A Kalorama Embassy Worthy of a Prince

Warren Harding mansion
Prince Albert of Monaco did some house hunting in Washington recently, selecting this Kalorama mansion as his country's home away from home. (Brook Rose - Brook Rose)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

We're always hearing rumors that some jet-setting celeb is house hunting in Kalorama -- and finally, it's true! None other than Prince Albert of Monaco zipped into town last month to handpick the historic home that will be his country's first embassy in the United States.

It's a 90-year-old Colonial-style mansion that once belonged to Warren Harding. It had fallen into disrepair before mortgage banker Gregg Busch and his partner, developer Brook Rose, snatched it up for $1.925 million almost three years ago. The two then spent a year and more than $1 million fixing it up, though (clever guys!) they also enlisted HGTV to do some free facade repairs for an episode of the cable fix-it show "Curb Appeal."

Meanwhile, Monaco was in the market for a D.C. pad. The tiny principality on the Riviera has long operated under limited protection from France; but a new treaty lets it have its own diplomatic relations. Gilles Noghes, Monaco's U.N. ambassador, told us he'll move to D.C. with his American wife, Ellen, to become U.S. ambassador. The mansion will be both their residence and the embassy. (Alas, U.S. relations with Monaco will be handled by our man in Paris -- no new jobs for savvy political contributors in Monte Carlo.)

Neither side would divulge the price of the home, which goes to closing next month. And sorry, ladies! Speculation that the bachelor prince would be moving in is not the least bit accurate. "He is busy in Monaco," said Noghes.

It's Back to Reality for 'Survivor's' Becky Lee

So a D.C. lawyer made it all the way to the "Survivor" finals -- then couldn't persuade the jury to vote her the $1 million prize?

The Sunday night finale of the CBS show was a mixed verdict for Becky Lee ,29, of Glover Park. She outlasted 17 competitors (trouncing her last rival in a fire-starting contest) but didn't get a single vote from those fellow contestants, who gave the prize to her close ally, charismatic management consultant Yul Kwon.

Did she resent her pal getting all the credit for their joint strategizing? "Not really," she told us. "We knew our chances were better if we stayed with the people we trusted." And no complaints about this season's gimmick of dividing contestants into race-based teams -- she feels it helped bust stereotypes about Asian Americans. Her only complaint: The show's editing made her seem quiet and passive when really "I never stopped talking."

Lee plans to give some of her $75,000 prize to charity; she'll also be job hunting soon (after leaving a position at a nonprofit to do the show). And she kind of misses roughing it in the Cook Islands. "I'm a high-maintenance female -- I tend to dress up. So it was neat to just let go and not care."


Abramoff's suit, freed from storage and worn by M.E. Sprengelmeyer.(Thomas Michael Corcoran)
Jack Abramoff is in prison, but his threads are still dropping by the White House.

Months ago, we told you the saga of the disgraced lobbyist and his tiff with Eza Sabatini over four custom suits. After Abramoff lost weight, his longtime tailor made trimmer duds and bought back the big suits; then Abramoff bulked up and tried to get his old ones back without paying the $2,000 bill. No dice, said Sabatini, and the clothes stayed in storage.

Enter M.E. Sprengelmeyer, the scruffy Washington correspondent for the Rocky Mountain News, who happens to be the same size -- a 52 long and a 45 1/2 -inch waist. After reading about the suits, he tracked down Sabatini and offered to buy them. Not for sale, said the tailor. Fast-forward to this month when Sprengelmeyer received an invitation to a White House Christmas party. The problem? He had nothing nice to wear. One friend jeered, "Does he even own a suit?" The reporter called the tailor again; this time they had a deal.

Sprengelmeyer bought two double-breasted pinstriped suits and a blue jacket -- one with "Jack Abramoff" embroidered in gold on the lining. "These suits are destined to be worn by people fancier than I am," he said.

Yes, Sprengelmeyer posed for a picture with the president and first lady. No, he didn't flash the lining. Clothes make the man -- twice.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company