Serving Up Dinner Favorites From the Bush Years

A toast to the lectern? Italy's Berlusconi accidentally broke off a piece Monday night.
A toast to the lectern? Italy's Berlusconi accidentally broke off a piece Monday night. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais - AP)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Arrivederci, presidente ! Monday's White House dinner for Silvio Berlusconi was likely the last formal party there before George W. Bush heads back to Texas. The Columbus Day dinner with Nancy Pelosi, Antonin Scalia, Frankie Valli and Rudy Giuliani was memorable for a sight gag: The Italian prime minister accidentally tore off the top of the lectern during his toast. Whuh-oh! It was the high point of the night.

Bush was never much for fancy parties, anyway. He likes his dinners early and informal, which explains why he has hosted only a dozen state or official dinners during his almost eight years in office. ( Ronald Reagan had more than 50, George H.W. Bush20, Bill Clinton30.) Our favorites:

· September 2001 for Mexican President Vicente Fox: Dinner concluded with a huge fireworks display on the South Lawn, which caused the White House switchboard to light up; terrified neighbors asked if Washington was being bombed.

· November 2005 for Prince Charles: Jenna Bush went public with date Henry Hager. Gossip columnists rejoiced.

· May 2007 for Queen Elizabeth: For the first time, Laura Bush persuaded the president to wear white tie for an old-school state dinner; queen showed up in megawatt diamond tiara, necklace, bracelet, three brooches and drop earrings -- all real.

· April 2008 for Pope Benedict XVI: A record crowd on the South Lawn for the arrival ceremony sang "Happy Birthday" for the pontiff's 81st.

The future of big nights at the White House? Hard to say: The Bushes severely restricted media access to the dinners, turning official state events into essentially private gatherings for friends. Will Barack Obama or John McCain be a party animal? Don't buy a tux -- yet.


· The surviving children of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King are locked in a legal battle over control of their parents' love letters. Dexter King, who heads his father's estate, is seeking the papers for a book that's snagged a $1.4 million deal, but siblings Bernice and MLK III refuse to hand them over.

An Atlanta judge was to hear arguments in the case yesterday, but instead appointed a special master to determine which documents were at issue.

· Ringo Starr is totally done with fan mail. He announced on his Web site that he would not read or respond to anything received after Oct. 20. "With peace and love, I have too much to do." Got that? You have until Monday. Hurry up!


Q. Which Germans do you know besides [Dallas Maverick] Dirk Nowitzki?

A. Is David Hasselhoff German?

I heard that you all like him.

Q. He's an American . . .

A. Okay, then only Dirk.

-- Wizards forward Caron Butler in an interview with the German tabloid Bild. The Wizards were in Berlin to play an exhibition game with the New Orleans Hornets.

Robert Duvall, Bare-Lipped Pit Bull

Hey, Robert Duvall, tell us how you really feel! The Oscar winner took the stage to introduce Sarah Palin at a $1,500-a-head GOP fundraiser Monday at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner -- but first he took the opportunity to name names and settle scores.

"It bothers me that certain people in the Republican Party are attacking the McCain-Palin ticket," he said, according to a pool report. "Like the super-nerd George -- what's his name? George Wills[sic] . . . and Tommy Thompson. The original block of wood."

He continued: "And on the other side of the aisle, you have some pretty despicable people." Duvall called out liberal NYT columnist Frank Rich, a former theater critic: "He knew nothing about acting." Then there was the time he met Gloria Steinem: "She totally ignored the woman standing behind me. Totally ignored her. So much for her feminism." Duvall was more restrained when it came to Barack Obama: "As far as I'm concerned, we've got to keep this guy out of the White House."

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