A Pop Quiz for the Education Secretary

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, July 19, 2007

Poor Margaret Spellings! The secretary of education was ready to talk student loans, No Child Left Behind, blah, blah, blah, when she came into The Post for an interview with editors and reporters last week. So maybe she was taken aback when a reporter (not us, we swear!) asked why she turned down Karl Rove when he asked her out back in the early '80s. (Rove later joked it took his ego "decades to recover.")

Spellings paused, reports our colleague Amit Paley, then said: "Have you met Karl Rove?"

"He was so inept and so inartful," she added. "I mean, I couldn't even understand."

We should note that our mean old co-workers brought up the Rove thing only to change the subject after they had inadvertently made Spellings cry. When asked to describe a side of President Bush the public doesn't know, the secretary started telling an old story about how then-Gov. Bush consoled a Texas official who had broken down while eulogizing a colleague. "Oh, I'm going to cry just telling you the story," she said, removing her glasses and dabbing her eyes with a napkin. "Y'all, I can't believe you did this to me!"

She left the interview still a little weepy and mulling the potential impact of crying in front of the press. "Now you'll take sympathy on me," she said. "Maybe."

The Outgoing Ambassador Rocks On

It's a sad day for rock-and-roll in Washington -- after five years on Embassy Row, Hungarian Ambassador Andras Simonyi is taking his guitar and hitting the road.

Andras Simonyi, with gold record in hand, bids farewell to his favorite rocker, Steve Winwood.
Andras Simonyi, with gold record in hand, bids farewell to his favorite rocker, Steve Winwood.(Roxanne Roberts - The Washington Post)
The 55-year-old diplomat arrived here in 2002 with an international agenda and an unbridled love of all things rock. He formed a band, the Coalition of the Willing, that played clubs and charity events, and jammed with music idols at his residence, making up in enthusiasm what he may have lacked in talent.

To leave on a high note, Simonyi invited his all-time-favorite musician -- Steve Winwood -- to a farewell party Tuesday. The two first met in 1968, when Winwood performed in Budapest (a star-struck 16-year-old Simonyi chronicled the event in his diary), and the ambassador reintroduced himself two years ago. He presented Winwood and former Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter with Hungary's Golden Eagle honor, then Rock and Roll Hall of Fame President Terry Stewart gave Simonyi a ceremonial gold record.

Simonyi is headed to the private sector -- no word where he's landing -- with guitar in hand. "Nothing can beat being onstage and making people happy," he told us.


· Comedian Dave Chappelle was hospitalized for "exhaustion" over the weekend, his rep confirmed, but was released after several hours in the ER. Publicist Carla Sims denied reports the D.C. native was treated in L.A. or S.F. . . . was he perhaps closer to home? Sims would say only that he's "with his family and receiving the care he needs."

· It was only a matter of time: "Obama Girl" Amber Lee Ettinger will make her Playboy debut in October. Not nude, though, just in a bikini shot as "babe of the month."

· Oprah writes in her mag's new issue that she's still mourning the May death of her 2-year-old golden retriever Gracie, who choked on a plastic ball belonging to 12-year-old cocker spaniel Sophie. (Hmmmm . . . ) The pup taught her to live life to the fullest: "Everything in life happens to help us live."

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

· Michael Jackson touring the Smithsonian's National Air and Space and American Indian museums yesterday. The reclusive pop star (trademark hat, sunglasses, striped pants), his kids (well behaved) and bodyguards arrived before the buildings opened to the public. At Air and Space, the 45-minute tour was led by 84-year-old Deputy Director Don Lopez, a World War II ace who gave Jackson a similar tour 25 years ago. The singer lingered over the 1903 Wright Flyer, his kids loved R2-D2 and C-3PO. What's he doing in D.C.? The tourist thing. "He wanted to show them the sights," said rep Raymone Bain, who said Jackson will be in the area for a few days; he's still looking for a summer home, hasn't bought a place yet.

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