For Specter, No Great Shakes

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Monday, June 23, 2008

First the fist bump, now the chemo dap! Sen. Arlen Specter, in his ninth week of chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease, is greeting friends with a cheerful tap of his elbow against theirs.

"They like it," the Pennsylvania Republican told us. "It's kind of tough for a guy in my line of work not to shake hands."

Specter, 78, is facing his latest battle with cancer with his characteristic pluck. "Haven't missed a beat," he said, calling the disease "tough but tolerable." His first diagnosis was in 2005, the lymphoma recurred this spring and Specter started another round of weekly chemo treatments in late April. That means a weakened immune system and (under doctor's orders) no hugging or hand-shaking -- thus the elbow bump. Friendly, but safe.

He's also getting plenty of mail from voters about his newly bald head: "Now I find they're more interested in my hair than my public policy." Some folks think he should wear a wig, but Specter said he's going au naturel until his hair grows back in. "Last time it came in straight and dark."

The chemo ends next month; Specter's summer plans call for July in the Senate (squash every day, as usual) and his traditional August trip through Pennsylvania. "I think I'm doing fine."

Jenna and Henry Couldn't Rook Their D.C. Friends Out of a Party

Jenna and Henry Hager nixed a big White House wedding, but Washington wasn't totally neglected -- the newlyweds celebrated last month's nuptials at two parties Saturday night.

First up: an early-evening White House reception for 500 hosted by President and Laura Bush. Guests greeted the bride ("bubbly and cute," reports one guest) and groom in the Rose Garden, then drifted upstairs for an informal, low-key gathering -- no receiving lines or speeches, but champagne and cake. The high-profile crowd included the groom's parents, John and Maggie Hager, the bride's sister, Barbara, as well as Colin Powell, Andy Card, Josh Bolton, Nancy Brinker, Condi Rice and other members of the Cabinet. The U.S. Marine Band played "oldies-but-goodies," reports People, and the Bushes all hit the dance floor.

The grown-ups went to bed, and the newlyweds headed to the Rookery, the new private club at 25th and Pennsylvania Avenue. The intimate party with 100 or so close friends included members of the May 10 wedding party. Guests were issued blue wristbands for access to the club's second floor, where they found Jenna (black and white floral dress), Henry (dark suit) and a cash bar. The crowd partied for almost four hours to the sounds of Sick Feed, a rock-and-roll cover band. Highlight? Jenna joining Barbara onstage to belt out "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC.


One in an occasional series of dispatches from parties you should have crashed.

Event: Thursday's meeting of the Diplomatic Sauna Society of D.C.

Where: Basement of the Finnish Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue.

Draw: A chance to bake at 160 degrees in the only "diplomatic" sauna in Washington, whatever that means.

Occasion: Summer solstice, a time of 20-hour Helsinki days and serious partying across Finland, according to our host, press secretary Kari Mokko.

Guests: Journalists, PR folks, Hill types. (The ambassador and his wife were not present, but we're assured they were okay with all this.)

Food: Delicious pre-sauna buffet of Finnish cuisine -- salmon, beef stew, shrimp salad -- heavy enough to prevent lightheadedness.

Bar: Open! Sauna beer of choice: Budweiser.

Attire: Embassy provided a changing room and towels.

Wait, you really DID this?: Separate sauna times for women and men; no high jinks.

Comfort: Very nice. After the body bakes to a muscle-relaxing, pore-opening dryness, the sweat starts to pour. Few could take more than 15 minutes before running to the showers -- but they also couldn't resist sneaking back for another round. The sauna just fit eight women, so what was it like when twice as many men squeezed in? "Like a sausage festival."

Overheard: Trash talk about Swedish sauna culture. (Supposedly Swedes take it up to just 100 degrees. Wimps.)

Parting gifts: A Finnish cookbook and a certificate of induction into the Diplomatic Sauna Society.

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