From Big Night to the Big House

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Before he became an accused felon and this summer's No. 1 tabloid scoundrel, Raffaello Follieri was a seemingly successful young businessman, the boyfriend of starlet Anne Hathaway-- and, for one special night in October 2006, the toast of Washington.

That's when Follieri received the Special Achievement Award for Humanitarian Service at the perennially A-listy National Italian American Foundation's Gala. (Fellow honorees that year alone included Anne Bancroft, Sam Alito and Frankie Valli.) At the time, his Follieri Foundation was winning praise for promising to vaccinate children in Third World countries. Now, he's in jail, accused of fraud and money laundering in an alleged real-estate scheme that traded on his nonexistent ties to the Vatican. And his charity? Never filed U.S. tax disclosure forms, according to the Associated Press, and now under investigation by New York authorities.

This development got one regular gala attendee snarking to us about an NIAF "curse": Gen. Peter Pace lost his job after an NIAF honor; so did former Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli. And of course '99 honoree Matt LeBlanc's sitcom "Joey" got canceled -- but, eh, just the ups and downs of those kinds of jobs. Nothing like Follieri's woes. Said NIAF spokeswoman Elissa Ruffino via e-mail: "It's difficult to predict that any individual may encounter issues to bring into question their character subsequent to receiving our award. We are obviously disappointed as we now view what has transpired with this particular past honoree."

A Congressman's Accidental Strike

Heads up! The GOP won its eighth straight Congressional Baseball Game last week -- a close-fought 11-10 victory -- but not without incurring collateral damage: a spectator beaned in the head by Rep. Chip Pickering's bat.

Roll Call, which sponsored the Nationals Park game, reported that the Mississippi Republican was swinging a couple of bats to warm up when one slipped and flew into the stands. It struck Brian Wiehr, a young staffer with education nonprofit Youth for Understanding. Blood everywhere. Reps. Tom Price (Ga.) and Dave Weldon (Fla.), both doctors, provided aid.

A Pickering rep told us her boss was "clearly upset and tried to come in the stands" but was kept away by paramedics; she said the congressman has tried without success to reach Wiehr to apologize. We tracked the injured party down at his parents' home in Germantown, Wis. His dad, Wyatt, told us Brian got eight stitches at GWU Hospital but "seems to be okay" and will bravely return to Washington soon.


Wed: Actor Levi Ben-Israel, 25, to longtime sweetheart Karen Ackerman, also 25, on the Lansburgh Theatre stage after wrapping up Sunday's performance of the Shakespeare Theatre Company's "The Imaginary Invalid," in which Ben-Israel co-stars. The ceremony was performed by none other than the show's star -- Rene Auberjonois, whom you'd recognize from the original movie "M*A*S*H" (he was Father Mulcahy), "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and a million other TV shows. The couple, who met in an anti-Wal-Mart guerrilla theater troupe in their native Alaska, found it was too expensive to go home to Fairbanks, so the groom's plucky cast mates decided, hey, kids, let's put on the show right here! Auberjonois, already ordained as a minister with the Universal Life Church, agreed to do the honors; fellow actors Leslie Sarah Cohen and Keith Scott McDonald played the roles of maid of honor and best man.


A special edition devoted to people now better known for their brushes with the law than their showbiz careers.

· Amy Winehouse's husband was sentenced in London yesterday to 27 months in jail for beating up a pub manager and then trying to bribe him to keep quiet. Blake Fielder-Civil has already been behind bars for nine months of his 14-month marriage to the Grammy-winning train-wreck chanteuse, so could be out by December under early-release provisions.

· DMX was arrested in Phoenix Saturday on suspicion that the rapper tried to stiff a hospital on his bill by giving a fake name and Social Security number, the AP reports. Local police said their investigation somehow grew out of their earlier probe into alleged animal neglect -- pit bulls, natch -- at his home.

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"Like, I'm so moody all the time, I know I couldn't be able to run a country because I'd be crying one day and yelling at people the next day, you know?"

-- Brooke Hogan, daughter of Hulk Hogan (and veteran of his nightmare-family reality show), telling a potential roommate on her new VH1 series how "kinda crazy" she found the idea of a woman running for president. (The potential roommate, a Democrat, responded: "Really.")

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