One Fan's Very Happy Accident

Gentle Ben Affleck, with Kate House and car.
Gentle Ben Affleck, with Kate House and car. (Courtesy of Kate House)
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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, March 21, 2008

It was like a scene out of "Changing Lanes"! Oh, you know, that Ben Affleck/Samuel Jackson movie from, uh, let's see, 2002. Except much cuter. Just trust us here . . .

Kate House was driving back to the office after a doctor's appointment Wednesday afternoon when she slammed into the back of a black SUV that had slowed in downtown traffic on K Street. The 23-year-old was already in tears when the other driver walked over. "I was really upset," she told us, though her Honda Accord was far more damaged than the SUV. "It was obviously my fault." At the man's request, she followed him to his destination at 12th and H so they could exchange info.

And there, as she opened her car door, another man reached out his hand to help her. "I looked up, and" -- no lie! -- "it was Ben Affleck." One of House's favorite actors! Who happened to be a passenger in the SUV she struck.

"What are you doing here?" she asked the star, she says, laughing through her tears. And, of course, he was "Filming a movie -- haven't you been reading about it?" (That would be "State of Play," with Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams, a fixture in this column these past two weeks.)

So, what was he like? "He's even better looking in person," said House, an account coordinator at the PR firm Dittus Communications, who suffered a mild concussion in the accident. "I had just seen 'Gone Baby Gone,' and I told him how much I loved that. He said, 'Take care of yourself, and take care of that car. Don't cry anymore, it's all right.' "

House told us she had many celebrity encounters while living in L.A. "They're usually pretty obnoxious." But not Affleck. "He was so, so sweet."

Best of all: He posed with her for this photo, in front of her car.

Metro Sugarcoats Its Ballpark Message

Just in time for Easter: Metro's so-bad-it's-good Peeps video!

As part of the campaign urging Nats fans to take the train to the new stadium, WMATA PR director Lisa Farbstein issued a challenge to her staff: "I want to see if you can do a stupid, silly video of Peeps going to the ballpark."

The 2:23 minute "Peeps in the Park" infomercial opens with two neon marshmallow bunnies asking a bunny pal to take Metro with them to the opening game. "You've got to be kidding me," he tells them. "I'm driving." The bunnies ride the rails, chattering about stations and exits; their buddy straps himself on top of a green VW and ends up missing the game.

Production values? Somewhere between a late-night PSA and those old "Oh, no! Mr. Bill" skits on "Saturday Night Live." Target audience? Teens and college students. And how much did this cost taxpayers? Six boxes of Peeps -- the PR staff already had video equipment, borrowed the remote toy car, and did the voices themselves.

Farbstein saw the finished product early this week, just before it was posted on YouTube and the WMATA site."This is pretty stupid, which is what makes it funny," she said.

Surreal Estate

Buyer: Franklin Haney

Price: $20+ million

Details: The D.C. developer, who lost a bid to buy the Washington Nationals, has snapped up the 28,000-square-foot Villa di Venezia, the 52-room Vanderbilt estate near Palm Beach, Fla., reports the New York Post. Socialite Veronica Hearst lost the 1929 Italian Renaissance mansion in foreclosure auction last month -- the oceanfront estate was purchased for $22 million by Hearst's lender, who planned to flip the property. The paper reports Haney and his wife are restoring the mansion for their five children.


"He's the best. He puts the help that we have to shame."

-- New mom Jennifer Lopez, explaining to People that husband Marc Anthony is just great about changing the diapers of their baby twins. (Yup, this is the photo spread that the mag paid a reported $6 million for: Babies in cashmere, $3,000 prams, Dolce & Gabbana fur wraps.)

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