Ex-Reporter at Center of Movie Buzz

Former Post journalist Joe Pichirallo, right, produced "The Secret Life of Bees," which stars actor Tristan Wilds.
Former Post journalist Joe Pichirallo, right, produced "The Secret Life of Bees," which stars actor Tristan Wilds. (Amy Argetsinger - The Washington Post)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, September 26, 2008

Joe Pichirallo used to work here. You might remember his byline on Post stories about Marion Barry and Iran-contra. But he left journalism in 1990 -- way before leaving journalism was the hip thing to do -- to seek a career in Hollywood.

Last night, he walked a red carpet with stars Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Tristan Wilds at a glittery Newseum premiere of "The Secret Life of Bees," which he produced. As a reporter, "I always felt like I was on the outside looking in," he told us. Making movies, he realized, could put him in the action. He migrated into the biz with an HBO job and later became a studio exec. "Hollywoodland," "Antwone Fisher" -- those were his. So was "Lakeview Terrace," which topped last week's box office.

Pichirallo said "Bees," based on the Sue Monk Kidd bestseller, was a hard sell to the studio folks, like many female-dominated stories. "You try to make it an event by getting the level of cast we did," he said.

Between movies, Pichirallo has gotten into politics, notably as a supporter and adviser of Joe Biden's vice presidential campaign -- something not possible for a journalist. "It took me a while to realize I don't have to be on the sidelines anymore."

The Dish on What Lobbyists Can Serve Up to Hungry Legislators

We were excited about the National Restaurant Association congressional reception, if only to investigate ethics-friendly hors d'oeuvres: poached salmon, glazed pork loin, ham, chorizo, kobe beef sliders, artisan cheeses and shrimp. Yum!

Last year Congress passed strict rules restricting what members can accept from lobbyists: no more dinners in fancy restaurants, just bite-size finger food at receptions with no chairs.

We walked into Charlie Palmer Steak on Wednesday and saw . . . forks? Hmmm. Wasn't everything supposed to pass the "toothpick" test? "That's a good question," association lobbyist John Gay said with a frown.

"It isn't that the fork can't exist, but having forks present starts to raise red flags," Craig Holman of Public Citizen explained yesterday. Heavy appetizers that add up to a meal are a no-no: Mini-meatballs on toothpicks are okay, but beef skewers and kobe burgers broke the rules. Ditto for the salmon. "They stepped over the line there," he said. "They probably didn't run it by the ethics committee."

Maybe it was moot: What with the bailout crisis and all, we didn't spot a single member of Congress at the party.

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

· Ben Folds race-walking up Connecticut Avenue toward Kalorama on Wednesday night. The singer-songwriter (white shirt, jeans, glasses, cup of coffee) was polite to a fan who chased after him but explained that he was late for his show at DAR Constitution Hall.

· Michele Lee catching Sandra Bernhard's one-woman show at Theater J on Wednesday night. (Was on CapHill earlier for the Prism Awards, honoring movies and TV shows for their accurate portrayal of alcohol or drug addiction.) The "Knots Landing" star shouted an I-love-you-Sandra; Sandra shouted a back-atcha.

· Kurt Warner lifting weights at Equinox gym in Tysons on Wednesday morning, low- profile in baseball cap and headphones. The QB and many of his fellow AZ Cardinals are killing time here between last Sunday's loss to the Redskins and this Sunday's visit to the Jets.

· Kyle Petty lunching yesterday at Arlington's Metro 29 Diner -- sweatshirt, jeans, #45 ball cap. The NASCAR star, in town to host the Paralyzed Vets gala, had a veggie burger.

The Spoof on the Spoof: Who'll Get It?

Okay, can this finally be the last word on that controversy over the New Yorker's Obama cover? Entertainment Weekly put Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in costume to parody the Barack-and- Michelle-as-radicals-in-the-minds-of-flyover-voters parody that went over not so well in some quarters two months ago. (EW's circulation is almost twice that of the New Yorker's, so, hey, a whole new readership to confuse!)

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