Cher Rides Shotgun at Helmet Hearing

Cher attended a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on military helmet safety yesterday.
Cher attended a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on military helmet safety yesterday. (Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, June 16, 2006

So many people to thank for attending yesterday's House Armed Services subcommittee meeting, but just one with a single name: Ladies and gentlemen, Grammy- and Oscar-winning performer Cher !

Chairman Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) was clearly stirred to find her in the room. "It's especially poignant because Sonny Bono and his wife have been members of this committee," he said, then added: "As you all know, Sonny died of a head injury." Then he praised the eulogy Cher delivered at Sonny's funeral: "I can tell you today it was perhaps the most touching story." And again, "It's really a great honor with Cher here."

The reason for all this love: Operation Helmet, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting and providing helmet safety upgrades for troops, a cause Cher has embraced as her own, appearing on C-SPAN Wednesday morning to take calls and later visiting troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But yesterday, the iconic singer, in black pantsuit, plunging white lacy top and layers of necklaces, sat in the hearing and barely moved except to adjust her very long, very black hair hanging to her waist. She was on hand to support grandfatherly founder Bob Meaders , who testified.

Question from the chair to Meaders: "Do you want to acknowledge your largest donor?"

"Cher's been an amazing supporter, and she's been a great PR person and is now our celebrity spokesperson," Meaders drawled.

"Is it true you and her are going to do a gig together?" joshed Weldon. Yuks all around.

The bad news about huge stars on the Hill is that even the most serious politicians get sidetracked. "When I see Cher . . ." mused Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.). "I was elected in 1995. The first time we had a meeting, your husband -- your former husband, I guess -- kept us up all night. He was well-liked."

Across from Cher on the dais: Her ex's widow, Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.), sitting in on the hearing. "She was there to support Cher," explained Bono's spokeswoman. "They're like family."

Congresswoman Bono, sitting a couple feet away from Jones with her chin in her hands, let a tiny smile cross her face. Eventually, she jumped in. "A lot has been said about Sonny. This is not about Sonny. But I do know he would be proud." Later, she added: "Again, Cher, thank you for watching C-SPAN -- I think you have better things to do with your life than watch boring old us, but thank you!"

Alas, the hearing came to a close without the singer ever taking the mike. "Cher, you've impressed me," Weldon said. "You've sat through a 2 1/2 -hour hearing. For that you deserve a round of applause." A handful of people clapped.

We caught up with Cher looking a bit dazed by it all. "I thought it was great that they had it," she said. "But the war's been going on for some time."

But this was no time to talk politics. There were autographs to sign, and one reporter even brought an old Sonny and Cher album. Ah, Washington.

Perhaps Not the Representation That Washington Is Looking For

So -- no Harold Ford Jr .? No Gilbert Arenas or Joey Cheek ? What about Josh Bolten ? Don't they know Patrick Kennedy's still available?

From a D.C. perspective, People's new "Hottest Bachelors" 2006 issue raises more questions than answers. How was it that single-guy Very Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was good enough for the magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive!" issue last fall yet didn't rate for this list? Expect a call for congressional hearings. (Cover boy is Taylor Hicks -- tired of him yet, America?)

Indeed, our region's only representatives in the issue, on newsstands today, are computer dudes Dave Redmin and Mark Feldhousen Jr. and PR guy Tim Kievit , who have dubbed their shared Ballston digs the "Geekpad." Basically, they've got the place all wired up -- video games, high-tech lighting and sound, an automated beer pong table that washes the balls itself -- and throw a lot of awesome parties.

Yeah, exactly. And they're not even that single! "I was told that having a girlfriend doesn't make you not eligible," Feldhousen, 32, told us. "We all have girlfriends."

THIS JUST IN . . .

Instead of moving to New York City, City Paper's Erik Wemple is sticking to Washington. Two weeks ago, Wemple announced he was headed north to become editor of the Village Voice in July, and schmoozed with editors and writers on Monday. But he issued a polite correction yesterday saying he's staying put. "I met with the staff earlier this week and very much enjoyed our time together," Wemple said in a statement. "However, the paper's ownership and I have failed to come to terms in our many discussions about moving forward, particularly with respect to newsroom management." We tried to find out more, but Wemple said he was going to stick to his statement.


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