Playing With Fire: From the NSO, a Sparkling Display

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The National Symphony Orchestra kicked off its 76th season Sunday with a bang: the Kennedy Center's first indoor fireworks display. There were shooting sparks, loud booms and smoke in the mosh pit -- kinda like a black-tie Kiss concert.

Music Director Leonard Slatkin picked an all-Tchaikovsky program for the gala opening night program, which ended with the "1812" Overture, the classic finale for Fourth of July spectacles. When he promised fireworks in the Concert Hall, audience members chuckled at his pun -- until actual pyrotechnics began exploding behind the orchestra. Then they gasped with delight.

"Originally I wanted lasers," said Slatkin, who found out the beams are more dangerous than fireworks. (Lasers require a 10-foot clearance to prevent blinding someone. Who knew?) Instead, NSO production manager Daryl Donley and Maryland's Associated Pyrotechnicians designed a show with indoor blasts just like the ones Britney Spears uses at her concerts. "You could get really close to those charges and not get burned," said Donley.

With fire marshals on either side of the stage, 29 gerbs (massive sparklers) blasted off, and then the big finish: four flash tubes -- bigger sparks, loud booms, lots of smoke -- and exploding rockets with streamers and confetti that fluttered onto the VIP crowd.

Expensive? Donley put it this way: "It was worth it."

O Pioneers: Men Who've Made Public Service Sexy

Check it out: No less than five Beltway guys on "The Real Sexiest Men Alive" list of 16 in October's O magazine! Then again . . . seems they're trying to make the case that it's not about hotness per se but, you know, brains, humor, compassion, blah de blah.

Thus does NBC White House correspondent David Gregory -- the "firebrand in the front row" -- come in at No. 3, Barack Obama (what magazine list is he not on these days?) at No. 5, helper-of-the-homeless Robert Egger , founder of D.C. Central Kitchen, at No. 8 and "brilliant but accessible" Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria at No. 14. In last place is Very Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald , cited for speaking truth to power and playing rugby -- "an unbeatably sexy combination." Hey, Oprah : We saw him first!

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

John McCain , cracking hard-shell crabs at Cantler's Riverside Inn in Annapolis, after Navy's loss to Tulsa Saturday. The likely '08 presidential contender was barely recognized, just another midshipman dad in the crowd, sitting with wife Cindy , son Jack (USNA '09), another couple and a bunch of other mids.

Cal Ripken , either lunching late or dining early Saturday with a friend at the Hard Times Cafe in Alexandria, with surprisingly few fans disturbing his chili.

Bo Derek and John Corbett , hanging around the bar at Nathan's late Saturday; the actor-singer kissed the female bartender's hand, explained that his activist-pinup sweetie had business in D.C. this week and he was just tagging along. Why don't they just move here, already?


Rethinking: Teen pop star Aaron Carter , 18, has broken off his engagement to actress-Playmate Kari Ann Peniche , 22, his rep confirmed yesterday, just a week after he proposed onstage in Vegas -- and just days before the debut of his E! reality show with brother Nick , who dated her first. "I am not ready for marriage quite yet," he said.

Feeling violated : Rapper DMX claims a Maryland woman -- who later filed a paternity claim against him -- had sex with him without his consent. In an interview with Sister 2 Sister magazine, he said he was sound asleep during the encounter with the woman he met at D.C.'s Dream nightclub in '03. "That might sound like some [nonsense]," he acknowledged. "Is that the only thing in the world that's not possible?"


Owner: Javad Khakbaz

Asking price: $1,050,000

Details: Before vice presidents lived at the Naval Observatory, they lived wherever they wanted -- and for Gerald Ford , it was this 4BR brick Colonial in Alexandria's Clover area he had built as a young congressman in the '50s. He and Betty raised their four kids and even spent the first 10 days of his presidency here before trading up to 1600 Pennsylvania in '74. They sold three years later, and the two subsequent owners used it mostly as a rental property; a recent tenant was senior White House aide Douglas Baker , James Baker 's son. Amenities include pool, historic landmark plaque and driveway reinforced to support presidential limos.

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