It's Glitterati and Paparazzi at the Black Caucus Confab

Schmoozing at a Black Caucus event: BET chief executive Debra Lee, Princeton professor Cornel West and Rep. Maxine Walters.
Schmoozing at a Black Caucus event: BET chief executive Debra Lee, Princeton professor Cornel West and Rep. Maxine Walters. (Fritz Photographics -- BET)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, September 27, 2007

Like the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, the annual Congressional Black Caucus conference has something or other to do with politics -- but who can help getting distracted by the parade of Beautiful People it brings to town?

Like Master P, Gabrielle Union, Victoria Rowell, Lou Gossett Jr. and maybe Snoop Dogg, among the stars lined up for policy forums and parties over the next few days. Quincy Jones picked up an award at last night's caucus spouses' gala; Russell Simmons will host a "financial empowerment" seminar Saturday; Mya sings at Love nightclub's CBC party tonight.

An unofficial kickoff came at Tuesday's lavish reception (champagne, sushi, salmon), hosted by BET at Chinatown's Oya restaurant. A little tension in the air: a picket line at the velvet rope, part of an ongoing protest against pimp and gangster images on the cable network. Inside, the VIPs (Marion Barry, Maxine Waters) turned the other cheek.

"If our critics were fair, they would acknowledge that BET has evolved," said network Chairman and CEO Debra Lee, plugging the station's new programs and corporate parent Viacom's $1 million gift to help build an MLK memorial.

We buttonholed Princeton prof Cornel West, resplendent in that magnificent 'fro and trademark neck scarf and mobbed by guests and paparazzi. "Dialogue is always healthy, as long as it is conducted with respect," he began. "Much is at stake here . . ." But then Talib Kweli, the alt-rapper who collaborated with him on a recent album, caught his eye, and they grinned and hugged and pointed at each other in that groovy rock-star way, and our moment was over.

But he picked up the thread in his speech to the crowd, giving props to the host: "BET is on the move. . . . When you try to do good, you're going to have creative tension."

Then, after a shout-out to "Chocolate City -- becoming less chocolate, isn't it?," West handed the mike to Kweli -- who rapped about Debra Lee, the CBC and universal health care, and somehow made it all rhyme.

Prince Albert, Cutting Ribbons and Pollution

A bachelor prince always draws a crowd. Monaco's Prince Albert made a pit stop in D.C. yesterday to formally open his country's new embassy in Kalorama. The 49-year-old son of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier inherited the throne (and $1.2 billion) in 2005; now he's got spiffy new digs to share his green agenda -- hybrid cars, solar panels in the palace -- stateside. At the ribbon-cutting and lunch, Albert schmoozed with new neighbors and old summer camp buddies, speechified about his environmental foundation and posed with Ben Franklin and Buffalo Bill Cody look-alikes (Albert's great-great-grandfather hunted bear with the real Cody in 1913).

No sign of his current girlfriend, Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, but the lifelong bachelor (with two non-royal illegitimate kids) didn't rule out marriage. "It might happen," he told us.


• Hear about Eun Yang, the Loudoun County woman charged with reckless driving for running into a school bus Tuesday? Well, Eun Yang, the Channel 4 anchor, tells us it's not her -- just a completely different 30-something with the same rare name. Of course, now she's getting scolding e-mails from confused and disappointed viewers. Channel 4 Yang's alibi? "I think I was at home with my kids."

Paris Hilton, making good on her courtroom promise to use her fame for good, says she's headed to Rwanda this fall to bring awareness to global poverty. Visit, fine -- just don't let her adopt any babies!


(Ellen Schreiber)
"I'm not angry, I'm not bitter . . . I'm a reporter."

-- Dan Rather, on his $70 million lawsuit against CBS. (Since when are those things mutually exclusive?) The ex-anchor, interviewed by Carol Joynt (right) at yesterday's Q&A lunch at Nathans in Georgetown, ducked specifics about the case (including whether he'll subpoena President Bush) and said he's suing because his story needs to be told, not because he's as mad as a wet rooster locked out of the henhouse.

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