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Will the Chatterbox Survive on 'Survivor'?

By Richard Leiby
Thursday, December 2, 2004; Page C03

"Every week, like the Road Runner, she escapes the Coyote," says Washington's Susan Orlins, referring to her daughter, Eliza, a Sidwell Friends graduate who will continue her scrabble for that $1 million booty on tonight's episode of CBS's "Survivor: Vanuatu." Apparently Eliza Orlins, 21, has a bit of a reputation among fellow contestants. "They don't much like her," mom told us yesterday. "They said Eliza talks too much. Funny, I think talking too much is good. I talk too much."

Except when a confidentiality agreement required Susan Orlins, a 58-year-old writer, to keep mum about her surprise visit in July to see her daughter on Vanuatu, a South Pacific island near Fiji. (The episode was televised Thanksgiving Day.) "I'm a very bad liar," claims Orlins, who had to keep friends and family in the dark: "I said I was going to Asia."


"Survivor: Vanuatu" contestant Eliza Orlins shares the gift of gab with her mom, Susan, during her mother's surprise overnight visit. (Bill Inoshita - CBS)

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The younger Orlins beat out six other contestants for what they thought would be a videoconference link to a family member but turned out to be an overnight visit. By that time, the contestants had suffered nearly a month-long shortage of food, clothing, toiletries and maternal affection. "As soon as they got near me they were touching me and smelling me," Orlins recalls. "It was really weird." Happily, mother and daughter got some quality time, albeit on camera.

"I would have tried to stuff some Snickers in my bra," says Orlins, ever the dutiful mom, but with Eliza planning to attend law school after her May graduation from Syracuse University, why endanger her shot at that cool million?

Beanie Babies to the Rescue

• Iraq: the afterlife for Beanie Babies?

Yes, 27,000 of the plush toys, maniacally collected by kids and adults in the 1990s, are destined to become gifts for Iraqi children. Washington law firm Greenberg Traurig -- which launched "Operation Grateful," a care-package effort for the troops in July -- is bringing 14-year-old Alison Goulder of Scottsdale, Ariz., and her family to town today to mark her accomplishment of collecting all those Beanies for charity. Though the toys lost their cute quotient stateside, it turns out they're among the most requested items from soldiers working to win over young hearts in the war zone.

SQUIBS

• The bachelor defense: Attorneys for chat show host Bill Maher say he never promised to marry and support sexy ex-girlfriend Nancy "Coco" Johnsen, and they are asking a California court to throw out her $9 million lawsuit against him for alleged fraud and assault. In a court filing this week, they describe Maher as "a confirmed bachelor, and a very public one at that," and deny her allegations. Careful readers of this column may recall that Maher, upon introducing us to the voluptuous Ms. Johnsen at an after-Oscars party in Los Angeles, described her as "my other girlfriend." (Which, we will testify on information and belief, sounded like a bachelor's remark.)


Sen. Jack Reed and Julia Hart, his right person at the right time. (Bob Thayer)
• Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, 55, is finally giving up bachelorhood, having made up his mind about the woman he wants to marry: Julia Hart, 39, who works in the Republican-controlled Senate's interparliamentary services office. They were engaged last week after dating since August 2003. "I've spent 55 years trying to figure things out, and I guess I've figured out that you can't really know what attracts you to somebody," the Rhode Island senator told the Providence Journal. "She is the right person at the right time." Asked her political affiliation, Hart relied on an answer supplied by Reed's press secretary: "Catholic."

• And in other heartfelt news from the Senate, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is penning a novel about "romantic entanglements" and "political infighting," Chronicle Books announced. No title yet, but the plot goes like this: The protagonist, named Ellen, takes over her husband's Senate campaign after he's killed. Ellen wins. But: "On the eve of a crucial Senate vote, her personal and political worlds collide when her right-wing adversaries recruit her former lover to sabotage her credibility and career," the publisher writes (breathlessly). Boxer assured us, in a statement yesterday, that the novel is "completely fictional, but the characters, setting and battles all reflect my experiences in politics." She'll be collaborating with novelist Mary-Rose Hayes.

• Pity poor Ken Jennings, the "Jeopardy" virtuoso whose 74-game winning streak was shattered on Tuesday's episode. Or don't. (He won over $2.5 million, after all.) Perhaps it's some consolation that Random House has signed the Babe Ruth of trivia to pen a book about his experience. But writing is underpaid, backbreaking labor by comparison. We hear that Jennings's book advance is only in the five figures -- and on the show he was making about $60,000 an hour.

Annals of Puffery

An Occasional Verbatim Press Release

• "On Nov. 21, Vice President Dick Cheney (along with approximately six Secret Service agents) visited the Johnston & Murphy retail store at Tyson's Corner Shopping Center in McLean. Cheney has been a longtime Johnston & Murphy customer, but recently found it necessary to make a personal visit to the store because his shoe size changed to a size 10EEE. Cheney selected the Lasalle wingtip loafer in brushed mahogany. He also bought a pair of shoe trees to keep his 10EEEs in top shape. Bob Ciuffoletti, store manager, has helped Cheney with his footwear needs in the past. . . . 'It was such a pleasure to see him again and help him select a pair of shoes that fit,' said Ciuffoletti."

With Bob Massey


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