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Fear the Turtle, Especially in First Class

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, November 22, 2005; 1:33 AM

Don't mess with columnist Bob Novak when he's on his way to a Maryland basketball game. Novak, the enigmatic center of the CIA leak scandal, was headed to Hawaii Saturday morning to watch his beloved Terrapins play in the Maui Invitational tournament when he tangled with a fellow traveler.

According to our unofficial mascot on the flight, Novak was boarding an American flight to Chicago when he cut in front of another passenger while entering first class. The guy protested and laid a hand on Novak -- who responded by socking him and threatening to knock his teeth out.

Not mild-mannered Bob? We reached Novak in Maui, just minutes into yesterday's game.

"Some guy pushed me and I pushed him back," he said, shouting into the phone from the stands. "That's all there was to it." Both offending parties were scolded by airline staff and huffed to their respective seats.

And did you learn something from this experience, Bob?

"No, nothing."

Wendy Pepper and the Spice of Reality TV Life

If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a reality TV star after the glare of the spotlight has passed on to some newer crop of hopefuls -- well, don't ask Wendy Pepper !

We found the 41-year-old Middleburg designer at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, holding court Saturday at a VIP reception for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation "Night of Hope" Gala (which raised $1.5 million). She described the opportunities that have come her way since she was eliminated on the February finale of the cult cable hit "Project Runway" (a kind of "American Idol" for fashion): First she did "Battle of the Network Reality Stars," now it's a winning stint on "Celebrity Poker Showdown," soon a judging gig on the next "Project Runway."

Wendy Pepper
"I'm very resourceful," says Wendy Pepper, walkin' the reality TV runway.(Hyon Smith Photography)
Wow, who knew D-list fame was so enduring?

"I'm very resourceful," she said.

Pepper -- glammed up and not looking a thing like her backstabber-nerd TV persona -- said she just started selling her own line of clothing at a Middleburg boutique. So, this reality TV stuff -- doesn't it, you know, undercut one's credibility within one's chosen profession? "Luckily, in the creative field," she said, "a little eccentricity is always important."

Okay, Already! They're Getting Outta the Kitchen

The catastrophic fall of scandal-ridden superlobbyist Jack Abramoff has put a fly in Washington's culinary soup.

Signatures, the posh restaurant he opened on Pennsylvania Avenue three years ago, closed abruptly last Wednesday when the team of investors who took it off Abramoff's hands this summer pulled the plug. Lobbyist Mark Smith , head of the investing team that included former congressman Bob Livingston , did not return a call for comment yesterday, but he told Roll Call that "the business is not viable." Though the restaurant had won praise from many critics -- our own Tom Sietsema declared it had "plenty to hold a diner's attention" -- its popularity waned when being a Friend of Jack suddenly became an indictment risk. And all those public officials getting comped meals couldn't have helped at the register.

Rising-star chef Morou Ouattara -- the winner of a local competition for "Iron Chef America" -- was out preparing a dinner for a March of Dimes gala when the doors were locked. He would not comment on the closing but said fans should look for him to pop up somewhere else soon.

"I've been looking to open my own place for a while, but I was in a contract and now I'm out," he said. "It makes it easier."

THIS JUST IN . . .

If you run into Tom Friedman, make him pay for drinks. The New York Times columnist snagged the inaugural Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award for "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century." The award comes with a cash prize of 30,000 British pounds (about $52,000).

SHOUT OUT

"Cheers to being in the building where they signed the Constitution. I think they signed it right over there, in the middle row." -- Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes at the Constitution Hall show Friday night. He then guzzled a beer and threw the bottle across the stage. Should we flunk him in history or geography?


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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