washingtonpost.com
Start Spreading the News: 'Butterstick' Is Sticking

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Sunday, February 26, 2006

Caving in to the cute lobby, the National Zoo has finally adopted Butterstick as the nickname of the famed baby panda there. In the latest issue of Zoogoer magazine, an ad for the ZooFari 2006 "Black & White Night" fundraiser on May 18 reads, "Join Tai Shan (affectionately known as 'Butterstick') . . . " and the slogan: "Everything's better with Butter."

The nickname, of course, derives from the zoo's much-quoted description of the panda at his July 9 birth -- he was the size of "a stick of butter." But it was two local bloggers, Catherine Andrews and her boyfriend, Tom Lee , who actually came up with the moniker. On Aug. 2, Andrews posted an entry on local blog collective DCist.com that she casually headlined "Butterstick's a boy!" Within days, blogger friends started actively promoting the name; within weeks, it had entered common parlance.

"I thought it was cute, but I didn't think it would develop this weird cultlike following," says Andrews. (A proposal by our snarky Style colleagues to call him Parkay never seemed to catch on.) Despite a fervent write-in campaign for Butterstick, the cub was officially named Tai Shan when he turned 100 days old. But now the zoo seems to have softened.

"It's not an official acknowledgment," said zoo spokesman Peper Long . "We still call him Tai Shan. But we realize people all over the world love this little guy and probably have a variety of nicknames for him -- and this is a very popular one."

Pandamaniacs on DCist are delighted: "The zoo may not like Butterstick, but their ad agency knows a winner when they see it." (One dissenter weighed in: "I dunno. 'Everything goes better with butter' just makes me want to saute the panda.")

Using the same color scheme as ZooFari, Christie's will re-create the legendary 1966 Black and White Ball at its New York headquarters next month. The first "party of the century" was hosted by Truman Capote and honored Katharine Graham ; the guest list included Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow , Gregory Peck , Norman Mailer , Lauren Bacall , John Steinbeck , Candice Bergen , Andy Warhol and presidential daughter Lynda Bird Johnson . Capote set the dress code: black tie for the men, black or white gowns for the women, and masks for all (even Johnson's Secret Service agents wore them).

The March 14 ball, meant to goose the next day's auction of Plaza Hotel gilded geegaws, will include Peter Duchin (who played at the 1966 event) and a few of the original party guests. Most of the invitations have gone to New Yorkers, but a few partyers with Washington roots (members of the Graham family, Karenna Gore Schiff and Deeda Blair ) are expected.

Butterstick, despite his naturally perfect ensemble, has yet to receive an invite. Shocking.

You Be the Gossip!

A tipster e-mails you with a detailed account of Queen Latifah on the LaGuardia-to-National shuttle Wednesday night, wearing sweats, sunglasses and a regal smile in first class with a large, mostly female entourage. But her publicist won't confirm, saying she has no idea if Latifah's in the area! Do you:

a) Launch an obsessive Google/Nexis search for every possible corroborating mention of the Queen's recent and/or upcoming movements? ( Awrigh t , a photo of her in NYC Wednesday a.m.!)

b) Pester flacks for every high-end hotel and celeb-magnet restaurant in town? ("Might be registered under her secret code name ' Dana Owens .' ")

c) Hack into that government database that flags all airline passengers with exotic foreign names?

d) Drop it -- until you see a Baltimore Sun story about the Queen's Thursday visit to a CoverGirl plant (she's a spokes-model!) in a Baltimore suburb? (E-mail story to publicist; gotta keep her in the loop!)

Readers Tell Us

Washington, D.C., writes: I'm constantly amazed if not appalled at the way people are cowed by celebrities. The Georgetown Aveda clerk thought that Reese Witherspoon was "adorable" and "very nice" [ Names and Faces , Feb. 11] despite the fact that she spent the entire time yakking on her cell phone. I always thought that was just plain "rude."

When we encounter another human being, we half-consciously measure a thousand subtle little signals (the firmness of his handshake, her behavior toward the waiter, that jacket he was wearing) to determine if this is a person of character, a person we like. When we encounter a celebrity, the force field known as "fame" scrambles all the signals and futzes with our radar. And so we lavish praise on the Oscar winner for behavior that is just baseline polite. ( Julia Roberts said, "Bless you" after I sneezed. She's so concerned about others . . . ) But we will also call the Hall of Famer a "snob" when he won't leave his booth to do a fourth round of shots with us at the bar. Maybe that's why a celeb would walk around talking on her cell -- to ward off those awkward encounters with fans.

Questions? Tips? Send them toreliablesource@washpost.com

Readers Tell Us

Washington, D.C., writes: I'm constantly amazed if not appalled at the way people are cowed by celebrities. The Georgetown Aveda clerk thought that Reese Witherspoon was "adorable" and "very nice" [ Names and Faces , Feb. 11] despite the fact that she spent the entire time yakking on her cell phone. I always thought that was just plain "rude."

When we encounter another human being, we half-consciously measure a thousand subtle little signals (the firmness of his handshake, her behavior toward the waiter, that jacket he was wearing) to determine if this is a person of character, a person we like. When we encounter a celebrity, the force field known as "fame" scrambles all the signals and futzes with our radar. And so we lavish praise on the Oscar winner for behavior that is just baseline polite. ( Julia Roberts said, "Bless you" after I sneezed. She's so concerned about others . . . ) But we will also call the Hall of Famer a "snob" when he won't leave his booth to do a fourth round of shots with us at the bar. Maybe that's why a celeb would walk around talking on her cell -- to ward off those awkward encounters with fans.

Questions? Tips? Send them toreliablesource@washpost.com

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company