George Mason Says Good Night, Gunston
As the college basketball season tips off this week, there will be one fewer local celebrity on the sidelines: Gunston is done.
After years of debate and research, George Mason University has decided to replace its fuzzy green amorphous mascot -- think a softer, more agile Oscar the Grouch-- with a sleeker, sharper new model, our sports blogging colleague Dan Steinberg reports.
The new mascot -- 7 feet tall, 240 pounds, hat size of 29, "closer to a person than to a Muppet," said a school rep -- will be unveiled at next Monday's home opener against Brown. A contest will be held to select a name.
"It was clear the fan base wasn't enamored with Gunston," university VP Christine LaPaille told us. "The bottom line is Gunston was popular with children. He was not a favorite of our students or alumni."
Doubts about Gunston arose long before Mason went to the Final Four in 2006 -- though the moment in the spotlight bought him some time. Finally, a university-wide panel last year took the matter under scrutiny. Longtime fan and alumnus Michael McNutt told Steinberg, "It was kind of cute and all when we were just in the CAA tournament and the NIT, but when you play with the big boys . . . it's like coming to the car show in a Hyundai."
Gunston hasn't been fired. In fact, he's getting a new portfolio: Mason will deploy him to kid-friendly "Go Green" events. Just no more sidelines.
· Splitting, Part 1: D.C. eyebrow-grooming guru Erwin Gomez, 43, and his partner of 15 years, James Packard-Gomez, 39 -- but they're only severing the romantic relationship. The society-lady favorites and co-owners of Gomez's eponymous salon remain "best friends and business partners," Erwin told us; in fact, they plan to keep sharing their Georgetown home, and everyone's going to be totally cool about everything, added James, just like Demi and Ashton and Bruce! The two were married in California and Amsterdam.
· Splitting, Part 2: Dewy ingenue Evan Rachel Wood, 21, and self-consciously creepy Goth-rocker Marilyn Manson, 39, after two years of dating, she confirmed to People.
· McCain strategist Steve Schmidt is denying one of the juicier tidbits in Newsweek's massive behind- the-scenes report about the campaign: that Sarah Palin met him and Mark Salter at the door of her St. Paul, Minn., hotel room wrapped in a towel (then told them to chat with husband Todd while she dressed). "Categorically . . . not true," Schmidt told the Washington Times in a story Saturday. Newsweek's Evan Thomas defended the account to us: "It was extremely well sourced."
· Several readers disputed our claim in Thursday's column that Barack Obama will be the first president too young to have gone to Woodstock -- he was 8 in 1969 -- noting that two babies were born at the legendary rock concert, and hey, his mom could have taken him if she had gone. Okay, whatever.
He Weathered the Election; Now He Comes to D.C.
Customers at the lefty coffeehouse Busboys and Poets are doing double takes when they see the big display of the new book "City Kids, City Schools" by William Ayers. Yes, that William Ayers -- the former Weather Underground radical whose acquaintance with Barack Obama dogged the president-elect during the campaign. The Chicago education professor is making his first post-election public appearance next Monday evening at the 14th and V gathering spot. Officially it's a book reading and signing, but expect someone to bring up the controversy (which recently prompted the University of Nebraska to cancel an Ayers speech).
"People need to know who the real Bill Ayers is and what he stands for," said owner Andy Shallal, who booked the appearance about a month ago. The buzz, he said, has been "tremendous"; he expects a packed house. "Part of what we do is educate," said Shallal. "The democratic process can only be done when people have all the information at their fingertips."