Senatorial Stylings Are Hung Up on eBay

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, May 26, 2006

What's the matter with you people -- you don't want to look like a Senate wife? A charity auction of more than 100 dresses donated by first ladies, senators' wives and several senators themselves has generated surprisingly few bids since it went up on eBay last week.

The bipartisan effort was organized by Senate wives to honor Laura Bush by raising money for her foundation to give to school library rebuilding efforts in the Gulf States. As of yesterday evening, more than 70 of the 115 outfits had failed to attract a single bid -- including a vintage Chanel worn by Betty Ford and an Oscar de la Renta from Rosalynn Carter .

What happened? A common strategy among eBay customers is to wait until the last minute, and the auctions weren't due to end until today. But organizers noted that bids tripled yesterday after the auction got a mention on eBay's home page; yesterday, organizer Landra Reid (wife of Minority Leader Harry Reid ) announced the auction would be extended until Wednesday for items that had not received a bid.

The scant bidding has a distinctly nonpartisan tone. The biggest draws come from both sides of the aisle -- Tricia Lott's blue and gold St. John suit (size 6 top, size 8 bottom) and Dianne Feinstein's light blue St. John suit (size 14). The item drawing the most action? A pink Chanel jacket from an unnamed Senate family that had received nine bids as of last night. Check out the dress sizes of scores of other political dames at http://www.ebay.com/hundreddresses .

The Former Future Prez

Ben Barnes
Ben Barnes in 1992. The Texan political phenom turned lobbyist greeted other onetime sure-to-be-presidents at a book party.(Rick Mcfarland - AP)
Ben Barnes enjoyed an almost Clintonesque trajectory in Texas politics, serving as speaker of the state House and lieutenant governor by the time he was 30. In 1970, Lyndon Johnson was so impressed that he declared that Barnes, then 32, "will someday be the next president of the United States!"

Didn't quite play out that way. Barnes ended his electoral career a few years later after getting mixed up in a bribery scandal (which he blames on Nixonian dirty tricks) and moved on to life as a top lobbyist and Democratic fundraiser. He greeted old friends and signed copies of his new memoir, "Barn Burning Barn Building," Wednesday at a party at the posh Sulgrave Club that was populated by more than a few men who shared his past as a potential president -- such as John Kerry , Chuck Robb and co-host Tom Daschle , who still shows up on those lists.

We asked Barnes, now 68, what advice he'd give today's political wunderkinder. "You've got to learn to take the praise with a grain of salt," he said. "Analyze your weaknesses rather than your strengths -- the strengths take care of themselves. Don't start believing your most favorable press clippings."

Any regrets? None, he says. "People say, 'What if you had run for the Senate in 1970, when Lloyd Ben tsen did?' I refuse to play that game."

THIS JUST IN . . .

· Yes, apparently she is that good an actress: Cate Blanchett has signed to play Bob Dylan -- or rather, some metaphorical aspect of Dylan's personality -- in a biopic called "I'm Not There." Six other actors will play different incarnations of Dylan. Trippy.

Pussycat Colls
We knew Barbie. We played with Barbie. Pussycat Dolls, you are no Barbie.(Nela Koenig)
· Hasbro shelved plans to release a line of dolls based on Hollywood burlesque-troupe-turned-pop-group the Pussycat Dolls after parents complained the image was inappropriate for little girls. Ya think?

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

· Grown-up child superstar Macaulay Culkin and "That '70s Show" starlet Mila Kunis strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue near 24th Street yesterday . . . at 8:15 a.m.? Unknown whether it was a late night or early morning for one of Young Hollywood's longest-standing couples, clad in jeans. Culkin, 25, and Kunis, 22, were said to be in town for her brother's grad school commencement, but her rep didn't know what school.

· "Titanic" director James Cameron lunching yesterday in a private room at downtown's IndeBleu with a large group. His rep said the Oscar winner was in town to meet with "science friends" -- indeed, one of them was TV host (and Sidwell grad) Bill Nye the Science Guy! Both made a pitch to Congress for space exploration funds.


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