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Politics Can Get Ugly in D.C., but the Hill Still Beckons Beauties

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Sunday, July 29, 2007

With the Hill newspaper's fourth "50 Most Beautiful" list out last week, we can finally put the lie to that tired "politics is show business for ugly people" line. The annual beauty contest has become a rite of Washington's summer, filled with glamour shots of fresh-faced lookers who prowl the halls of Congress.

"Tall, dark and handsome" freshman Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) tops this year's list -- the first member and first male to receive the honor. (2005 winner Kate Michael went on to represent D.C. in the Miss America contest.) "The congressman is convinced his mother must have an in with the selection committee," according to press secretary Elizabeth Farrar.

Hill editor Betsy Rothstein came up with the idea four years ago: Her boss thought it was too frivolous for a political newspaper, but she persisted: "I really believed in my gut it was something we had to try." At first, the biggest problem was getting people to participate; now the problem is narrowing the list. (This year, one staffer submitted his own name after his chief of staff specifically forbade anyone in the office to enter. "He didn't make the list, but I thought it took a lot of nerve," said Rothstein.) A committee of 10 to 15 newspaper staffers cut 300 nominees down to 50.

Not everyone is happy to be included. Kevin Madden, former press sec for House Minority Leader John Boehner, was No. 2 on last year's list, despite begging for a week not to be included. " Tom Cruise can't refuse to be on People's 'Most Beautiful' list, and Kevin Madden couldn't refuse to be on ours," said Rothstein.

"All my protests amounted to jack-squat -- I still had to endure the snarky e-mails from my friends," said Madden, now spokesman for Mitt Romney's campaign. "Finally, I just had to laugh at it like everyone else. It was the Capitol Hill equivalent of sitting in a dunk tank for a year."

As in years past, most of 2007's chosen are 20-something staffers (some single, most in relationships or married), although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Reps. Connie Mack, Yvette Clarke, Mary Fallin and Heath Shuler made the cut; Mary Bono's entire staff was named "Most Beautiful Office." Democrats outnumbered Republicans by almost 2 to 1.

The popularity of the list has given local blogs plenty of material; The DCeiver provided its own captions to the portraits: "Why we have such great pity for the Hillites, reason #2465: Because they will be dressing like it's the fourth day of fraternity rush at Clemson until well into their dotage. Moment of silence, please."

Exhausted No More, Dave Chappelle Is a Man About Town

Who was that familiar face wandering into 24 Seven, a late-night falafel joint on U Street, around midnight Thursday? Why, Dave Chappelle, of course. The cult-hero comedian lingered about an hour with a small group of friends, including a few children, before leaving in a black tinted-window vehicle parked out front.

And no, it's not your imagination -- Dave Chappelle really does seem to be everywhere in town these days. CNN's Ed Henry bumped into him in front of the White House last week; Roll Call caught up with him banking at a House credit union; several of our readers swear they've seen him at the mall or in bookstores recently.

The striking thing about these sightings? How completely normal they all were. Is the D.C. native making a point of showing his face in order to quell the wilder rumors that spread after his brief hospital visit this month for "exhaustion"? Not really, says his rep, Carla Sims: He just likes to get out around town while visiting with local family, she said.

As for that hospital visit, she insists Chappelle really was just wiped out: "He was sustaining himself on coffee and cigarettes, and we just wanted to make sure he's well."

Readers Tell Us

Oh, Giada! We weren't the only ones who noticed the geographic gaffes in the D.C. episode of the lovely Food Network hostess's "Weekend Getaways" last week. An Alexandria reader notes that Ms. De Laurentiis at least had some basis for mistakenly placing Cafe Atlantico in Adams Morgan -- the restaurant did originally open in that neighborhood before moving downtown in 1996. "Next time, they might try talking to some locals before they start shooting." Meanwhile . . .

Washington writes: In the first scene, she leaves her "hotel" in Tenleytown, where there's no hotel. You can see the Hudson Trail Outfitters in the background. She jumps in a cab . . . and hops out twenty feet away at the Dancing Crab. You can STILL see Hudson Trail in the background!

Giada, they tease because they love. We're sure this was just a bit of cinematic license, like Kevin Costner taking the GW Parkway to get to Annapolis in "No Way Out." And we admire anyone who can hail a taxi that far uptown. Send your story tips, questions and comments to reliablesource@washpost.com.

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