The Scoop on the Segway: Mobile Mystery Diner Revealed

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Sunday, February 5, 2006

An intensive Reliable Source investigation spanning 2 1/2 weeks has uncovered the identity of a mystery man who flummoxed the Bistro Bis staff -- and prompted a wrenching national debate about the etiquette of new transportation technology -- when he rode into the Capitol Hill restaurant on his Segway.

He's John Barrett , a Las Vegas resident who often works in the District and keeps an apartment here. After an exhaustive search (calling all known male D.C. Segwayists, asking was that you?!? ), we found Barrett . . . well, when he wrote in to our live Web chat saying, "I'm the guy."

To prove it, Barrett sent photos of himself, which we asked Bistro Bis hostess Nadya Nikiforova to examine. "That looks very much like him," she concluded.

Barrett, 61, who works for a TV production company, said he began using a Segway last year because of an old injury that destroyed much of his left leg's agility. He often takes the Segway into public buildings, sometimes with a doctor's note as explanation. "I'm very polite, I just go 1 mile an hour," he said.

He said he had no idea at the time that Nikiforova was so rattled by his rolling into the restaurant and asking for a place to stow his Segway. "She was very nice," he said. "I could sense she was a little bit [confused], that's why I made some suggestion of where to put it. I gave her a $5 tip for storing it in the coatroom and had a wonderful meal."

And for all the debate his revolutionary act inspired, Barrett insisted that he wasn't trying to make a statement. "It's a parking thing," he said. "If there was a place to chain it up out front, I would have left it there."

An Author Endorsement He Might Not Want to Trumpet

You write "Bright Lights, Big City" in that annoying second-person narrative -- but, somehow, your debut novel about a shallow, depressed yuppie makes you a white-hot star. You're Jay McInerney , a boy genius in the 1980s, but then your other books tank and people start confusing you with other literary brats like Bret Easton Ellis.

You marry and divorce, do a lot of coke, marry and divorce, marry, move to Nashville, have twins, pen a wine column for House & Garden, separate and move back to New York. You're older, wiser and now you've got a new book, "The Good Life," to promote. You get one of the new, white-hot authors to give a fawning blurb:

"This is Jay McInerney's best book since 'Bright Lights, Big City.' . . . People wondered what kind of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald might have been had he lived. McInerney, his closest successor, is starting to show us."

The blurb goes top and center on a news release sent out to book critics across the nation. It comes from James Frey , disgraced author of "A Million Little Pieces." It is sent out weeks before Frey admits lying about . . . well, pretty much everything.

Your book comes out tomorrow. You think Oprah probably won't be calling anytime soon.

Sorry, You're Not on the List

One in an occasional series of dispatches from parties you should have crashed

Host: Washington Life magazine

Site: Dumbarton House, Georgetown

Occasion: Release of the magazine's first Junior Social List.

Scene: Three hundred local young society types, gleaned heavily from the list of "accomplished junior social achievers," with a late-for-a-weeknight start of 9 p.m. (What is it you kids do again?) Exceedingly pretty blond women in plunging goddess-style dresses and men with a preppy-iconoclast look (cowboy hats, velvet blazers, floppy bangs). Dance-floor writhing to a soul band and DJ; after-party at Smith Point until 2 a.m.

Most famous people on Junior Social List : The Bush twins, Chelsea Clinton.

Most famous person on Junior Social List in attendance : Jenna's boyfriend, Henry Hager.

Bar: Open! Wine bar, martini bar, liquor bar. (Moet & Chandon mini-bottles, with little drinking straws, quickly depleted, though).

Overheard: "We're going to make Washington Life the Vanity Fair of Washington, and I'm not going to rest until that happens." -- magazine CEO Soroush Shehabi.

Goodie bag: Ladies only -- generous samples of Clinique and Kiehl's, 30-milliliter bottle of Marc Jacobs perfume, fancy magnetic bottle opener, coupons to various boutiques, a copy of Washington Life.

Readers Tell Us

Washington, D.C. writes : OK, how much truth (if any) is there to the recent rumor that Brad and Angelina bought a home in Kalorama??

Sigh. Welcome to the Mobius strip of gossip: the rumor that twists and turns and never ends. True, it's hard to know what to believe when it comes to Brangelina gossip, given that this couple denies everything, even the stuff that turns out to be true. But we've chased this tip for the past two months, and everyone in a first-hand position to know swears that the Sexiest Couple in the Universe and their brood aren't moving to Washington. Yes, they were photographed in front of a property that's for sale. Yes, they seem to be spending more time in the nation's capital. But no, just because the rumor keeps popping up doesn't mean it's true.

Heard any other good rumors lately? Share the wealth at .

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