Headed Out the Door and Sounding Off En Route

peggy  seats
Peggy Seats, standing, and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele with Dorothy Height at Friday night's dinner. The party, which drew 100 people, was the last straw for Seats. (Gustave Assiri)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

After 10 years of trying to establish a Washington memorial for Benjamin Banneker, Peggy Seats is calling it quits -- and she's not going quietly. Seats announced her departure this weekend in an e-mail blasting prominent African Americans she contends are more interested in their image than in their history.

"Black folks are consumed with posturing, profiling, being self-important and criticizing those that are self-sacrificing to do the work," she wrote.

The last straw was the lack of support for Friday's fundraiser hosted by the Washington Interdependence Council. Seats founded the group in 1996 to promote a memorial on L'Enfant Plaza to the 18th-century African American astronomer and inventor who surveyed the District of Columbia with Pierre L'Enfant. The 10th-anniversary party honoring civil rights icon Dorothy Height drew only 100 people to the Jefferson Hotel: some VIPs (Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele , Africare founder C. Payne Lucas , former transportation secretary Rodney Slater ) but few paying guests.

Seats was especially upset that D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (who was responsible for the Banneker memorial bill) and Rep. Elijah Cummings weren't there. Norton's spokeswoman said she was detained at an all-day retreat; Cummings's spokeswoman said the Maryland Democrat canceled due to an emergency.

The Banneker Memorial was authorized by Congress in 1998, but Seats said yesterday she has raised only about $1 million over the past decade and spent it all in the lobbying effort. Her e-mail blames everyone: "We receive little to no support in our community -- not from the poor, the middle class or the nouveau riche -- especially not the rich. Despite repeated requests, not one cent from Cathy Hughes, Bob Johnson, Sheila Johnson, Oprah Winfrey , movie stars and other fat cats, including our politicians."

Filmmaker Stanley Nelson , who flew in from California to document the dinner, thinks Seats's outburst could be productive.

"It's not a bad thing for people to get angry," Nelson said yesterday. "I'm one of those who think healthy criticism of the African American community by the African American community is a good thing."

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

anna nicole smith
Anna Nicole Smith, during perkier times.
· Arnold Schwarzenegger , in town for the National Governors Association conference, holding court in the lobby of the Four Seasons and brandishing a huge stogie -- though he adjourned to the smoking lounge before lighting it. Hey, what's the latest with that D.C. smoking ban?

· Anna Nicole Smith , checking into a Georgetown hotel along with her manager yesterday, before today's Supreme Court arguments over the billon-dollar estate of her late Texas oilman husband. Wearing a white jacket as she unloaded from an SUV, the buxom former model looked weary.

There's No Telling Who'll Win!

With the Oscars coming up on Sunday, we're asking a variety of experts for their predictions to help you fill out your ballot for the office pool.

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Jack Valenti: MPAA ex nixes AMPAS picks.
Now that Jack Valenti's no longer the Motion Picture Association of America chief, we figured he could share his picks. Noooooo way, said the veteran lobbyist. "It's not considered good form in the Academy to tell people who you think is going to win. I know someone involved in each one of those movies." But as he headed off to his 38th consecutive Academy Awards ceremony, Valenti did admit that his biggest Oscar letdown came when "Shakespeare in Love" snagged Best Picture in 1999. "I thought it was a slam-dunk for the finest military epic ever, 'Saving Private Ryan.' "

No hesitation from Studio Theatre director Joy Zinoman , who calls a "Brokeback Mountain" victory for Best Picture and Best Director. "If you look at Ang Lee, he's a Chinese man with a wife and children" who tackled a story about homosexuality in the American West. "Director to director, I find his range so extraordinary . . . it's inspiring."

Karl vs. Hillary? What- ever.

So, like, Karl Rove says in this new book ( Bill Sammon 's "Strategery") that Hillary Clinton 's totally gonna be the Democratic nominee. He's all, "anybody who thinks that she's not going to be the candidate is kidding themselves." But she'll lose because of her "brittleness."

So Hillary? She goes on Albany radio yesterday, and she's all, Karl "spends a lot of time obsessing about me." She's like, "Why are they spending so much time talking about me?" She says the GOP just wants people to forget "all of their missteps."

So we told this to Tracey Schmitt ? With the RNC? And she's all, "Senator Clinton would be better served if she spent less time flattering herself with perceived obsessions and more time focusing on her job." Ohmygod! Can't wait to hear what Hil says tomorrow!


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