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The Reliable Source

Washington's Social and Political Scene

Richard Leiby
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2005; 12:00 PM

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:

Tony Bennett's Motto: Make Art, Not Politics (Post, March 13)

Hasta la Vista, Pirates (Post, March 15)

The Clinch That Had Jaws Dropping (Post, March 16)

Social (Bzzzt!) Ow! (Bzzt!) Security! (Post, March 17)

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: A tip o' the shamrock to all. (Obscure punk-rock mention: Are we talking about Sham 69?). We're celebrating St. Paddy's at Radio Quidnunc today with special costuming. I'm wearing a lime green leisure suit from my high school prom days and Anne is clad in a tight white top that brings to mind the old expression "Erin go bra-less!"

Wait: Did I REALLY say that? Seems she's ringing the sexual harassment specialists in the Human Relations Dept. right now. (Okay, I hearby retract: I'm the one who's braless!!)

Now, before I'm hauled away from my desk, I just want to state for the record that I'm an ethnic mutt of Eastern European Trans-Carpathian/Hungarian/Ukrainian extraction and shouldn't, by rights, go anywhere near green beer today.

But you can bet I WILL. Now let's kiss the blarney stone, my peeps.


Arlington, Va.: Do you have any idea why Danny from Queer Eye for the Straight Girl was in town last week? I saw him in line at the airport and unfortunately, his nose looked even bigger in person and he had very small feet.

Richard Leiby: Thanks for that perspicacious minor celeb sighting. Sorry, I don't know why Danny Boy was hanging around.

But what exactly do you have against big noses and small feet? Both descriptions apply to Your Mighty Quidnunc, and I'm very sensitive about it, so I ask you all to please don't bring it up again. This chat is getting WAY to personal. (Not to mention "surreal," as a DC blogger described it last week.)


The Seat of Government: Sir: Last week, you revealed to us an episode from your past: (It involved micturition in the general direction of the St. Pete Time's building.)

Did you by any chance begin using the word "micturition" after reading Richard Hooker's "MASH"? Many of us in our forties did.

And where do you come down on the relative merits of The Replacements vs. Husker Du?

Richard Leiby: Last question first: Tough call, but I'd have to choose the 'Mats. I have far more Replacements and Paul Westerberg in my collection than Husker Du, but I'm a big fan of both. Favorite Husker songs: "Books About UFOs" and their cover of "Eight Miles High." (And of course you certainly know that ex-frontman Bob Mould now lives in D.C. and spins at the 9:30 club.)

As for micturition, I can't cop to a M*A*S*H influence on that. I just have an expansive and belittling vocab, because I used to sit and read the dictionary while eating Sugar Frosted Flakes at the breakfast table when I was a wee laddie.

This diligence paved the way for my career as a Bitter Old Hack. (Eating too much Frosted Flakes and Sugar Pops, I mean.)


Richard Leiby: Correction: Mediabistro's DCfishbowl dude referred to my chats as "absurd." See below:

"Leiby's chats are always good for a laugh or two, and their level of absurdity at times is almost stunning. Yesterday's chat in a few places gave clues that the Reliable Source may be getting a spring case of the Wanderlust. Leiby has a pretty distinguished foreign and investigative reporting background behind him (including Iraq and terrorism stints), and he hinted yesterday he might be longing for Ellen Knickmeyer's bureau: [SNIP}


Frederick, Md.: Great Mighty One, with questionable buns of steel, Martha's ankle monitor chafes her. AWWWWWWW! Maybe by the time she's done with it, it can be recycled over to Michael Jackson. And when he's done with it, it can be passed along from one steroid using baseball player to another!

Richard Leiby: I could always contribute my old ankle bracelet too. Anything to help the cause of Justice.

Speaking of M.J.: Who, like me, thinks he'll get off (umm, wait: make that "Who thinks he'll be acquitted?").


Iowa: Billy Bob Thornton -- or maybe Michael Douglas -- to play Ken Lay in Enron, the Movie. (Gordon Gecko Does Dallas?) Or Harvey Korman could be coaxed into reprising his role as Hedley Lamarr from Blazing Saddles.

Richard Leiby: I'll pass those suggestions along to Steven Soderbergh. Incidentally, he seems to really into making substantive social and political pictures. Imagine that!


Washington, D.C.: Are the Bush twins in town? I was at Pentagon City last week and there was a Secret Service agent watching one of the stores. Glad to see they spend their money at J.Crew!

Richard Leiby: The Bush Twins are always in town. They live here -- specifically in Georgetown. You want for me to set you up?


washingtonpost.com: Bored White House Reporters (fishbowl DC)


Monterey, Calif.: I would imagine that you have a truly vast music collection. My deep and probing musical query which only you can answer: Are you going to put it on an iPod? If so, what is your plan to make it manageable?

I just about finished my beautiful VHS film library a year after DVD's came out, and I'd like to do a little better with my music this time. Plus ... it seems worth it.

And yes, I know you're not the tech guy or the music guy -- but you've just made yourself indispensible around here.

Richard Leiby: Thanks, but you're wrong about one thing. I'm pretty disposable, not indispensible. I expect to be fired any day now, but for some reason my editors NEVER read these chats (which provide prima facie evidence of my Mental Illness).

Anyway: I'm not an iPod devotee. I don't like to see smug people walking around with those weird little earbuds and white wires. Pod-People! I'm sticking with CDs and hoping to find a way to transfer all my old mix tapes and vinyl to CD.

I've never successfully downloaded an MP3 in my life. And I don't have a Blackberry. Frankly, I'd like to disconnect all my phone lines.


O'Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Quid --

You wrote: "I just want to state for the record that I'm an ethnic mutt of Eastern European Trans-Carpathian/Hungarian/Ukrainian extraction and shouldn't, by rights, go anywhere near green beer today."

By rights, NOBODY should go near green beer today or any other day of the year. Have a Guinness like a real Irishman.

Richard Leiby: A Guiness poured exactly right, with a "Bishop's Collar."

Join me later? Say, 1 p.m.?


Necropolis, Md.: Since it's St. Patrick's Day, how about a shout out to the Pogues? Lift a green beer to the dental hygiene-challenged!

Richard Leiby: I'm with you. And I'm even ready to praise Sinead. All is forgiven on St. Paddy's.


Dingle Peninsula, Ireland: Quid-Daddy, eariler this week I noted that the Style section used to be "for and about women," back in the day. What is this chat for and about?

Richard Leiby: I do this chat "for an about" Me.


Alexandria, Va.: Not being Irish or a regular observer of St. Paddy's Day, I rather insensitively wore an orange ensemble today. What should I do?

Richard Leiby: Stay away from Belfast -- no provocations, please. But you're welcome in Ukraine, my erstwhile homeland.


Sham Rock: Hmmm ... Sham Rock: I think it has potential.

I would nominate: The Monkees, Hanson, Brittany, and anything which has ever come into contact with American Idol for starters.

That is unless we're talking about Sinnead O'Connor, The Chieftans, and the Young Dubliners.

That is unless we're talking about all those fake Blarney Stones that show up everywhere and spread diseases when all the drunk Irish-for-day green beer types start planting their slobbery kisses all over 'em: those......sham......rocks.....yuck ....yuck......yuck!!

Richard Leiby: And don't leave out Ashlee Simpson!


Silver Spring, Md.: Does this mean we aren't restricted to gossip anymore? Yayy.

So, when does Weingarten get out of rehab?

Richard Leiby: I just saw Gene stumble into the office. He usually arrives at the crack of noon, stinking of Demon Rum. I gave him the finger, as usual.


Silver Spring, Md.: My ex-wife has a stepsister who is Irish and named Sinead -- and is as hot as Anne. Well not having met Anne in person, I guess I can't say that, but she is really hot.

Richard Leiby: Yes, but I worry about Anne. I'm encouraging her to shave her head and take vows as a priestess in a rogue Catholic order -- the better to keep all those slobbering, blarney-spewing suitors away.


Washington, D.C.: My boss (of Jewish descent) asked what today's date was, and when I responded he said "Oh! That explains all the people wearing green!"

Richard Leiby: Thanks. And this joke just in from one of Anne's Jewish friends:

"A little Jewish boy tries out in the school play, and comes home very excited. He says 'daddy, daddy, I got a part in the school play!'

The father says, "Son, that is wonderful news. What part did you get?"

The Jewish boy, still beaming, says "Daddy, I got the part of the husband!"

The father all of a sudden looks dismayed, and says sternly, "Son, you go right back to that school and get yourself a speaking part."

— FROM SCHROEDERA 3/17/2005 12:19:46 PM


Anonymous: Isn't this chat "for and about" an hour?

Richard Leiby: That's another way of looking at it. And mercifully so.


MJ: The gloved one will be acquitted and he will use the much beloved "Chewbacca Defense"

Richard Leiby: 'Splain please. I don't get it.


Washington, D.C.: Quid, I hope you'll stop slinging the dirt in this dirty old town long enough to include some gratuitous Irish-punk references in today's chat, and liven up the usual diet of rum, sodomy and the lash. (Hey, that sounds like Smith Point!).

Richard Leiby: Fav Pogues tune: A Rainy Night in Soho. Your wish is my command.


Washington, DC: O mighty Quidnunc, with your great and illustrious career background in real journalism, why did you ever agree to write for the Reliable Source?

Richard Leiby: Two words: Midlife Crisis.


Moshland, USA: Have you seen the N.Y. Times article about musician Beck being a Scientologist?

Some say he's been hiding it
The Secret Life of Beck Hansen - A Guide for the Professional Journalist (lermanet.com)

Should Beck groupies care that Scientology drug programs mentioned in the Times have been nixed from being taught in schools in California? Can writers detect and separate the the tune of Beck and State?

Richard Leiby: Thanks. Enough about me. That's interesting gossip. And indeed it's true: After years of dodging the issue, Beck has uncloaked as a Hubbard devotee. He disclosed it in a NY Times mag interview earlier this month.

Anybody care?


Iowa: If Steven Soderburgh is "really into making substantive social and political pictures" where does Oceans Twelve fit in? Although there is considerable social value in showcasing that much male eye candy.

Richard Leiby: Oh, I was thinking more like "Traffic," the upcoming "Che" and "K Street." (Well, let's try to forget "K Street," the HBO experiment...way too much screen time for James Carville and Mary Matalin!)


Washington, D.C.: What do you think about this Washington Socialites blog ... and do you think Paris Hilton will sue them?

Richard Leiby: I haven't read that blog. Washington is getting way too focused on "socialites" and needs more Socialists.

We've got three slick party and celeb mags coming to town. I sincerely doubt there's enough glossy beauty to go around.


Yo, Quid,: Idea! You do a beef record re: Weingarten. He responds, with the backing of the Style Invitational Entrants. You have Anne. You guys take it to Hot 97 up in NYC. Fistfights break out (flying out of National, y'all had to surrender everything but your nail clippers). Chat attendance skyrockets. You retire off the residuals. Good, eh?

Richard Leiby: I'm "Game."


washingtonpost.com: Socialites


Alexandria, Va.: So about the use of the word "top" instead of shirt ... I was under the impression that it was only used by women and drunk guys during spring break (as in, "take off your ..."). Now here you are using it. For some reason I find the word strangely repugnant, even though I've been known to slip and use it on occasion (I'm a woman, but I just use plain ol' shirt instead of blouse or camisole or whatnot). I think it's just a matter of time before we're referring to everything as a "thing", and then another half step from pointing and grunting.

Richard Leiby: All I know is that it's a whitey-tighty thing she has on.

(And, listen, I've covered Spring Break -- in Daytona and Fort Lauderdale. So I'm an expert in the Strange and Repugnant.)

Does anyone want to talk about these thingees?


Baltimore, Md.: C'Mon. U2 just gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the best Irish singer you can come up with is Sinnead? I'd have even gone with Ronan Tynan over her.

Richard Leiby: I have worshipped U2 for more than 20 years, since the "Boy" album. I stuck with them through the Zooropa period. But I think their new one, "How to Dismantle and Atom Bomb," should be their last. They're starting to recycle and sound forced. It's great carefully crafted stuff but sounds too much like ... early U2.

I don't want to see them end up pathetic, like the Stones.


Gaithersburg, Md.: Quid, there was an interesting topic on John Kelly's chat last week about heaven. Do you think they have beer in heaven?

Richard Leiby: Somebody sang, "In Heaven There Is No Beer," right? Well, I don't buy that: I believe that a Just God will provide free-flowing Guiness, poured correctly, as I pointed out earlier, to fashion a foamy "Bishop's Collar" at the top of every 16-oz. portion.


Karen Hughes: I thought Karen Hughes had gone back to Texas to be with her kid, so her new appointment at State took me by surprise. Did her son graduate and move along? I kind of remember he was of a similar age to my 17-year-old who is about to leave the nest. (I always felt bad her son and husband weren't happy in our fair city -- maybe if we had invited them over ...) Why is she coming back into the administration now? Is she relocating? Or will she commute between here and Austin?

Richard Leiby: She's coming back because Dubya needs her and she's astoundingly loyal. Also, in a sense, she never really left. She consulted with the White House and penned a promotional memoir and went on TV to equate pro-choice women with terrorists.

She did say something about coming back because her son was leaving the nest. I don't know whether she'll be based in Austin or not, but I'd like to take a trip there to check up on the music scene, not to talk to her. (Because I already know what she'd say...over and over and over...Crimson and Clover.)


Washington, D.C.: No gossip about last night's Ireland Fund dinner? It was a big mess of Washington celebrity, and lots of fun.

Norah O'Donnell looked hot, and I told her so. And I'm a straight woman.

Richard Leiby: We can't be everywhere. In fact, we're basically Nowhere these days. Anne goes out in my stead. So does Jose Antonio Vargas, another Style staffer. I'm not feelin' up to it -- I spent a solid year of late nights and 16-hour days. Let the young people work for a change!

But I'm sorry I missed Norah.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: "I don't want to see them end up pathetic, like the Stones."

With all due respect, the Stones haven't ended up pathetic. Sure, they're pathetic 'now,' but they (apparently) are nowhere near the end ... it could get much worse.

Richard Leiby: Noted.


Recycled U2: Is this the fate of every long-lasting rock band, to become stale and irrelevant? Aren't there any rockers who have remained vital artistic forces over decades?

Richard Leiby: I can't think of any. I'm a firm believer in the Seinfeld strategy: Exit while you're at the top, leave them wanting more.


Alexandria. Va.: Liebs, I have been compiling a rock n' rock euthanasia list since the 80's. The Stones were the first to appear on the list. I'm afraid Aerosmith was moved to the euthanasia list last year. They've just gotten too wrinkly and need to die before we remember then as pathetic geezers! Are you with me? When's Kevorkian getting out?

Richard Leiby: Good Sir, I am pro-life. Let them rock till they drop. I just won't listen anymore, or buy their CDs. For example: I got the new REM and found it had just two decent cuts. The rest sounded like wallpaper.


O'Washington, D.C.: Not sure about the Bush twins being in town, but I was behind Webster Hubble in line at Au Bon Pain this morning. He did not get the reduced calorie cream cheese.

Richard Leiby: Web! The Clinton guy? Jeez, does he even qualify as a political "sighting" in the GOP era.


Islamorada Girl: O Great and Powerful Quid: Do you think Tom "Bug Boy" DeLay will survive the current scandal?
When power pasties are caught with their hands in the cookie jar, so to speak, do the A-list invites drop off, or increase?
I'm just asking here b ...

Richard Leiby: I have NOT forgotten you, Islamorada Girl, but we're out of time. My prediction: The Hammer won't necessarily fall, but his power will be diminished.


The Throne Room, Heaven: The esteemed Richard Thompson explained my position quite clearly in his ballad entitled "God Loves a Drunk."

As for the availability of beer and spirits up here, let's just say that my son doesn't need to transubstantiate water into wine at my parties.

Oh ... one more thing. No hangovers.

Richard Leiby: Thanks, God.

I'm never been to Heaven, but I've been to Me. Is that Okay?

And on that note, I'm going to drown my sorrows. The rest of you enjoy your day. I'm green with envy!

Quid over.


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