Rita and John Jenrette: Where are they now?

The first of her two appearances in Playboy magazine brought Rita Jenrette to Hugh Hefner's California mansion in 1981.
The first of her two appearances in Playboy magazine brought Rita Jenrette to Hugh Hefner's California mansion in 1981. (James A. Parcell/the Washington Post)
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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Loop Fan called attention to an article Friday in the "Greater Homes" section of the New York Times that began:

"With a sweep of her manicured hand, Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi draws 20 pairs of eyes upward to the salon ceiling, one of many treasures in the Villa Aurora, the family home in the heart of Rome."

The princess giving the tour, the article notes, "is an American formerly known as Rita Jenrette," married last year to Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi.

Rita Jenrette? The young blonde once married to John Jenrette, the congressman who did 13 months in prison after being convicted of taking bribes in the FBI's 1980 Abscam sting?

The Rita Jenrette who posed in Playboy, where she revealed, among other things, that the couple had sex on the steps of the Capitol (discreetly behind a pillar, we recall) during a break in a late-night House session? (The acclaimed comedy group the Capitol Steps, formed in 1981, took its name from this historic moment.)

Indeed, the same one.

After her rise to fame and her appearance in Playboy -- plus another appearance in 1984 -- she did some acting, was a television journalist and ended up in Manhattan working in real estate. She also attended a Harvard Business School program -- three weeks a year each spring for three years for $93,000 -- finishing in 2003. (This has led to some incorrect references to her as having a Harvard MBA, even though her Web site's home page notes she's an alum of the school's summer program for executives.)

Jenrette, 60, was working a real estate deal in Italy when she met the prince in 2003, she told the Times, and soon moved into the villa. The couple married in a small ceremony last year. (It should be noted that there are thousands of folks in Italy who can call themselves princes, dukes, counts and so on.)

John Jenrette, meanwhile, was convicted in 1989 of shoplifting a tie and some shoes from a department store in Baileys Crossroads. And while he's gotten no peerage, he, too, seems to have sorted things out.

"I am very blessed," Jenrette, 74, told us Tuesday from his home in Myrtle Beach, where he was on the porch "looking at the heavenly bodies on the beach." Jenrette, who has been a lawyer and in the PR biz, is still working on a reduced schedule these days, helping longtime clients. He remarried years ago and spends six months of the year in South Carolina and the other six in Florida.

John Jenrette was in town last week -- "looking trim and fit," we were told -- to attend a reunion at the Cosmos Club of some 50 members plus spouses of the Democratic congressional class of 1974, the Watergate class. The group includes Reps. Henry Waxman and George Miller (Calif.) and Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.), Max Baucus (Mont.) and Tom Harkin (Iowa).

"I'm very honored," Jenrette said, despite his "self-destructiveness" back then, "to have known them and served with that crowd."

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