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Reliable Source - Richard Leiby

When Dental Floss Is Not Enough

How does a politician get a perfect smile? Now we know -- at least in the case of Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). Photos of his cosmetic dental work were gleefully forwarded around Washington offices by e-mail yesterday.

Coleman's pearly whites became the topic of political chatter when the Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported that a dentist was using before-and-after pictures on his Web site to promote his business. The dentist extracted the pictures of Coleman at the senator's request, evidently to avoid any grief from the Senate Ethics Committee.

Sen. Norm Coleman (Mike Theiler - Reuters)

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St. Paul dentist Frank J. Milnar, who calls himself a "smile artist," fixed Coleman's grin in 1999, when Coleman was the city's mayor. He later promoted the results with this copy: "Norm Coleman wanted more than an enhanced smile. He wanted peace of mind: lasting, comfortable results."

You can see the evidence yourself at www.startribune.com/119, but be forewarned: The "before" photos ain't pretty. As Milnar told the newspaper, "He came to me because of my expertise, and I did him a favor." Using the photos was fine when Coleman was mayor, but a senator's toothy mug isn't supposed to shill anything except promises and maybe legislation. Senate ethics rules are clear: "Name may not be used by an entity providing professional services."

Though Coleman has been in office two years, the pictures didn't become an issue until the newspaper publicized them earlier this month. Coleman's office acted quickly, asking the dentist to remove the photos.


Coleman's teeth before dentist Frank J. Milnar fixed his smile in 1999. (www.milnardds.com)
Milnar didn't return our calls yesterday but told the Star Tribune he charged Coleman $6,000, which reflected a 20 percent discount, though the senator did not ask for it. The senator's chief of staff, Erich Mischle, wouldn't confirm that figure. "I don't have to tell you," he said. "The senator's personal dental care and its cost is his business."

Whither the Punditocracy?

Now here's a burning question: "What's the future of the pundit?" Thankfully, Washington wonks and various comedians will offer their prophesies at next month's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, where John Podesta's Center for American Progress is co-hosting a forum to hash out whether Jon Stewart was right when he declared that shoutfests like "Crossfire" hurt America.

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, will moderate the debate. Others participating: comedian-turned-commentator Janeane Garofalo, conservative radio yakker Laura Ingraham, former Clinton and Kerry spinner Joe Lockhart, media critic Eric Alterman and Ben Karlin, executive producer of Stewart's "Daily Show." In a statement released last week by festival sponsor HBO, Podesta proclaimed: "What better place than the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival to explore the absurd depths that political discourse can go on some of these talking head shows." We agree and can only hope somebody airs this important public policy seminar.

Squibs

No wonder every actor wants to direct. The first scene in "Loverboy," Kevin Bacon's film-directing debut, required him to take a bubble bath, naked, with Marisa Tomei. "I'm thinking, this is a really good gig," Bacon told a crowd at the Sundance Film Festival, where the actor-rocker picked up the Ray-Ban Visionary Award at a Sunday night party sponsored by the Creative Coalition and Hollywood Life magazine. Joe Pantoliano, formerly of "The Sopranos" and co-president of the coalition, revealed that he has even bigger plans for Bacon: He announced that a delegation is "lobbying Congress, and the Senate, to enact a national Kevin Bacon Day," reports The Post's Juliet Eilperin. "We think it is a shoo-in." Yes, we're sure Denny Hastert and Bill Frist are getting right on that.

Turns out that even as a lad, Sundance founder Robert Redford had a great eye for talent. Reminiscing about Johnny Carson last night on MSNBC's "Hardball," Redford revealed: "When I was a little kid, growing up in L.A., he had a show, black-and-white," called "Carson's Cellar." . . . "Comedy was in a different place then. . . . Steve Allen was announcing wrestling at Hollywood Stadium. . . . I looked at Carson. I said, 'That guy's really funny.' But he was way out in front, he was way out in advance of anything else going on at that time."

With Anne Schroeder


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