For Sale: A Program for Peace in All Its Elusiveness

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, March 16, 2006

Melinda Bates was working in the Clinton White House when she grabbed a piece of history. And now she's hawking it on eBay.

It was Sept. 13, 1993, and the president was hosting a ceremony to mark a new Israeli-Palestinian "peace accord." As director of the White House visitors center, Bates managed to get Yitzhak Rabin , Yasser Arafat and Bill and Hillary Clinton to sign her copy of the official program.

Arafat's aide, apparently fearing a booby trap, insisted she use his pen; Rabin also got his wife to sign the program. "My primary memory of that day was how hopeful everyone was," says Bates, now an event planner and jewelry designer.

For years, she kept her program in a folder with other memorabilia. But while preparing for a move to a simpler life in Mexico, Bates decided it was time to sell. Her price? $50,000.

Bates says she'd love to see the program go to a museum, or simply a collector. Though she had received no bids as of yesterday, she figures the signatures are especially valuable since both Middle Eastern leaders are dead.

George Lowry , chairman of NYC's Swann Auction Galleries, thinks Bates is highballing it. "There's a lot of that [kind of thing] floating around, though this may be the first coming on the market," says the autograph expert. He gauged the program's value at $5,000 to $10,000, "and I wouldn't guarantee it would sell."

Jay Carson , spokesman for the former president's foundation, had a mixed reaction. "The peace achieved at that historic event was priceless, so I guess it isn't crazy that the program would go for 50 grand," he said, "though it's a little disappointing someone is selling it instead of hanging on to it."

Bates argues that most of the presidential memorabilia for sale on eBay comes from former staffers. Other aides "sell out and get new jobs and make millions. My little program for sale isn't such a big deal."

The Look of the 'Next Top Model'?

For more than two decades, David Bradley 's Advisory Board Co. has been the D.C. destination for Ivy Leaguers and other smart young things -- an intellectual boot camp that pushes its whiz kids to their limits while molding them for leadership in corporate America.

Yeah, but can it show 'em how to turn it out on the runway? A young Advisory Board researcher has emerged as an early favorite on high-camp reality show "America's Next Top Model." Sara Albert , 22, a recent Georgetown grad, was shopping at Pentagon City last summer when a casting agent spotted her willowy blondness. She made the cut as one of the 13 top contestants; on last week's premiere, she turned heads.

"This is fierce !," judge Jay Manuel exclaimed as Albert posed in a bald cap (then warned another model: "That [bad girl] turned it out, so you better represent "). Judge J. Alexander proclaimed her "my 6-foot-1 Scarlett Johansson !" though Hoya Web sites put the former volleyball star at 6-3.

Yet, Albert still has her day job. A bad sign? "I'm not allowed to do any sort of press until after the show," she said.

Whodunit? The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind

Oh, how our hearts leapt when the news came across yesterday: Break-in at the RNC chairman's house!

At 9 a.m., a burglar alarm summoned police to the Capitol Hill home of Ken Mehlman . The front door was standing wide open. Officers ran a police dog through the house. Alas, no ex-spies. No surgical gloves. No burglars. No Mehlmangate.

"The wind blew open the door," RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt told our colleague Petula Dvorak. "It set off the burglar alarm." Police concurred. Three blocks over, the 37-mph gusts knocked over a tree in the yard of retired Democratic senator Bob Graham.


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