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France's New Man in D.C.: He's Going Solo, But That Doesn't Mean He's Single

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Charming, handsome, French -- tongues were wagging about Ambassador Pierre Vimont long before he arrived in D.C. last month. Appointed by maritally challenged French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the new envoy arrived amid rumors that his amour would serve as Vimont's official hostess in Washington.

The career diplomat, 58, caused even more buzz when he showed up here solo, eligible-bachelor diplomats being an especially potent catnip to the ladies who lunch. Elisabeth Rivasseau, wife of the embassy's deputy chief of mission, has been temporarily serving as lady of the house.

But, alas, Vimont is neither a bachelor nor available. "It's rather simple: I'm on my own here in Washington," he told us yesterday. Vimont has been separated (but not divorced) for years and has a very significant other: French banking official Colette Cova, who made her first appearance Saturday at a lavish reception for D.C.'s French film festival hosted by Vimont and Washington Life magazine. The low-key Cova arrived at the ambassador's residence from the airport just minutes before the party and spent much of the evening at Vimont's side, but was not publicly introduced to the 350 guests.

Unmarried couples have always caused a fuss in D.C. diplomatic circles, where protocol, titles and seating charts still rule. German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger arrived in 2001 as a bachelor but quickly married his live-in girlfriend, journalist Jutta Falke. Dutch Ambassador Boudewijn van Eenennaam broke convention in 2002 when he brought then-fiancee Jellie van der Steeg to meet President Bush (unmarried envoys traditionally present credentials alone). "Why wait with the marriage?" asked Bush. The couple tied the knot the next spring.

The Paris-based Cova will visit from time to time, but not serve in any formal capacity.

Eligible 'Bachelor'? Her Dad's Not So Sure

Yet another local gal has ended up as a finalist on "The Bachelor" -- Wilson High grad Bettina Bell. And her D.C. dad got cast as reality-TV villain.

Georgetown architect Robert Bell got all frosty on Bachelor Brad Womack in the meet-the-family episode that aired Monday, after learning his daughter's Texan suitor is a college dropout who runs a bar. "A great disappointment," he said, laughing darkly on camera. "It would be nice if he had a PhD."

Come on, tell us what you really think! Mr. Bell was much sweeter on the phone. "He's an extremely nice person; I'd be happy to have him back anytime in my house. And I'm not sure I'd want my daughter to marry someone who comes home every night at 2 a.m." How was it bringing cameras into an intimate family moment? "As long as you get it's just a TV program, it's a lot of fun, even if you play the bad guy."

So does Bettina, a real estate agent in Los Angeles vying with two other finalists, "win" a Womack proposal at the end? Says Dad: "I'm just like you -- I have no idea."

Quick on the News Trigger, Slow on the Uptake

A news release yesterday proclaimed that Blackwater USA -- the quick-triggered contractors in big trouble for Baghdad shootings -- would clean up its rep with a new Department of Corporate Integrity and a publicist (her bio listed Enron and Monsanto) who pledged "to put the mercy back in mercenary."

Yup, a hoax. But Politico put the item on its Web site, and it quickly spread across the blog world. Turned out to be a spoof from antiwar activists CodePink. "It's interesting that it was taken at face value," said the group's rep, Dana Balicki. Politico ran a good-natured retraction: "You sometimes come across news items and think, 'You couldn't make that stuff up.' Well, sometimes you can."

Tilda Swinton, Keeping a Low Profile

What's the matter, you people can't recognize Tilda Swinton? Turns out the British art-house star (come on, folks, the White Witch in "The Chronicles of Narnia"!) joined George Clooney and Frances McDormand here for the D.C. filming of "Burn After Reading" this past week, but apparently didn't turn heads as her co-stars did. The Coen brothers' CIA spoof shot at iconic spots like the WWII Memorial, Key Bridge and Memorial Bridge before wrapping up yesterday and leaving town. You can still send your star sightings to reliablesource@washpost.com.

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