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A Homegrown Talent Returns for a Premiere

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, June 14, 2007

With "Talk to Me," the new biopic about local activist/talk-show host Petey Greene, we finally have a Real D.C. movie (i.e. not another Capitol Hill fantasy), with a real D.C. star -- Taraji P. Henson, who walked the red carpet last night with Don Cheadle at its Uptown Theater premiere.

How D.C. is she? Born here, worked her way through Howard University as a Pentagon receptionist, "lived in every part except Southwest," Henson, in a fetching red-and-white sundress, told us at a Georgetown Ritz-Carlton pre-party. She started high school at Ballou but when her grades slipped, Mom moved the family across the line to Prince George's. "She was like, 'You're going to Oxon Hill,' as if that was Harvard."

Now 36, Henson got her big Hollywood break at the ripe old age of 34, belting the Oscar-winning "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" in "Hustle & Flow." "I've always been a late bloomer, but I prefer that," she says, a sly reference to all those nubile train wreck starlets of late. "As a grown woman, you can handle yourself, you can deal with rejection." Rejection? Believe it or not, Henson flunked her big audition to get into the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and figured then it was the end of all her showbiz dreams. And now? In her next big role ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), she plays, believe it or not, Brad Pitt's mom.

The Singing Senators Have a Quorum

So what if Sting and the boys are getting the Police back together? The musical reunion that really got our attention was Tuesday's appearance by the Singing Senators, those enthusiastic (if slightly off-key) warblers from Capitol Hill.

Three of the four original members -- Trent Lott, Larry Craig and John Ashcroft-- gathered for their first performance in six years. "We're not a quartet any longer," said Craig. "We're a trio, and there are a lot of good reasons for that."

Back in 1995, Republicans Lott, Craig, Ashcroft and Jim Jeffords began harmonizing at GOP fundraisers and charity events, released a CD -- "Let Freedom Sing" -- and raised millions, Lott said. Then in 2001, Ashcroft became attorney general and Jeffords turned independent. Did the messy Jeffords defection break up the group? It's undeniable that Republicans were absolutely furious at Jeffords, but, according to Craig, that wasn't the only reason for the split. Those pesky ethics rules prevented the AG from raising money.

But Citizen Ashcroft is free once again, which allowed the men to sing at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute fundraiser at the Arlington home of Joe and Bronwyn Vasapoli. They began with a patriotic medley, followed with the risque (for them) "American Made" ( "She looks good in her tight blue jeans") and a gospel tune, then launched into their signature "Elvira." The encore? "God Bless America."

So, how rusty are they? Said a grinning Lott: "I give us an A for effort and a C-minus for results."

UPDATE

President Bush weighed in on the great watch debate yesterday, dismissing speculation that an Albanian pickpocket lifted the timepiece from his wrist. "I have never seen such a ludicrous story," he said. "Unbelievable." The White House said the president put the watch in his pocket while greeting fans Sunday, and was -- in fact -- wearing that very watch yesterday in the Oval Office.

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

CariDee English (yes, indeed, last fall's "America's Next Top Model" winner) grabbing a late lunch in the Longworth cafeteria Tuesday during a day of lobbying reps on psoriasis research; you wouldn't know it now, but she had a bad case of it as a kid. She was wearing black pinstriped pants and a white blouse and was politely thrilled when a tourist recognized her. So, models really eat? Yes, say our spies: a sandwich.

Jenna Bush and two other pretty blondes splitting a shrimp salad at Restaurant Kolumbia downtown yesterday; the First Twin (empire-waist blouse and slacks) also ordered the salmon entree.

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