Mark Penn, digging deep in Georgetown.
Mark Penn, digging deep in Georgetown. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
Saturday, September 29, 2007

Disclosed Location

It's the talk of Georgetown: Why is Mark Penn, pollster and strategist to Sen. Hillary Clinton, building a tunnel underneath the lot between his two houses on O Street NW?

Perhaps he wants to avoid prying eyes, or a 30-foot walk in wintry weather. But could Penn's renovations really be a way to provide a swanky undisclosed location for a hypothetical President Hillary to hide out in the event of terrorist attacks?

Not likely, Penn tells U.S. News and World Report's Paul Bedard. "Really all it is is that the two houses are just being connected and then everything is going to be put back."

They couldn't get the Metro built through Georgetown; how'd he do it?

Penn says it took months of traversing Washington bureaucracy to obtain building permits for his tunnel project -- which will house a home fitness center. He plans to rip up his one-story elevated yard, build the tunnel and then redo the patio space between the two houses, which are assessed at over $7 million.

When Worlds Collide

So Wolf Blitzer , Fran Drescher and Arlen Specter walk into a bar . . .

It sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke, but for those mingling at a double-booked Cafe Milano Thursday night it was just another only-in-Washington moment.

While Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, BET head Debra Lee, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson and others feted Quincy Jones with an exclusive dinner party in the restaurant's main dining area, Capitol File magazine celebrated Drescher's birthday with 20 guests in a private room. Around 11:30 p.m., the private party ended and Drescher and company drifted into the restaurant, causing a brief pause as guests took in the odd triangle of "The Nanny" and her consorts.

Not Mimi's Usual Exit

Soprano Angela Gheorghiu, whose name often is preceded by "brilliant but tempestuous," was fired yesterday from her role as Mimi in "La Bohme" by the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Public criticism of performers by management is rare in classical music. But the company's general director took the unusual step of offering a primer on professional standards and practice:

"Miss Gheorghiu has missed six of 10 rehearsals, including the piano dress rehearsal and both staging rehearsals with the orchestra," William Mason said. "She missed one of the most critical stage-orchestra rehearsals when she left the city for New York without permission, a direct violation of her contract."

Where Does This Road End, Kiefer?

A note for all your datebooks: Oct. 16, when Kiefer Sutherland will be arraigned on his latest drunken driving charges, formally filed yesterday by the Los Angeles city attorney's office. He was picked up Tuesday after he pulled what cops said was an illegal U-turn, then failed a sobriety test. Since 1989, the actor, 40, has racked up four arrests related to driving under the influence.

End Notes

Expecting: Actress Melissa Joan Hart, 31, who is four months pregnant with her second child. Hart and husband Mark Wilkerson married in 2003 and have a 2-year-old son, Mason.

Splitting: Actor Dylan McDermott, 45, and his wife, 38-year-old actress Shiva Rose. The separation comes after nearly 12 years of marriage and two daughters, 11-year-old Collette and 2-year-old Charlotte, People magazine reports.

Spotted: Reps. Sanford D. Bishop (D-Ga.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.) bowing their heads in prayer and bopping along to the tunes while hosting the Congressional Black Caucus's Gospel Extravaganza at the Washington Convention Center Thursday night. The Post's Hamil Harris reports that each rep brought along a gospel choir from his respective district, creating what Clyburn called "one night devoted to spirituality."

Quoted: "I still do use the Dewey Decimal System. What did you think I used?" -- Former librarian and current first lady Laura Bush explaining how she keeps her home library organized, during an interview yesterday on "Fox & Friends." Today Bush hosts the National Book Festival on the Mall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

-- Marissa Newhall, from staff and wire reports

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