'Funniest Home Videos' Find a Home at Smithsonian

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, April 9, 2009; 12:00 AM

It seems like every week someone is offloading celebrity detritus at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, usually while promoting a new movie, DVD or album: Jerry Seinfeld's puffy shirt, Bruce Willis's dirty "Die Hard" undershirt, Chuck Mangione's hat. So when we heard the camcorder from the first "America's Funniest Home Videos" was being donated . . . we were unimpressed.

We're talking, after all, about the museum with the actual Star Spangled Banner, Abraham Lincoln's top hat, "The Wizard of Oz" ruby slippers. A camcorder? Meh.

But we showed up for the news conference yesterday and remembered why the show's been on for 20 years: a laugh-out-loud video of silly pets, people falling down, and those famous guy-gets-hit-in-crotch shots. (No, seriously -- it was really funny.)

"One of my thrusts has been to collect artifacts of comedy," said curator Dwight Blocker Bowers, who oversees the music, sports and entertainment collections. "We're very interested that part of the American character is laughing at ourselves." AFHV, he told us, is a direct descendant of vaudeville's slapstick and the first show created from viewers' own clips. (Yes, kids, it was YouTube before the Internet.)

The museum displays only about 4 percent of its 3 million items at any given time, and turns down four out of five proposed donations. When AFHV creator Vin Di Bona approached the Smithsonian, Bowers was interested . . . but only if they could get the clunky old camcorder used to shoot the first winning video. (It was still in the owner's garage.) They also got one of the audience voting machines, a copy of the pilot and other stuff from Di Bona and host Tom Bergeron, who took the red-eye from Los Angeles after Tuesday's "Dancing With the Stars" to be here. (His nickname for AFHV? "The Annuity.")

By the way, museum techies went nuts for the camcorder. Said Bowers: "We have nothing like that."

Hey Isn't That . . .

Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart continuing their fine-dining tour of Washington, showing up with her son Liam at Restaurant Nora Tuesday night. Black coats, jeans. (This after Tosca and J. Paul's the day before.) Still no word from his people why he's here; just checking out the cherry blossoms like everyone else? Meanwhile, here's a pic from their zoo visit with Happy the Hippo.

'State of Play's' Sense of Place

Finally -- a D.C. movie that gets D.C. right! Well, sort of.

"State of Play," opening next week, spent a month filming here last spring, diving into corners of the city usually ignored by Hollywood. Not just monuments and mansions but grimy municipal buildings, the underbelly of the Whitehurst, the Maine Avenue fish market -- and hey, a Crystal City's Americana motel! Journalist Russell Crowe has a messy desk and a slovenly apartment above Mount Pleasant's Heller's Bakery. His car has a real D.C. inspection sticker.

But as usual, little errors . . .

Why would a Hill staffer who lives in Adams Morgan take the Metro from Rosslyn?

Why take the Roosevelt Bridge to Crystal City?

Why would D.C. police respond to a crime in Crystal City?

Why would that PR guy "mostly work out of the Daily Grill" -- not the Palm?

How dare they imply that print reporters and online staffers loathe each other?

And drink on deadline? Not anymore.


"Probably that my family's white trash."

-- Levi Johnston on the biggest misconception about him, in an interview with the CBS "Early Show" yesterday, escalating his passive-aggressive talk-show battle with ex-fiancee Bristol Palin and her clan.

"Everyone turned on me. . . . I felt like I was in 'Mean Girls,' but worse: 'Mean Girls' was a movie."

-- Lindsay Lohan in a weepy interview with Us Weekly, describing what it felt like to get dissed by fellow starlets Nicole Richie and Drea de Matteo at a Chateau Marmont party after DJ girlfriend Samantha Ronson dumped her -- while at the same time reminding us that she used to make good movies.

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