McCain Might Not Like the Sound of This

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, May 16, 2008

The man's been the presumptive GOP nominee for two months already, so it's about time someone mastered a John McCain impression.

That person is voice actor Tim Russell, a 16-year veteran of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" public-radio show, who in a skit last week showed off a delightfully husky Bill Clinton and a somberly resonant Barack Obama-- but whose McCain voice was so eerily evocative you'd think the Arizona senator himself stepped in for a cameo. (With all due respect to Darrell Hammond, who recently debuted a solid McCain on "SNL.")

"Let me tell you something, my friend," Russell-as-McCain warned the show's Hillary Clinton ( Sue Scott). "When you and the skinny guy get done cutting each other up, I'm waiting for the winner in the parking lot."

How does he get that voice so right? "It's a little bit of Ronald Reagan," Russell told us on the phone from Minnesota, "a little bit of Carol Channing, and Liberace."

Carol Channing?! "It's the 's' [sounds] -- there's a little sibilance involved. It's the nasality that comes from Liberace. From Reagan, it's just that breathy tone."

Plus, there's McCain's trademark verbal tic. "I saw him doing a town hall meeting and I was struck by the number of times he said, 'my friend.' I thought, 'Holy cow, there's a hook.' We always have our ears open to that kind of thing."

McCain is easy, he said, compared with Obama, whose tics are subtler, as Russell demonstrated for us: "He only talks [pause] in two or three words [pause] at a time." And he contracts "you know" to "yo."

Russell's big concern: That Minnesota's own Gov. Tim Pawlenty may end up as McCain's VP pick. "He's got a good talk-show-host voice, very straight, nothing to pick up on," he said. "Anyone who's normal is always trouble."

Air and Space, Ready for Its Close-Up

It's official: The Smithsonian has signed off on a deal to let Twentieth Century Fox to film the "Night at the Museum" sequel at the National Air and Space Museum -- and to use its name in the movie title ("Escape From the Smithsonian"), a first in the institution's history. Crews will begin setting up today; interior shoots will take place early next week. Stars include Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Dick Van Dyke and Owen Wilson. Seen 'em?

Would Abramoff Have Ordered the Crow?

What's that line about revenge being "a dish best served cold"? There was some gloating on the menu Wednesday at D'Acqua, where about 20 human rights activists and Hill types gathered to celebrate the passage of a bill extending U.S. immigration laws -- and their protections for foreign guest workers -- to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Why D'Acqua? Well, because the Penn Ave eatery holds a spot on the D.C. scandal tour as the former home of now-defunct Signatures . . . the restaurant owned by imprisoned ex-superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. . . who spent years blocking the legislation for his island factory-owner clients. "We said, 'Let's gather and raise a glass' -- but where? Well, it was obvious," said Dennis Greenia of anti-sweatshop organization Co-op America. "We had the sense that if these walls could talk . . ."


In which we catch you up on the murky status of the celebrity couples you keep seeing on the magazine covers.

John Mayer, 30, and Jennifer Aniston, 39: Vacation together in Miami last weekend, kissing backstage at his Orlando concert Tuesday, more PDA in N.Y.C. Wednesday. Seem to be an item.

Jessica Simpson, 27, and Tony Romo, 28: Widespread Internet rumor about a breakup at their six-month mark given weight by Dallas Morning News columnist ("splitsville, kaput"), citing close friends. Her rep denies, Romo declines comment.

Kate Hudson, 29, and Owen Wilson, 39: Split in June last year, reported by many sources to be on again while filming movies in Miami. Her rep said her new ring was just a movie prop, not an engagement gift. Now People says they're dunzo again.

Shania Twain, 42, and producer husband Robert "Mutt" Lange, 59: Funny you should ask. Separating after 14 years, one son, says People.

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