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The Reliable Source

Washington's Social and Political Scene

Richard Leiby
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 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: DATELINE ASPEN, COLO.-- Somebody give me a hit of oxygen! I'm here in the high-altitude realm of celebrity ski bunnies and hot-tubbers to bring you an exclusive report on the Future of Comedy, based on extensive reporting and interviewing at the US Comedy Arts Festival here.

Jim Carrey's come to pick up an award. Eugene Levy's hanging around with other "Guffman/Mighty Wind" troupers, including Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara and Bob Balaban. Jeneane Garafolo is doing her radio show in the lobby of the St. Regis hotel. Cheech and Chong reunited to talk dope and politics last night. And I've even run into Joe Lockhart, the ex-Clinton spokesman, who's going to be on a panel about the Future of Punditry.

Serious stuff. I have lots of reporting to do, but forget that nonsense. It's easier to drink with my old friend Tony from Comedy Central, stumble through the streets and watch a lot of filthy-dirty stand-up routines. I learned that 10 years ago when I covered this festival and saw comics like Dave Chapelle, Bernie Mac and Dave Atell. Thanks to me, they're all famous now!

Okay, any questions?


Silver Spring, Md.: In regards to your Tommy Chong article: I was at that Cheech and Chong-Steely Dan concert (my first rock and roll show). Steely Dan did open, and it was rare for them to tour in those days. The venue was the Shady Grove Music Fair (music hall), long gone now. The venue was perfect for Cheech and Chong, since they crawled around imitating dogs on the circular, rotating stage. Great show! (Tommy Chong never should have done time)

Richard Leiby: Thanks for refreshing my memory. In their appearance here, Cheech and Chong talked a lot about touring: How they did 300 gigs a year and NEVER got high but instead worked out at YMCA in every city to maintain their stamina. They considered themselves a "concert" act, not a stand-up act. The audience saw some great clips, including their dog routine, in which they crawled around on all fours sniffing each others' hindquarters. Now that was physical comedy, my friends!

As for Tommy's 9-month sentence for trafficking in illegal drug paraphenalia, he put it this way last night: "I've got some advice for you: If you're going to sell bongs, don't but your face on [them]. I had no defense: 'Yep, that's my bong....

"Us stoners, we're stupid. We put on the Internet, 'Buy my bongs,'" thinking the government would NEVER look on the Internet!

(By the way, government: Please don't read my chat, in case it mentions bongs.)


Annandale, Va.: Ahh, you are an investigative reporter turned gossip columnist. How approprite. Im sure you will wax on about how Jeff Gannon was 'outed'. You and your paper don't care that Talon news was allowed access to the White House press conferences only days after it was established. You and your paper don't care that Gannon was one of the 'journalists' who was involved in the Plame leak. You don't care that he was a GOP operative. You don't want to know how an amateur 'journalist' was the one to scoop the Dan Rather 'scandal'. Yea the whole Gannon thing is just a bunch a left wing radicals who are outing gays.

Richard Leiby: Umm, OK, whatever you say, man. Who's Jeff Gannon?


Washington, D.C.: Weirder by the minute -- this 'Jeff Gannon' guy that was allowed access to the White House via the briefing room, posing as a reporter. The Washington Blade now reports that whoever owns his Web site "JeffGannon.com" also owns what appear to be gay escort Web sites.
Now, normally all things military are 'don't ask, don't tell'. But, please, do ask, do tell ... What is up with this ultra weird, only in Washington story?

Richard Leiby: Oh, right: THAT Jeff Gannon. Basically, if he was indeed leading a double life, it doesn't surprise me. I've heard about closeted gays in Washington working in Republican offices. You also hear about moralizing pro-family heteros having affairs. People are never what they seem.


Hollywood "High": Do Cheech and Chong think they can measure up to today's stoner movies like "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle " ?

Richard Leiby: They were the greatest stoner franchise in history, so they don't have to live up to anything. They are working on another script. It might be called "Lord of the Smoke Rings," Cheech says.


washingtonpost.com: Howard Kurtz Column: Deadly Analogy (Post, Feb. 10)


Arlington, Va. : When I saw the letter linked below in Dear Abby the other day, I thought to myself that this sounds like something Richard would make his wife do. So, allowing for Abby having changed the names and places, come clean with us: is this your wife's letter? Why do you insist on these perverted games?

Dear Abby:

My husband, "Wilmer," and I are in our mid-fifties. We've been married 35 years, and for the most part we have gotten along great. However, for about the last 12 years, Wilmer has been on this kick that when we're on a road trip, he wants me to "flash" truckers. At times, he has even tried to get me to show everything.

I was raised to be modest and have told my husband repeatedly that I don't want to do it, that the mere suggestion makes me uncomfortable. He says I'm not getting any younger and I'll regret it someday. Last weekend, we were on the road again, and he wanted me to do the trucker thing. When I refused, I got the silent treatment for the rest of the trip.

Dear Abby (Post (Universal Press Syndicate), Feb. 9)

Richard Leiby: I noticed that letter too! And I hereby swear that I am not "Wilmer," and that I've never asked my wife to flash truckers. But who among us hasn't done some immoral, and maybe dangerous, things in moving or parked vehicles?

Maybe it's time for ME to get an advice column.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hey dawg, tell the Fabulously Hot Anne that Les Paul did not invent the solid-body electric guitar. That would be Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp.

Also, you've got your adult entertainment names backwards -- the pet is the FIRST name, the street is the LAST name.

Don't get lost in the supermarket.

Richard Leiby: I'm certain that the Inventors Hall of Fame people didn't get it wrong, but perhaps there were Les Paul precursors.

As for the Porn Name construction: We go with Pet or Street Name in whatever order we like, because sometimes it's funnier. Also, we are The Mighty Quidnunc.


Washington, D.C.: Janeane Garofalo at the St. Regis?! The capitalistic display of decadence?! Shouldn't she be staying at a hostel or something?

Richard Leiby: Maybe, but even liberals like luxury. The St. Regis, where the festival talent gets to stay, prides itself on being the Best Hotel in the World -- but I wouldn't know about that. I'm in the press lodgings, over at the Aspen Institute, which is quite Bauhaus and full of sunshine. Perfect for thinking Big Thoughts about Humor.


Snow Job!: Um, excuse me for mentioning this, but it seems to me that when you have been sent to Aspen, Colorado by the Washington Post to cover a story you have, in one way or another, "arrived."

Much more impressive than Baghdad or the Pulitzer Prize in a sort of drop-dead-at-the-cocktail-party kind of way.

Oh ... your fly is open.

Richard Leiby: My editors gave me a choice: Aspen or the Oscars. Frankly, I covered the Oscars last year and felt like an idiot -- not because my fly was open but because I really didn't recognize any celebs except...ummm...Johnny Depp? I didn't want to go to Los Angeles this year and have to shout questions at somebody I thought maybe was Leo DiCaprio.


Norfolk, Va.: Quid -- Is Dave Attell there? Tackle him, hold him down and make him promise to do more "Insomniac" shows. The guy is just a genius.
Love, Dave's mom. I keed.

Richard Leiby: Dave's not here, man. A bummer. But a couple new comics to watch are Dane Cook, whom I saw last night, and Demetri Martin.

(Gentlemen, prepare to be hugely famous now that I have "discovered" you.)


Washington, D.C: RL:

If we can't set up Jeff Gannon and Washingtonienne (seems like he does need a beard) -- how about we vote who is hotter?

Richard Leiby: Go for it. But please note that somebody just sent this Washingtonienne update...


The Hill: Washingtonienne was hanging out in a particularly disreputable Hill joint earlier this week, drinking like a fish and bumming cigarettes from every man in sight. She's put some weight on. She looked sad.

Richard Leiby: (Well, we've all put on a little winter weight...and the girl was a twig to begin with.)


Kensington, Md.: So, what happened to Laura Bush? First she embarrassed Jenna by commenting on her dating life (I can just imagine the conversation: J-"Oh mah gawd, MOM! I mean, like, oh mah gawd!") and now the back tracking, saying that she wasn't prepared for the question. Isn't it the official position of the White House to not comment on the twin's personal lives? How could the First Lady forget that on national TV?

Richard Leiby: True: The official position of the White House is to never comment to the Reliable Source on the twins' personal lives, but I'm sure the administration would give a Jenna-Barbara scoop to Talon News.

And consider this: Maybe Laura Bush CAN be quirky and spontaneous. We hear that she used to listen to a lot of reggae and that she's a fan of Kinky Friedman.


Monterey, Calif.: Is Jon Stewart there? Anyone from the Daily Show?

If not, that's your story.

Richard Leiby: Jon Stewart doesn't NEED to be here. He's already famous enough. But Ben Karlin, his co-author on "America: The Book," and a Daily Show exec producer, will be part of the Future of Punditry debate on Saturday. I'll report all about it in my Sunday column, unless I expire from a lack of oxygen and over-imbibing.


Arlington, Va.: Not quite sure why a D.C. gossip columnist needs to be at "future of comedy" summit -- sure it's not something to do with the Democratic Party?
But hey, grab those Mighty Wind/Best in Show/Spinal Tap guys and convince them to a move about our very funny home town, Washington, D.C. Its not much different than a dog show is it?
PS I think Eugene Levy is hot.

Richard Leiby: I'll tell Eugene when I see him.

As for why I'm here: Because Washington has gotten so boring that it's sucking all the vitality from my Soul.

Also, I want to refresh some show-biz contacts. HBO sponsors the festival and there are Hollywood types around. After midnight at a hotdog stand, I ran into the executive producer of "The Boogeyman," which he said was this week's No. 1 box office smash!

On the film front, there are some buzzed-about movies screening here, including "The Aristocrats," "Lucky 13" "Kung Fu Hustle" and "Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic."

Will let you know whether any of them are good.


Jenna and Laura: So the comments about Laura not smoking any longer, I was under the impression she's been spotted bumming cigs from the press corps?

As for Miss Jenna, I believe I may have discovered a new hang out ... will keep you posted ...

Richard Leiby: In Hot Anne's column today, Laura swears she has quit, but I personally know the power of the Demon Nick O'Teen and how hard it is to go cold turkey.

Don't know where your info comes from, but it sounds like you're the kind of "insider" we should cultivate for such important "leaks." (Shall I call you Jeffrey Wigand?)


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: You wrote: "I'm in the press lodgings, over at the Aspen Institute, which is quite Bauhaus and full of sunshine."

Sunshine? No wonder Bela Lugosi's dead.

Richard Leiby: HEY, I told you I was light-headed today. I MEANT BOXY GERMAN ARCHITECTURE.


Re: Oscars: Leib, love you dear, but aren't you a gossip columnist? Shouldn't you know who all those people are and be able to tell the difference between Dylan McDermot and Dermot Mulroney?

Richard Leiby: Huh? In my gig it's more important to know the difference between Mike Feldman (the Democratic consultant) and Cory Feldman.


San Francisco, Calif.: "... As for why I'm here: Because Washington has gotten so boring that it's sucking all the vitality from my Soul."

Minor Correction:

Washington is sucking all the vitality from the soul of the entire country, not to mention a fair portion of the world.

Richard Leiby: Ja, wohl.


Below the Beltway in Virginia: As I understand it, you are not going to be able to wear your pants the way you like them once you return home.

Better show off your flashiest longjohns in Aspen while you can.

Richard Leiby: I was just in Richmond on Monday when they were debating that underwear bill. I couldn't believe they were taking on low-riding briefs when tricked-out SUVs in the HOV lanes are the real problem.

Just so you know: I also got to meet Mark Warner, who's the governor or something, and may be an important National Presence sometime.


Porn, NM: I am VERY disturbed by this whole porn name thing.

Not because I'm a prude, but because I grew up on Joan Drive with a collie named Lady.

I am a 200-lb. hairy man.

Richard Leiby: I'm not sure I needed to know that at 10:47 a.m. mountain time.


Oxford, Miss.: Since you asked:

My adult entertainment names could be:
Otter Baby
Imperial Frank
Coccini Misty
Mimosa Frogmouth

or any permutation thereof.

Richard Leiby: I didn't ask! When did I ask?


Point of Order: Excuse me, but haven't you been doing this discussion for around about one year now?

Did I miss the anniversary celebration ... or is that what all those balls were about in D.C. a few weeks ago?

Richard Leiby: Actually, nobody at the Post celebrated my 1-year anniversary as either a columnist or a chat-host -- or even mentioned it. But I'm glad the Republicans took note.


To Arlington, Va.: "Not quite sure why a D.C. gossip columnist needs to be at "future of comedy" summit -- sure it's not something to do with the Democratic Party?"

Now don't you worry about us, Arlington: you just keep your tight little pants on the way they're supposed to be.

We will have the last laugh.

Richard Leiby: Thanks! And my editors are asking me to write a separate article refreshing my Future of Comedy story from 1995. We'll post that one here. But as for me writing anything new, it all depends on whether the editors give me my due: a huge anniversary celebration.


Washington, D.C.: Leiby,

It always seems like you are scrounging for (and lacking) material.

What gives? I hear more gossip before breakfast than you put a week's worth of columns. And I'm HOPELESSLY out of the loop. How did you get this gig?

Take care. Go skiing.

Richard Leiby: I don't downhill ski, but you're right: I'm scrounging. Here's the reason: The WASHPOST DOES NOT PRINT GOSSIP.

Everything I write that marginally tantalizing must have two sources, including eyewitnesses, or be based in court documents. You want pure gossip, read the New York Post. Or write a letter of complaint to our Ombudsman.


Aspen Has Been?: When I lived in Aspen for a short fling in the early 80's, the late night place to hang out was the bar at Hotel Jerome.

Anyone tried to steer you there yet?

Richard Leiby: Indeed, I was at the bar in the Hotel Jerome last night. I noted a campaign poster for Hunter Thompson, who ran for sheriff once.


Washington, D.C.: Re: Laura and Kinky Friedman

It isn't too hard to figure out why Laura is a fan of the Kinster. One of his biggest hits was "I'm proud to be an a--hole from El Paso".
Believe me, I don't hold it against him, he also rhymed Aristotle Onassis with ethnocentric rascist.

Good point about Cheech and Chong not needing to compare themselves to anybody (unless maybe it's the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers!)

If the bar bills in Aspen get too spendy, remember, dope will get you through times with no money a lot better than money will get you through times with no dope!

Richard Leiby: Interesting you should mention the Freak Brothers. Great headline in today's Aspen Daily Press, front page:

"Dave the Freak Launches Free Publication in Aspen."

It's called Bored and it features photos of animals in sexual congress. (And you thought Washington was bad...)


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Oh Mighty Q, I just attended a wedding in Richmond last month. The front page of the Times-Disgrace announced that the Commonwealth's Supreme Court struck down the state law that prohibits sex between unmarried people. What's next?

Richard Leiby: My prediction: The Missionary Position will become the only legal form of (human) sexual congress. Dogs can still do their thing, though.


Nashville, Tenn.: Leebs,

Writing to you from the hometown of Les Paul, who invented multi-track recording and the modern electric guitar that bears his name. However, the earlier entry is indeed correct that the electic 'Hawaiin Guitar' by Rickenbacker and Beauchamp preceeded Paul's guitar. Sorry to burst the Quiddly bubble.

Richard Leiby: I love people who traffic in Hawaiian Guitar historical trivia! But thanks for setting the record straight.


Two sources: The requirement of two sources by the Wash Post puts the "reliable" in Reliable Source.

Welcome to Colorado.

Richard Leiby: Actually, we are only as reliable as the two-drink minimum lets us be.


Kensington, Md.: Dude, you're getting crabby. Drink a Bloody Mary with a dill pickle spear. You'll feel better.

Richard Leiby: Great suggestion. And I'm taking you up on it. I've got to get over the St. Regis now to take in a discussion by the authors of "He's Just Not That Into You" and an award ceremony honoring Garry Trudeau of "Doonesbury" fame. I'll be sure to stop by the bar first.

Thanks, everyone. You put the bong in the reggae song!

Quid over.


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