always talking about "trendy Adams-Morgan" and at least you have extended the column's geographic reach to Rockville.
Richard Leiby: Thanks. But my eternal regret will be that I never extended my coverage to East Jesus, Iowa.
And now for something completely different:
In all seriousness, or as close as we ever get here, has it occurred to you to do something altoghether completely different from what you have been doing up until this point in your life?
Have you made that list of things "you must do before..." well, whenever. What's on it? Why not do some of them!
Suggested guideline: You are henceforth not permitted to live within 1000 miles of Washington, DC.
Richard Leiby: Things I must do before I die:
Get to Darfur.
Interview Michael Jackson in prison.
Fill in the Koi pond -- you just can't keep those clean no matter how many filters you buy.
Perform at the Arena Stage on April 11.
Maybe this is why the Correspondents soiree was short on sizzle--
Politics is just show business for ugly people.
Richard Leiby: Has that expression FINALLY reached East Jesus?
15th and L, Washington, D.C.:
Maybe a better description of neckwear can be lifted from Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" in which he called truly hideous ties "pizza grenades", because the tie looked like the result of an explosion coming from a fine pizza pie.
Richard Leiby: Thank you for that fine literary insult. Clearly you work inside The Post building and have seen many of my neckties.
I think you can answer this one without bruising any egos:
Who are some of your instinctively favorite D.C. people that you've met in this job during the past year?
Richard Leiby: Anne Schroeder. George Stephanopoulouss, even though I can't spell his name! George and Trish Vradenburg, who do philanthropy. Christian Josi, who sings swing standards when not doing PR for Republican causes. Chris Hitchens. The ambassadors of Kuwait and Jordan, and their wives.
And you won't believe this: Nino Scalia!
Actually, there are many, many I'm forgetting because of all the wine and Cape Codders and hangovers of the past year. But they'll come to me next week....
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.:
Prom memories? Picture it: 1975, Immaculata Preparatory School Junior-Senior prom, 220 girls who had to ASK their dates. Ballroom of the Sheraton Park (now Woodley Marriott hotel). Ticket price: $10 per couple. Soft drinks in the bottle, baskets of potato chips. Over by 11:30 p.m.
Richard Leiby: That's really sad. So nobody got the shocker, I guess?
Did Geraldo happen to say last night whether he would let his own lovely children spend quality sleepover time at Neverland? I recall he started to say yes, and then seemed to backpedal furiously on the Today show when someone (Matt Lauer?) asked whether he'd send his kids over there.
Richard Leiby: Actually, he got that very same question from a former prosecutor named Wendy Murphy who was sitting next Geraldo at the Fox News after-party, essentially: "How can you defend him! You've got five children!"
He didn't really answer it.
But I think for Geraldo, it's all about the "get." He got that exclusive with Michael, remember?
I was interested to see some movement in the White house leak story today. Any buzz on the senior administration officials involved? It seems that the two reporters might have some reason to talk now, any chance of this?
Richard Leiby: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32380-2005Apr6.html
The criminal case, I predict, won't go anywhere. That's the buzz around town, too.
Arena Stage, April 11th:
That executioner/bondage elephant on the poster is way too close to home.
washingtonpost.com: Capital Crusaders
Richard Leiby: Isn't that all the more reason to attend this exciting benefit performance?
The mention of Snoop reminded me of the Shizzolator site on the web that will translate any web page or surfing session, even this chat, into Snoop talk.
washingtonpost.com: The Shizzolator
Richard Leiby: Quick, what's the shizz term for Shiite?
Re: Walking Wounded. I'm thinking of the song on that album... "Disenchanted". Yeah, that's very apropos. At least now you can enjoy cape codders for the sheer enjoyment of them, rather than for dulling the pain of blah-blahing on the DC social circuit. Good luck, Quid!
Richard Leiby: Hey, at least somebody got Walking Wounded! You people NEVER disappoint me. And I will need all the Luck in the World as I go forward Thru the Fog.
Thanks for bearing with me today, and don't forget to watch the Pope's funeral. It'll be just as exciting as the Radio TV Correspondents Dinner!