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When Covering Party People, Is Three a Crowd?

By Richard Leiby
Tuesday, February 15, 2005; Page C03

With three out-of-town magazine publishers swooping into Washington, hoping to cover hot nightlife, sexy fashionistas and actual celebrities, we have to ask: Are they sure they have the right city?

"We understand that although it's red tie and blue tie during the day, Washingtonians unzip at night," DanaSpain-Smith, owner of the forthcoming Washington, D.C. Style, tells us. The slick bimonthly is modeled on her Philadelphia Style mag and will launch in May. "Right now there's not a publication in the market that caters to the fashionable set."

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Spain-Smith has taken an apartment in Washington and, after sampling the nightlife, declares: "Republicans can be fashionable, too. We don't care who you vote for as long as you have good shoes on when you do it."

Meanwhile, the Chicago-based Modern Luxury publications group launches DC magazine in September. "We'll have a beautiful magazine that will appeal to a sophisticated and affluent Washingtonian," says Modern Luxury group publisher John Carroll, a former ad salesman for Washingtonian magazine.

Hard-charging New Yorker Jason Binn, who also publishes a string of luxe city magazines, is busy signing up advertisers and editorial staff for his quarterly Capitol File, debuting in September, too. As for the boom in glitzy mags, Carroll says, "Everybody had the same idea at the same time, it looks like."

Perhaps the competitive coverage will juice up the town's inbred party scene, where many of the same charity boosters, politicos and diplomatic and media types mingle. For its part, Washington, D.C. Style plans to host parties at "the hottest clubs" for subscribers. Says Spain-Smith: "What about the rest of us who want to be hip and fashionable and aren't millionaires? We're going to address everyday people who are right now outside looking in. . . . We will make locals into celebrities." (Well, somebody has to.)

From Little Washington to The White House? Er, No

• The White House has put famed chef Patrick O'Connell, co-owner of the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., on its list of possible replacements for the ousted Walter Scheib. The new White House social secretary, Lea Berman, called O'Connell yesterday to gauge his interest in the job.

O'Connell told The Post's Walter Nicholls that he's not interested in a full-time White House job, but would consider a "visiting chef" position to showcase American cuisine at high-profile events such as state dinners. O'Connell also offered to help with the search.

By his account, the White House has nine or 10 other names in mind, but he wouldn't disclose them.

"The selection process is still in the initial stages and is not something we want to talk about at this time," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for Laura Bush. The first lady visited the inn while her husband was governor of Texas, and she is said to be a fan of his new book, "Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine."

Michael Berman, Showing 60 Ladies a Good Time

Michael Berman: "I like women." (Matthew Staver - Bloomberg News)
• Democratic lobbyist Michael Berman knows how to treat the ladies. He invited about 60 notable women to enjoy a delectable free lunch yesterday at the Four Seasons in Georgetown. It's long been a Valentine's Day tradition for Berman, 65, a former aide to VP Walter Mondale, with the crowd growing larger each year.

"I like women," Berman told us. "I have a lot of women friends. I've been very fortunate in that regard." He quickly added that, Carol, his wife of 40 years, also attends.

Technically it's all off the record, but the bipartisan power lunch usually includes political figures and journalists. We're told that some big names from the Clinton era attended yesterday: former EPA administrator Carol Browner and Dem fundraiser Beth Dozoretz. The main course was rockfish. For table favors there were dried-flower bouquets and chocolates. How sweet.

Mark Warner's Full-Court Press for GWU Tickets

• You'd think he'd rate tickets: Mark Warner is a George Washington University alum, a former member of the school's board, a big donor (in the seven-figure range) and the governor of Virginia. But he has to rely on Mark Plotkin for a good seat to the men's basketball game against Fordham?

Yes, it's true. Political commentator Plotkin, a GW graduate as well, has second-row seats to tomorrow night's game. So he graciously invited Warner. "He's been complaining bitterly for years," Plotkin tells us. The governor's office said Warner currently doesn't have season tickets, and when he did, they still weren't as good as Plotkin's.

With Anne Schroeder

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