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The Reliable Source

Washington's Social and Political Scene

Richard Leiby
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 3, 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 Colunns:

In Lobbyists' Quarrel Over Ad,Is It Too Late to Kiss & Make Up? (Post, March 3)

Ann Coulter and the Title Fight (Post, March 2)

McConaughey, Supporting 'Sahara' for the Long Haull (Post, March 1)

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: Readers: Thanks for being here. I need you more than ever and love you like family. (Even if your family includes AARP members who allegedly support gay marriage but don't support our troops--please see today's column.)

Actually, this week I'd like to introduce the wacky, novel notion of discussing items from my column and celebrity/political matters, which are ostensibly the reason I write the Reliable Source. I will NOT discuss Anne's hotness, Gene Weingarten, my ugly ties, or my fondess for the "Garden State" soundtrack, particularly the now-classic cuts by Iron & Wine, Nick Drake and the Shins.

What say you people?


Truth or Consequences, N.M.: I saw you spoke to the director of some movie called "Gunner Palace" for today's column. But you never mentioned if the movie's good! Is it?

Richard Leiby: Excellent start to the chat! This is exactly the sort of question I wish to entertain, in which a curious reader wants to get more intimate with an item.

I found the "Gunner Palace" documentary to be a gripping and informative piece of cinema verite' -- a bit repetitive, perhaps, but engaging. The soldiers -- some of them rap-loving teens -- are doing a messy, dangerous job. But I'm not a movie critic (though I once dabbled in that form) so my editors don't like me inserting my "opinion" of films into items. We leave the critiquing to such experts as Steve Hunter, who will review the picture in Friday's Style section. My bottom line: If you want to know what the war in Iraq is like from a grunt's-eye view, see this documentary.


Rockville, Md.: I believe that I would have asked for my money back if I had been dining in that Italian restaurant and a bunch of idiotic conservatives started singing "God Bless America," or whatever.

I believe that I would have vomited, also.

What an ugly scene. And I've been to that restaurant -- and it deserves better.

Richard Leiby: Ah: Another genre of Chat Question. It's item-related but contains a reader's pungent reaction. Nothing wrong with that.

We write about all sorts of events, including gatherings of conservatives where Justice Antonin Scalia sings "God Bless America" and show tunes. Part our job is to reflect the panopoly of "insider" social events around town, where political alliances are forged and maintained.

We're not big on writing Who Got Sloshed At What Party items, and in fact we're stone sober almost of the time. (And allow me to plug Wonkette here for her great I'm-Getting-Sloshed updates, day in and day out.)

More interesting to me is the notion that Scalia is getting out more as part of what one national newsmag described as a "charm offensive," sort of a lobbying effort for the Chief Justice job. A reader called today to allege that I've been mentioning Nino Scalia way too much in the column and am therefore doing the conservatives' bidding.

But I've written about Stephen Breyer too, and he's viewed as a member of the court's liberal wing. I've met both justices more than once and find both to be charming.

So perhaps I'm fair and balanced?


Washington, D.C.: Rich, why do you wear such terrible ties to events around town?

Richard Leiby: Did I not make myself clear? I'm not going to talk about my own personal lack of fashion sense! Please see today's item on Anderson Cooper making Vanity Fair's international best-dressed list. He's Gloria Vanderbelt's son, and I'm not.


Suitland, Md.: Okay, I'm in Gene Weingarten chat withdrawal .... entertain us!

Richard Leiby: DAMN YOU. You're causing the Might Quidnunc to become unfair and unbalanced. So far as I know, Weingarten is back on the sauce. I guess that's why he's not doing his crappy "humorous" chat.

Look, I'm sober, so don't expect "entertainment" here. We stick the the facts and engage in no ad hominem attacks.


Frederick, Md.: Dr. Might One, I'm sick with a terrible cold! Other than wearing my flannel jammies and Homer Simpson slippers, what else do you recommend?

Richard Leiby: Getting sloshed. Also, three slugs a day of Robitussin DM.


Washington, D.C. (looking for/at the BPs): Is it just me, or have the Young Thin Beautiful Things, which were so predominant in town during the 90s, been fully replaced by wider, blonder units? For a while there, parts of D.C. were looking very New York-like. What has happened?

Richard Leiby: Evidently they split for the Coast. But there's nothing with being wide and blonde, with legs like bowling pins, is there? I'm a dirty dish-water blond, and getting wider by the moment. It's part of aging. Perhaps everyone's just getting older and more sluggardly, riding the Metro and reading mystery novels?


Loyal Reader: I was reading "The Zero Game" by Brad Meltzer on the train this morning, and in the middle of the generic D.C. thriller was a cameo appearance by "the Post's infamous gossip column The Reliable Source." Nice job!

Richard Leiby: Exhibit A: Loyal reader, are you wide and blonde?

As for the mention of The Reliable Source in Brad's book, trust me, I didn't ask for the plug, but it's nice to hear about it.


California: I have to tell someone -- you -- that I thought Cate Blanchett looked so beautiful Chez Oscar in that yellow dress that she (or I) could have died and gone to heaven.

Her off-camera confidence in that dress and her on-camera confidence in portraying Katharine Hepburn is so remarkable and off the scale that I just don't know how to even process it.

Is she from another planet, do you happen to know? Would you kindly investigate?

Richard Leiby: Confession: I watched exactly one-half hour of the Oscars. I skipped going to LA this year for the ceremony because last year I felt like an idiot: You get close to a celeb like that, and what can you possibly say: "Hi, you're a silver screen immortal and I'm a fawning quasi-journalist. Let's bond..." The Oscar parties turned out to be my Worst Nightmare: Imagine me, wearing a vomitous tie, trying to chat up Andre 3000.

On Oscar night I went to a lively dinner party where the subject was the Prospects for Peace in the Middle East. Wolf Blitzer was there along with several policy experts.


Bethesda, Md.: Did anyone see Morgan Fairchild out around town last week --restaurants, shops, hotels, parties, anything, besides my house?

Richard Leiby: She was here to perform in "The Graduate." Did you get to act out your Mrs. Robinson fantasies?


Washington, D.C:. Dude!
You're everywhere. Way to get a Gawker mention today.

Richard Leiby: Oh. They're impressed that I called Anderson Cooper "hunky"? Well, truth be told, that was Anne's loving description of Anderson.

Can't we talk about the AARP? It's more my speed.


Memphis, Tenn.: What do you mean the "now" classic Nick Drake cuts? He died in 1974. He was classic long before Garden State.

Richard Leiby: A slip of the modifier. But we're not SUPPOSED to be talking about Nick Drake, though I do recommend both the "Bryter Later" and "Pink Moon" CDs for anyone wishing to explore his sensitive folky ouvre.


Arlington, Va.: Just to stop your whining, I went back and actually read your columns. Now I find myself compulsively muttering "Aramburuzabala" under my breath. This wouldn't be so bad, except I'm a telemarketer.

Richard Leiby: Anne says: That's a great way to get dates!

Oh, now I get it: A Yosemite Sam reference. On advice of counsel, I'm not allowed to mention Sam or any other copyrighted cartoon characters.


Arlington, Va.: Have you interviewed any REAL "tug-boat captains"-for-truth about their ad dissing the AARP? Could it be that they could be closet gays like Mr. Jeff over at the White House Press Room?

Richard Leiby: Some have compared the attack on AARP as akin the the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth war against John Kerry, but I have a strict No Comment Rule on who might be a closet case in the various conservative advocacy groups around town (or not).


washingtonpost.com: Gawker.com


Reply from Loyal Reader: Actually, I am narrow and blond, thanks be to genetics.

Richard Leiby: Thanks for that clarification, Loyal. We are very glad to know that you don't have bowling-pin legs and potentially wear Reeboks on the Metro. That's WAY too much of that going on.



USA Next Ad


Boot Camp, Wiesbaden Army Airfield: Re: "Condoleezza Rice's Commanding Clothes"

Condoleezza Rice's Commanding Clothes (Post, Feb. 25)

And I had always secretly hoped that The Post was part of the vast liberal media conspiracy!

The Post said "Matrix" but didn't mention "Militaristic" (to put it gently)!

I'm counting on you to set the record straight, Richard! If we don't stop her now, "one of these days those boots are going to ..." well, you know.

Richard Leiby: "Walk all over you..." Bring it on, though I'm not into the whole Ilse-She-Wolf-of-the-SS trip.

And now I'm going to break my little rule again and mention some Jam lyrics because they just popped into my head. (Bewusseinstromme, the Germans call this: Stream of Consciousness blogging):

A smash of glass and the rumble of boots -
An electric train and a ripped up 'phone booth -
Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat -
Lights going out and a kick in the (gonads) -

That's entertainment.


Ya know, I always thought it was "Rommel boots" until now.


Islamorada Girl: Came home from the Keys this week and sat on the plane next to a guy who does electrical engineering in the Metro systems. He says he sometimes sees Souter and other power pasties riding mass transit. True?
Also, why did I come back up here when Isamorada is paradise?

Richard Leiby: I haven't seen Justice Souter or any other big-timers riding metro myself, though we hear Lyle Lovett takes the subway when he's in town.

And if I were you, I'd go back to swimming with the dolphins. (Though many beached themselves this morning in the Keys, apparently utterly confused about the conservative attack on the AARP.)


Arlington Regular: Did you see the letter in the recent Washingtonian directed at Jenna Bush? Do you think she has contributed to the apparent "crackdown" on a certain local watering hole??

Richard Leiby: We're looking for that Washingtonian "open letter" link right now. As for Smith Point, there has been some complains from neighbors about alleged crowding.


Courthouse: Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen? Is nothing sacred anymore?

Richard Leiby: I'm saddened and shocked to hear of their "irreconcilable differences."


Germantown, Md.: Your quidnunciness:

Last fall at the National Book Festival Clive Cussler threatened to "sue the b------s" for creating a horrible movie "Sahara" out of his book of the same name. So it could get ugly ...

Richard Leiby: Back on topic. Thanks for mentioning my "Sahara" item!

Well, if the following report is correct, Cussler has followed through:

"Best-selling author CLIVE CUSSLER is suing the billionaire movie producer of PENELOPE CRUZ's latest movie for refusing to give him screenplay approval.

"The SAHARA writer is taking legal action against oil magnate PHILIP ANSCHUTZ's BRISTOL BAY PRODUCTIONS over the $130 million ($247 million) film version for failing to consult him on the script as stipulated in his contract, reports FOX NEWS correspondent ROGER FRIEDMAN."

Movie viewers, govern yourselves accordingly.


Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: Do you ever get sick of reporting on the 1st twins whereabouts ... their Smith Point late nights? How do you decide if something is worth mentioning ... curious.

Richard Leiby: We decided what to write based the entirely eccentric standard of What Interests Me and "Hey, Anne, you got any copy to fill the column today?"

Twins: Yeah, I'm over them. But, as noted, we have to run something or the editors will give me a "beat down."


Rommel Boots ?: Quidnunc,

Is it too late to start a thread about misunderstood lyrics?

My worst one was Whitney Houston's Falling in Love ... I heard the refrain as "Four-legged love; it's so bittersweet"

Richard Leiby: Have at it, but don't be lame, people. We gotta fill up this Chat with something.


washingtonpost.com: Superwoman Showdown (The Washingtonian)


Cubeville, Md.: I'm curious as to what sort of beat down your editor gave you that this chat is now supposed to stay On Topic.

Richard Leiby: A very Condi-like beat down it 'twas.


Alexandria, Va.: Sigh ... really now. You try hauling your butt the mile walk to the Metro from your house in two-inch heels five days a week and see how long it lasts until you switch to wearing comfy walking shoes. I never thought I would be one of "those" people who are obviously the lowest of the low around here, but better to be in sneakers than to have blood blisters.

Richard Leiby: I observed a young woman attempting to trot up L Street in 2-inch heels yesterday and I'm telling you, she had that world-weary expression that said, "Exactly WHY am I doing this...and for whom?"


Washington DC: If you are looking for this month's Washingtonian, it won't be online til next month.

Richard Leiby: That's what YOU say. We have great powers here at the Quidnunc Insta-Link Division.


REAL USA Next Controversy ...: What I really want to know is where they got that picture of Mel Gibson in a desert cammi outfit. Am I wrong?

Richard Leiby: Hmm. Maybe it's a still from Mel's next movie: "The Passion of The Trigger-Puller"?


Frederick, Md.: Wolf Blitzer's kind of cute! Does he have a nice butt?

Richard Leiby: I'm glad you admire older gentlemen, but I'm just not going to traffic in newscaster butt assessments. I might get another Condi-style beat down.


Las Vegas, Nev.: Why the jag against Mike Tyson? How about some sensitivity on the part of Reliable Sources? Mike is a soft hearted guy, no doubt. If he also has a warrior side, and an inablity to control his anger on occasion, isn't he simply human? I don't get it. Let's talk about Jake LaMotta beating up his wife, in order to be fair and balanced?

Richard Leiby: If you insist!


Washington, D.C.: An earlier chatter wrote: "He says he sometimes sees Souter and other power pasties riding mass transit."


"Power pasties"? What does this mean? It sounds like something an exotic dancer would wear to a job interview.

Richard Leiby: We're searching for a sizzlin' power pasties link right now.


Silver Spring, Md.: Dawg, I think the problem is that your topic, ephemeral as it is, isn't really well-suited to a subject-matter chat, unlike, say, Hax or Kim, or the sports dudes. Achenbach I think is in the same boat, and he pulled the plug on his chat, calling it "drivel." Gene gets away with it because he works on raising issues like the comics, plus his audience likes to chat about language and humor, plus he has something of a "cult of personality" that he is willing to cultivate in the chat.

Frankly, I don't think you are all that interested in chatting about gossip, so why not chat about Anne and song lyrics? Or even song lyrics about Anne?

Richard Leiby: Actually, you're right. Gene, despite his prodigious consumption of booze and prescription drugs, works very hard on his chats. He spends hours crafting answers to the questions that come in early.

We have endeavored, over time, to develop a "personality" but haven't quite gotten the knack.


Long Beach, Calif.: Dear Scribe,
I was curious as to your position on "The Bard". Are you a Stratfordian, or an Oxfordian? Do you really think a rank speculator and grain hoarder from Stratford with an elementary school education wrote under the name Shakespeare?
Edward DeVere is obviously the guy, as the 17th Earl of Oxford's life parallels "Shakes-spear" to the hilt. DECLARE YOURSELF on this most important question of Shakepearean authorship!

Richard Leiby: Stratfordian. I think Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. Now, can we get back to the Shins and misunderstood lyrics?


Misunderstood lyrics: Best one I've ever heard was a friend who on first listen thought the chorus of "Venus" was "I'm your (male naughty bit) -- I'm on fire -- enjoy me, sire" She was very disappointed to learn the real words; I tend to agree.

Richard Leiby: Excellent but that one strains credulity. I'll get back to beating down Weingarten, Twins Sightings and Islamorda Girl's personal problems next week.

Thanks for wasting your time today! Quid over.


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