The Reliable Source

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Monday, December 22, 2008

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

· Stephen Sondheim catching the latest revival of "West Side Story," for which he wrote the lyrics more than a half-century ago, at the National Theatre on Friday night. Sweater, casual slacks, good seats -- on the aisle, fifth row or thereabouts. But, oh, what a night to see it: At the start of the second act, as Officer Krupke is called out to harass the Jets, the theater's white emergency lights started flashing, and a fire alarm sent the entire audience out onto the street.

Social Gossip Alert! Marlene Cooke Has Reappeared!

Washington just got more interesting: Marlene Ramallo Chalmers Cooke -- a regular in the gossip pages when married to the late Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke -- is back!

After years in Rome and Monaco, the Bolivian-born beauty slipped into D.C. this month for her first visit since she was effectively run out of town by immigration officials a decade ago. Cooke mostly kept a low profile but was spotted at a Saks fashion show in early December, a birthday gathering for lawyer Tom Quinn last week, and an after-party at the newly reopened Jockey Club.

"She looked exactly the same," said PR exec Victoria Michael, who attended the party for 100 guests. "She looked great."

The reappearance of the legendary party girl, now in her 50s, got cellphones buzzing. She was written out of Jack Kent Cooke's will (he died in 1997), then left the country after receiving a reported $20 million from his estate. She told friends this week she was granted a special temporary visa that allowed her to return to the United States for her first visit in years and spend time with son Rodrigo Garcia, who manages the swanky private club L2 in Georgetown. The two are said to be headed to the Bahamas for the holidays. No word if she'll be back in the new year -- but we can hope!


"Lieutenant Warner is interested in exerting just enough effort to get by."

-- Sen. John Warner's 1951 Marine Corps fitness report, read aloud at a Marine Corps Heritage Foundation tribute to the retiring senator by Gen. John Amos (who went on to say that Warner's later career is "testimony to the transformation that takes place in a Marine's life"). Warner was awarded the Virginia Distinguished Service Medal by Gov. Tim Kaine at the Friday night dinner.

Rhee & Kevin Johnson: Extracurricular Activities?

She sat on the board of his charter school. He testified at her confirmation hearing. It's well known that D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee and NBA star turned Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson are close allies on education reform . . . but are they more than that?

It seems the two are stepping out a lot together. A Capitol Hill spy who is savvy about both education and basketball recognized the two having a leisurely lunch in September on the patio at the Dubliner; a California political insider told us he saw them dining at Luigi's, a cozy Sacramento pizza joint, in October.

Last week, they attended a dinner at the Academy of American Achievement co-hosted by Tom Daschle and student-loan mogul/philanthropist Catherine Reynolds for such VIPs as Jay Rockefeller, Chris Wallace, Larry Summers and Cathy Lanier. Rhee brought Johnson as her guest, said Wayne Reynolds. All this on top of a lot of official-business stuff that has put them in the same room lately, including an October panel at Harvard Business School. Rhee, 38, has made a few visits west as a member of the newly elected mayor's transition team, the Sacramento Bee has reported. Last Tuesday, she accompanied Johnson, 42, to a meeting with Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), according to a statement from the congressman's office.

Okay, let's just go all high-schoolish: Are you guys dating or what? Because you totally should. You'd be so cute together! Are you together? Or what?

Rhee (divorced, two kids) was nice enough to take our call. "I appreciate you asking me directly," she said. "My stance has been that I don't comment on my personal life."

Well, all right. Let us know if that changes. And think about what we said, okay?

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