Wonkette's Sex Change

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Wonkette is dead -- long live Wonkette.

Ana Marie Cox, the writer who made Washington politics irresistibly naughty, is giving up her job as a full-time, pajama-clad blogger to become a full-time, pajama-clad author. Cox, who just signed a contract for her second book, will hand off the political Web site to David Lat, the lawyer who secretly penned Underneath Their Robes, an irreverent blog about the judiciary world.

"I'm so happy," Cox said yesterday. "I was a big fan of Underneath Their Robes. [Lat's] already obsessed with all the things you need to be obsessed with to do Wonkette properly. The only thing I'm worried about is if he drinks enough. But I can drink for two, if necessary."

Cox, 33, began writing Wonkette two years ago and quickly became a must-read for Washington's political and media wonktocracy, working the gig into national prominence, television appearances and an inevitable roman a clef "blovel." Mentioned in just about every media outlet possible (and featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine at the height of the 2004 election), she blogged profanely, hysterically, ironically -- sometimes all at once.

Lat, who is traveling overseas and could not be reached for comment -- about his new job and/or about references to a specific sex act that became the signature of Wonkette's oeuvre -- will take over later this month with Alex Pareene, who has been a guest editor on Gawker.com. The Web site will be redesigned but the name will remain unchanged.

"What can I say? My [butt] is tired from all that sitting," Cox said. She will assume the title of Wonkette's editor emeritus -- which means she'll post an occasional item as a guest.

"Dog Days," her first novel, comes out tomorrow, with the predictable buzz and, yes, bad reviews. Her next book, a nonfiction project, will be her take on the next generation of political activists. Riverhead Books has given her a deal in the mid-six-figures; the book will be out in time for the 2008 election.

Lat, 30, is a former assistant federal prosecutor in New Jersey. Underneath Their Robes devoted itself to breathless sightings of judges -- especially babes and hunks -- from the perspective of a young female lawyer who called herself Article III Groupie or A3G. An article in a November issue of the New Yorker revealed that Lat was the true author of the blog, which was then shut down that month.

"I would expect [Wonkette] to evolve significantly," said Lockhart Steele , managing editor of Gawker Media, the site's publisher. "New bloggers bring new perspective and new energy."

Steele was impressed by Lat's "Wonkettey qualities": "He was very obsessive about people's good looks. Anyone who could make the federal judiciary sexy is a blogger we'd want to work with."

Lat will be joined by Pareene, a 20-year-old dropout from New York University, who will co-edit the site.

"We're saving him from the horror of having him finish his undergraduate education," said Steele.

For A Channel 9 Veteran, A Hartfelt Tribute

After 36 1/2 years with local CBS affiliate WUSA, Channel 9 news photographer Tad Dukehart decided to put down his camera. The 63-year-old Dukehart was presented with a swanky engraved plate from Tiffany at a company Christmas luncheon to celebrate his years of service.

And his name was misspelled. Bummer.

"It's probably just an innocent mistake," laughed off the man who was referred to as "Thomas Duke heart " on the elegant, oh-so-permanent engraving. (Dukehart has always been known as Tad around the office, but Thomas is in fact his given name.)

Problem is, this isn't the first time this has happened. New management invaded the station just before Dukehart's 25-year anniversary 11 years ago and referred to him as "Ted" when he reached the 25-year mark. Really, what's in a name?

Dukehart's friends and colleagues were shocked when they heard about the plate, but WUSA General Manager Darryll Green says the station got the order right. The plate was so beautifully wrapped -- big blue box, lots of tissue, satin ribbon -- that no one checked the engraving before the big presentation. He tripped over himself yesterday stressing that the station "appreciates all his years of service."

And, yes, the happily retired Duke hart is getting a brand-new plate.

Surreal Estate

Seller : William Conway

Buyer: Steve Case

Price: $24.5 million

Details: The former AOL chairman has quietly purchased and moved into Merrywood, the historic mansion in McLean that was the childhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis . Case, who wouldn't comment on the sale, bought the 17,254-square-foot manse on Chain Bridge Road in November from Conway, the managing director of the Carlyle Group. The Georgian mansion, once owned by Jackie's stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss , is nestled cozily in a wealth of trees on the banks of the Potomac River and rests on the seven remaining acres of the original 46-acre estate. Invite us to the next lawn party for croquet.

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