With Trade Rep, Flat Stanley Is Really Going Places

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, January 25, 2008

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab was wrapping up an important meeting about intellectual property rights with Bill Gates last year in Switzerland when she pulled a paper doll out of a binder. Could the world's richest man please pose for a photo with it?

"Ah," Gates said warmly. " Flat Stanley!"

If there's a little kid in your life, you might know Flat Stanley. A grade-school class generally makes a paper Stanley cutout (inspired by a 1964 children's book), then gets a grown-up to take it on a trip, asking for photos of Stanley on his exotic journey. A "teaching tool," we're told. Though Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood have been spotted toting their kids' Flat Stanleys, Schwab is believed to be the only Cabinet-level official with one of her own.

It started a year ago, when friends of an aide asked to get a picture of their kid's Stanley with Schwab; the trade rep took him along on the next trip. The game ended with the school year, but when September rolled around, Schwab was asking her staff where their next Stanley was coming from.

"It's sort of permanent travel companion for her," said her spokesman, Sean Spicer.

Since then, Flat Stanley has posed with business leaders and foreign officials around the world. (He's currently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with all the jet-setter wonks.) Surprisingly, the vast majority of bigwigs know all about Flat Stanley when presented with the cutout ("Ah, yes, of course," said British PM Gordon Brown). Spicer told us Pakistan's trade minister seemed baffled but posed for a photo just the same: "Who can say no to Flat Stanley?"

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED ABOUT HEATH LEDGER

Why on Earth did the masseuse who discovered the late actor's body call Mary-Kate Olsen before dialing 911?

Unclear. We suspect it has to do with the peculiar privacy concerns of celebrities. The folks who work for VIPs are sensitized to their demands for discretion and control; maybe the masseuse worried there was a special, secret VIP way to get emergency help. Police said she knew the Olsen twin and found her on Ledger's speed dial; according to various reports, the two stars were casually dating.

What happens to his final movie project?

The manager for the Canadian film-crew union working on "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" told reporters production has been suspended indefinitely.

Which cable-news yakker might want to consider a new line of work?

Fox News's John Gibson, who opened his Tuesday evening radio show with the famous "Brokeback" quote ("I wish I knew how to quit you"), then jibed, "Ehhh, well, he found out how to quit you!" Gibson called Ledger a "weirdo," kept joking about why he committed suicide (police say there's no evidence he did). By comparison, Courtney Hazlett's comment on MSNBC that "we've almost had a dress rehearsal for this, almost, with Owen Wilson" is merely tacky.

THIS JUST IN . . .

They tried to make her go to rehab -- and this time she said yes, yes, yes. Train-wreck chanteuse Amy Winehouse (who scored a hit last summer with the song "Rehab") entered a clinic yesterday to treat her drug addiction problems, her record label announced. Her reps indicated she's still likely to attend the Grammy Awards Feb. 10; she's up for six of them.

Sorry, ladies! Rush Limbaugh is off the market. The conservative radio gabber, 57, turned up at a Miami gala with Kathryn Rogers, a 31-year-old PR type, and told the Palm Beach Post they've been dating six months.

Unorthodox Timing for Press Dinner

Might need to order more matzoh for the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. The press prom -- annually attended by the president and an ever-growing coterie of Hollywood B-listers -- falls this year on April 26, which happens to be the last evening of the seven-night Passover observance. "I had no idea," said WHCA President Ann Compton, who said the date was booked a year in advance. Compton alerted the WHCA board to the scheduling glitch, and while some Jewish members are irked, many assured her it wouldn't be a problem: The dinner will, as always, offer kosher meals for anyone who asks.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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