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The Reliable Source

Washington's Social and Political Scene

Richard Leiby
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 14, 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.

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: There's no business like show business. And AWAAAY we go!

Wait: You don't remember Ethel Merman and Jackie Gleason? You'd rather I begin with Britney's plunge into motherhood and its potential impact on her dog "Bit Bit"? Fine. That's show biz today, I guess. Creeping celebrity creepiness is impacting us all -- never mind that impacting is not a verb.

I need to warn you, this chat is in its Nixonesque final days (Quidnunc Agonistes!) and could get even more weird as entropy takes its course. But before they pry this keyboard from my cold, nail-bitten fingers, let's do like Marvin Gaye and get it on ...


Rockville, Md.: Mighty One, when you leave the chat-thing, will you be retiring the puke tie? Or will Anne reconfigure it into a puke designed thong?

Richard Leiby: Sorry, the vomit-inducing modern-art vomit tie stays. In fact, I'm wearing it today to my lunch with my friends at the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Thong patterns: entirely up to Anne. By the way, she's sleeveless today, but that's ALL I'm dishing.

But I do have a NEW costume to try out around town: A black cape bearing a washingtonpost.com logo. I wore it on Arena Stage Monday night in my boffo performance as the superhero Gossip Man (aka Captain Reliable). We'll post a photo as soon as we can.

I hope I look sufficiently creepy.


I got the music in me: Quidy baby,

How much you wanna bet that after GWB hears old Chuck's "Bustin' Loose" tonight, it ends up on his iPod in heavy rotation?

Richard Leiby: No doubt. But he's never going to replace "My Sharona," a song choice that was revealed in the New York Times last week. Who knew W was a New Waver? I just can't see him in skinny ties or a Devo flower-pot hat, pogo-ing the night away.


Pitching this to Fox : Anne Coulter becomes the new Reliable Source. Hilarity ensues.

Richard Leiby: No, maniacal shrieking ensures as Anne flees from the building with her hair in flames.


Iowa: Captain Reliable! Please, more details and photos of the Washington Superheroes are needed! Who were the supervillains? Dick Cheney as Magneto? Was "The Appropriator" called Captain Kirk?

Richard Leiby: The villains never showed up -- all mayhem they perpetrated was off-stage. And, no, Cheney wasn't a part of this performance, only members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. All of them got capes, either red or blue -- or BOTH red and blue (The Bipartisaniacs!)

I was the ONLY other cast member to get a cape. Because I'm special.

We'll try to put up more photos.


Downtown Chi-town: Most reliable source worthy item du jour:
Nino! Scalia! in New York! Getting asked on his, ahem, personal views on the s-word.
Any reaction from anyone in Washington on this?

Richard Leiby: I have no idea what you're talking about. Where's the news item on this? We never read the out-of-town papers. We're cloistered and insular. That's why I love the cape, because I can now dwell in a cave.



Richard Leiby


Because Jennifer 8 nine.: Leiby,

How can this article by Jennifer 8. Lee claim to coin the term "man date"? As everyone already knows, a man date is a filial outing between two non-sexual male friends. Doesn't she just irk the snot out of you sometimes?

"The Man Date" (The New York Times, April 10

Richard Leiby: Jennifer 867-5309 Lee loves to swoop down on cultural trends and export them to the wider world with an exceptional self-assurance.

Meanwhile, we hear she's still embroiled in that lawsuit brought against her by her landlady.


Quidproqu, ID.: Please pardon my ignorance, but what is a quidnuc?

Richard Leiby: QuidNUNC, QUIDnunc, QUIDNUNC: God, I've been at this for a year and a half and still the heathen don't get it.

"What next."


Rockville, Md.: Quid, I hear Britney Spears is pregnant. Has Michael Jackson called dibs on babysitting yet?

Richard Leiby: My temporary editor Hank "Question Celebrity" Stuever helped me write the Britney item we had yesterday:

"Britney Spears is really, finally, fer-sher pregnant. We assume Kevin Federline is involved. The end."

That was it. And we're not saying another word about the superstar pop singer's medical condition, unless it involves Bit Bit.


Arlington, Va.: I love the cape, but the tie is rather boring. I expect more excitement from you.

Will you wear the cape every day?

Richard Leiby: Not every day, but on those many occasions when I am called to crusade for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Also, I'll be wearing it to the White House Correspondents Dinner, to impress Vendela.


Downtown Chi-town, Part II: Page Six

Tee hee.

Richard Leiby: I don't read Page Six. I only appear ON Page Six.


Arlington, Va.: So, what type of "serious" journalism are getting ready to report on? Will the Post send you to unusual places, like Pikeville, Ky., to get these stories?

Richard Leiby: I certainly hope so. I got to Lexington, Ky., before the Iraq War started to write about a victim of Gulf War Syndrome. I'll do as many Kentucky-related stories as possible. But I will NOT cover the Derby. I never liked that sport, because I always lose my bets.


In Recognition of the Last Days: How else to explain it? The Word of the Week in Sunday's Dallas Morning News was "Quidnunc."

Richard Leiby: Behold the Power of Gossip Man! Able to influence newspapers and opinion journals nationwide, even if he refuses to read them.


Fredericksburg, Va.: The cape is definitely hot. But you need a red diaper/underwear-thing. Kinda like superman, only not.

Richard Leiby: Are you suggesting that I'm some kind of commie red-diaper baby? Or that I indulge in infantalism?

(Hmm: Yes to both.)


Arlington, Va.:

Caped Congressman?

Are there really any superheros in Congress?

Richard Leiby: I don't think so. And it's clear that Tom "Mr. Stench of the Beltway" DeLay is finally losing his superpowers.

Anybody got good superhero names for Delay? The Redistrictor!


Where am I?: Leibs,

I really enjoy that "Usual Suspects" section you run. It's entertaining, funny, revealing and you give these people just enough rope to hang themselves (especially that misogynistic twit a few months ago). But the adult entertainment name thing is just really dumb. It feels like the piece is written by a giggling 12-year-old boy.

Will the next R.S. Guru kill this? Can you do away with it in a final noble act before you leave?


Richard Leiby: The column format and features will be entirely up to its next writer. If Wonkette gets the gig, the whole thing will be about sodomy.

I appreciate that people like the Usual Suspects, and I admit that the Porn Name thing is a cliche, but we tried our best to sneak something "risque" past our editors and that was the best we could do -- other than dropping one letter accidentally from time to time in the "Annals of Puffery" feature.

(And, yes, I am a fan of Captain Underpants too ...)


Silver Spring, Md.: quid nunc = "what now," not "what next"

Richard Leiby: What-EVER. I've seen a bunch of translations, including "busybody."

O Latin Purists, you won't have Quid to kick around much longer.


Natch: Superhero name for DeLay: The Exterminator!

Richard Leiby: Yes! He had a Pest Control career before a political one.

Incidentally, he seems to prove the adage: Never trust a politician with perfect hair.


The Last Days of Quidnunc: You aren't going to stalk the hallways of the Post building at night, talking to the portraits of Donald and Katherine Graham, are you?

Richard Leiby: Yes, and I'll do it while preparing what will become known to history as my Bit Bit Speech.


Manassas, Va.: All Knowing One!

When do you predict a nationwide real estate market crash followed by a "super" deep recession?

Richard Leiby: Yes, and Manassas will be especially hard hit. I suggest you move immediately to the Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad, where you can pick up property for a steal these days.


Hawk and Dove, D.C.: Isn't this game really based on Gene's attempts to get to his chats?

Richard Leiby: I just checked that out. It appears to be a German drinking game or some sort (my German language ability only returns when I'm drunk) and, yes, that's clearly Weingarten, the sot.


St. Mary's City, Md.: Richard,

When I saw Jeff Gannon/James Guckert's photo in Names & Faces, at first I thought it was Lex Luthor from the TV series "Smallville." Wasn't this a serious breach of security, letting a notorious archvillain into the White House press corps? Where were ace reporters Clark Kent and Lois Lane when we needed them?

Richard Leiby: Clark Kent was covering the oil-for-food scandal at the U.N. and Lois was too busy complaining about being engaged for the last 70 years, instead of married.

Got a superhero name for Gannon?


15th and L: You said: "Incidentally, he seems to prove the adage: Never trust a politician with perfect hair."

Does this also apply to the Great State of Maryland's Gov. Bobby Haircut?

Richard Leiby: Sorry, I do NOT allow references to Marc Fisher's column in MY chats.


Tysons, Va.: Quid,

You're definitely more interesting than Fisher today. And the cape is da bomb!

As for a Supervillain name for Tom DeLay, how about The Exterminator, or Major Tuber?

Richard Leiby: Ha, ha, he said, clasping his nailbitten fingers in delight. Take that, Fisher!


West Coast: Are you taking bets on the celebrity dog fight between Bit Bit and the Chihauhau of Paris Hilton? Considering that Bit Bit wears Nazi Von Dutch clothing, does she have the edge? ENLIGHTEN US! Give us the odds!

Richard Leiby: I'd like to toss Hulk Hogan's rooster, Lily, into the equation, too. (Although I personally oppose cockfighting, as does the Hulkster -- see today's squibs...)

Where does this Nazi thing come in? A Nazi trucker hat? It's a redneck thing, maybe, but not a National Socialist thing.


Richard Leiby: Ahh. Here's some Von Dutch dish from the O.C. Weekly:
Von Who? OC Weekly


DeLay: "The De-Ethicator"!;

Richard Leiby: I grok.


Quasi-serious question: Which you seem to dislike. You always complain about a lack of printable gossip, but I contacted you a while back with a mildly interesting and completely documented Negroponte tidbit. Everyone I shared the item with thought it was quite funny, but you were completely uninterested.
I think the problem is, your standards were too high.

Richard Leiby: Quasi: I don't recall the Negroponte tidbit, but I do suffer from the condition called Newsheimers. So much crosses the transom.

Wait: Was it about him writing a snippy letter about translators?


Mandate: Does W really have one?

Richard Leiby: No, he's totally into Laura. He was even smooching her during the Pope's funeral.


Iowa: Captain: Are you going to be hanging out at the Nats opener tonight looking for gossip-worthy items? Will the crowd be in awe (a snit?) when W tosses out the first pitch? Does the team have well-endowed, politically astute, enthusiastic cheerleaders?

Richard Leiby: Cheerleaders? Anne, have you signed up?

And, no, I can't make tonight's opener. I heard last-minute tix were running $200.


Jersey Girl, Wheaton, Md.: So, I've just finished putting on my last Lee Press-On nail, and I'm wondering, where can I go around here to meet some eligible celebrity or professional man. What's the best place for a glitterati sighting? Oh, yeah, and one that doesn't cost too much. I still have to get my hair done.

Richard Leiby: Jersey: Check out today's column on the pending Bloomberg party. There will be Hollywood directors and producers and suchlike there, and all you have to do is crash it, then flash your sexy fingernails, Catwoman-like, and throw yourself on the nearest casting couch. That's how it works in celeb land.

As for "professional men," maybe try Jeff Gannon?



Anonymous: How can I get a crazy white moustache like John Bolton? Looks like an abused dog crossed with the Iceman.

Richard Leiby: You forgot Captain Kangaroo!

John R. Bolton


washingtonpost.com: West Coast Host Headed for Washington (Post, April 14)


Yeah, the translator letter: Which was sent to me by a number of State employees. Alas, my publication has no forum for gossip or snide-ness. So I thought you might make something clever of it. You wanted no part of it.

Richard Leiby: Send it again! I'll put it in my last column.


Also, if anybody else has special requests for the final columns, I'm taking requests from the bandstand ... weddings, parties, anything, and Bongo Jams a Speciality.



Pittsburgh, Pa.: Mighty Caped Q, Eyes welling with tears as I type, my vote for your replacement is "The Twins" or the lady that does the sex show on Oxygen. Are you going back to straighten things out in Iraq? Please don't disappear.

Richard Leiby: And I will miss you too. But I'm sure they'll find a suitably unhinged and black-caped replacement.

Re: Iraq. Here's a joke I got yesterday -- from a Republican no less:

Q: How many Bush administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are a delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?


DeLay: Captain Nepotism

Richard Leiby: Keep 'em coming! We're almost done with our contractual obligation here ...


Do, NE: Is anyone going to ask any interesting questions or make any interesting statements in this chat? I can't wait until your run is over, Quid-whatever! Sally Squires stays on-topic!

Richard Leiby: On-topic? Don't we get enough of that in our daily lives. I'm a hummingbird who lost the plot and will not move.

Go lick clean a plate full of hummus!


Washington, D.C. : Please, I need a comment. This appeared in Gene's chat:

"Gene, there was also good music being made after you turned 20.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, but most of it was by Elvis Costello and Springsteen. And Talking Heads. And that's about it. R.E.M. White Stripes."

He is so apparently ignorant that I couldn't respond. Any suggestions on how to enlighten?

But that's pretty much it. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Richard Leiby: If and when Weingarten sobers up, I'll give him the new Modest Mouse album.


Clearly Not-So-Intelligent Land: Is it really true that people have forgotten how to use a dictionary, and/or don't know how to use the Internet?

It is no wonder that they're obsessed with whether Britney is pregnant if they have to ask you for a meaning of a word. They have no brains!

Richard Leiby: That's why they read this chat!


Speaking of the Smooch: Although I was a little shocked at the funeral smooch, I have to say that Laura -- with the mantilla and sunglasses and all -- was mysteriously hot.

Richard Leiby: Thanks. Next week, I promise, we'll be on-topic. More about First Lady smooching and less of my ranting about Bit Bit.

Love, Quid.


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