A Midday Feast for Chinese Leader

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, April 21, 2006

Let's do lunch! The White House gave Chinese President Hu Jintao a 21-gun salute and accommodations at Blair House, but there was no black-tie state dinner last night because this was an "official" summit, according to Washington officials, rather than a full-blown "state visit" that confers an unqualified diplomatic stamp of approval.

The delicate compromise was a very fancy luncheon in the East Room for more than 150, complete with a receiving line and the requisite number of prominent Chinese Americans and celebrity guests: figure skater Michelle Kwan, who sat next to President Bush , former secretary of state Henry Kissinger , designer Derek Lam , NBC's Tim Russert , Chicago Mayor Richard Daley , actor Ron Silver , concert pianist Lang Lang -- not to mention Dick Cheney , Condoleezza Rice , Don Rumsfeld, first daughter Barbara Bush and a slew of business types including the heads of Ford, Citibank, FedEx, Goldman Sachs, Pepsi, Motorola and Wal-Mart.

Guests dined on corn broth with dumpling, halibut and melon, then were entertained by the Nashville Bluegrass Band.

Brad Pitt's New Orleans, er, Baby

Hey, since when do the environmental reporters snag all the sexy interviews? Our colleague Juliet Eilperin had a little phone conversation yesterday with -- yes, really! -- Brad Pitt, about enviro-friendly efforts to rebuild New Orleans. The movie star, a longtime architecture buff, is helping nonprofit Global Green sponsor a design contest for energy-efficient and affordable homes and community centers.

"Our ultimate goal is to advance the ideas of intelligent design, the idea of living and building in a more healthy manner," Pitt told Eilperin from Namibia, where tabloid-watchers know he's been visiting for a while. "Our second goal is to find a positive outcome of this catastrophe in New Orleans."

Right now you're thinking: What about Angelina? Baby's due any day now, right? Well, there were strict limits on the terms of this interview -- "no personal questions." But Eilperin pleaded with a publicist for permission to broach this intimate matter: What does he think about his frat brother -- The Post's James Grimaldi , of the U-Missouri Sigma Chi house circa 1984 -- winning the Pulitzer along with Sue Schmidt and Jeff Smith for exposing the Jack Abramoff scandal?

"You're kidding!" Pitt exclaimed. "That's very, very exciting. I'm going to look those articles up right away."

Miss D.C.: Crown This

Candace Allen, Miss District of Columbia USA 2006
Brainy beauty Candace Allen, Miss D.C.(Courtesy The Miss Universe Organization)
Don't let the photo fool you: Miss D.C. Candace Allen , competing in Baltimore tonight to become Miss USA, is no Pageant Pattie. Sure, she's got a bit of glitz in her DNA -- her cousin was Miss Pennsylvania '03 and her aunt-by-marriage a founding member of Sister Sledge . But she had never done the pageant thing before winning the local crown last fall. And her career goal? To become an FCC lawyer. So non-pageant. So D.C.

A native of the Philly suburbs, Allen is a senior communications major at Howard University, which produced the last Miss D.C. to ascend to Miss USA, Shauntay Hinton, in 2002. "I'm excited," Allen told us over the phone from rehearsals in Charm City. "It's weird. I've been here for three weeks, and I can't believe that tomorrow someone will be Miss USA, whether it's me or someone else."

So . . . has she caught the bug? Will she continue with pageants if she loses this one? "I don't think so! I'm just happy I got this far."

Betting on a White House Mouthpiece

The Scott McClellan replacement odds are posted, for those too wonky for those highbrow "American Idol" elimination wagers. Since Wednesday afternoon, BetUS.com has taken 186 bets with an average of $70 per bet (maximum is $100): Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino is tied with presidential counselor Dan Bartlett (6-5), followed by Fox News host Tony Snow (4-1), perpetual presidential adviser David Gergen (8-1) and former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clark and former Iraq occupation spokesman Dan Senor (both 12-1). Perino has the lead with almost 60 percent of all bets placed, Bartlett is the runner-up with almost 25 percent, and four delusional guys are hoping to make more than $20,000 with former Clinton buddy George Stephanopoulos (80-1).

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