The Red State of the Holiday White House

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, December 1, 2006

George and Laura Bush hosted the first of 24 White House holiday-season parties last night (nah, we didn't get an invite, either), just hours after the first lady unveiled this year's decorations, inspired by the mansion's Red Room.

The look: Two 12-foot trees covered in poinsettias greeted guests in the Grand Foyer, along with vases of red carnations, lots of candy canes, cranberry topiaries and 4,638 shiny red balls on the trees and garlands. The 18-foot Douglas fir in the Blue Room is decorated in glass, crystal and that cottony kind of fake snow, as well as tiny red bows.

The showstopper: Because she hasn't found a replacement for pastry chef Thaddeus DuBois, the first lady persuaded his predecessor, Roland Mesnier, to make the 300-pound gingerbread White House on display in the State Dining Room. Tiny renderings of Barney and Miss Beazley sit in Santa's sleigh on the rooftop; Willie the cat lies under a small birdhouse; 800 icing snowflakes cover the house.

The menu: New executive chef Cristeta Comerford added some Bush favorites to the traditional holiday buffets -- mini-chicken-fried steaks with white onion gravy, sweet potato souffle and tamales, which the Texans always eat on Christmas Eve.

During a round of early-morning interviews, the first lady said the tree upstairs in the private residence is covered with family ornaments. No word whether the twins will be home for Christmas, but they'll open presents that morning. "George's family has a very strict rule that it's Christmas Day," she told ABC. "My family always opened on Christmas Eve. But he's the president, so he gets his way on Christmas Day."

Gearing Up for Honorable Mentions

It's time for the annual Hollywood-on-the-Potomac schmoozefest -- this weekend's Kennedy Center Honors, where a cluster of A-list stars will line up for Sunday's red-carpet tribute. It's always fun to guess which celebs will show up to salute the honorees -- this year, the awards go to Dolly Parton, Steven Spielberg, Smokey Robinson, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Zubin Mehta. The list of presenters is super-secret, but be on the lookout for Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Simpson, George Lucas, Berry Gordy, Barbara Cook, Sarah Brightman, Barbara Walters, Ron Silver, Arthur Mitchell and Christine Ebersole. (Alas, newly single Kid Rock, a member of the "artists committee" for the honors and a guest in previous years, is not scheduled to attend.)

Write us at reliablesource@ washpost.com if you spot them around town; bonus points if you catch Reese or Jessica with hot new boy toys.

LOVE, ETC.

Engaged: "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria, 31, and her San Antonio Spur sweetie of two years, Tony Parker, 24. Her rep says we should look for a big wedding next summer in Parker's homeland of France, "with lots of family and friends" -- and paparazzi in helicopters.

Born: A daughter, to acclaimed hipster filmmaker Sofia Coppola and her French rock-star boyfriend, Thomas Mars, Tuesday in Paris. They named her Romy, and you just know she's going to be the coolest kid in pre-K.

SURREAL ESTATE

Buyer: Evan and Cindy Jones

Price: $16 million

Details: The chief executive of Maryland biotech giant Digene and his socially prominent wife just purchased a four-acre waterfront lot on Nantucket -- one of the highest prices ever paid for a property on the exclusive Massachu- setts island. Jones, 49, just gave up day-to-day operations of the company to spend more time doing fun things such as sailing. A 100-year-old house on the land will become a guesthouse, and the couple are building a new home for themselves overlooking the harbor -- all the better to keep an eye on their 44-foot-long sailboat.


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