The Reliable Source

Richard Leiby
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 28, 2005; 12:00 PM

After a 25-year career as a distinguished editor, feature writer, investigative reporter and war correspondent, Richard Leiby has never, ever won the Pulitzer Prize. Now he's found his life's calling as a gossip columnist. He'll take your tips, chew the fat, discuss the dish and babble in cliche-ridden prose right here once a week.

The Columns:

A Book Party Supreme : (Post, April 27)

Sell Those Tickets, Meet the Band (Post, April 28)

Foo Fighters' Grohl Proves He Can Kerry a Torch (Post, April 26)

A Foreign Policy Magazine's Johnny on the Spot (Post, April 24)

A transcript follows.


Richard Leiby: Greetings from your short-timer Quidnunc. It's a beautiful day in the Neighborhood! The azaleas are in bloom and our President is in a hand-holding mood. Meanwhile, well- protected mama ducks are feathering their nests in various Washington locales, including the Treasury Dept. and the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown. Except for a raging war in Iraq and the outrageous price of gas, what's not to like?

Fire away!


Guns guns there's guns on the roof: Notorious L.E.I.B.

What time should one arrive at the Hilton to catch the great one (Dennis Hopper) at the dinner on Saturday night?

Richard Leiby: Mr. Hopper ("@#% Heineken -- Pabst Blue Ribbon!") is scheduled to attend an early poolside reception, starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, so maybe you want to cbeck in today and bring your bathing suit. And some cold Heinies...and an oxygen mask.


Reliable Source Jeopardy: The Category is: The Homosexual Agenda

The answer is: "I don't want to know."

The Question: "Will he wear Spandex?"

(As in:

"... Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld teams with costumed superheroes Captain America and Spider-Man today at a Pentagon launch of a new "Salute our Troops" Marvel Comics title. Next month, Marvel will distribute more than a million free copies of the military-themed book to troops and their families here and abroad ... But will he wear Spandex?")

Richard Leiby: Well, I personally I'd rather to see Rummy in Blue Velvet.


Update on the Inevitable: Are you keeping us Reliably Informed about your last online discussion day?

Please advise. I need to order my meds.

Richard Leiby: I'm publishing my last column on May 19, which is a Thursday. That's probably going to be my last opportunity to blather incoherently with my peeps, unless the czars (Liz, Sound One, are you listening?)want to keep me on in some emeritus capacity.

So keep your Thorazine handy. Also all obscure Clash lyrical references.


Frederick, Md.: Mr. Leiby, Weingarten said you were leaving the Post to become a spokesperson for Viagra. Say it isn't so.

Richard Leiby: He's mistaken. I'm taking a job as a spokesman for Rogaine. My hair loss of late has been Quite Severe.


Richard Leiby: But even if I do moonlight for Rogaine or Propecia or Proscar or any other hair-growing drug, I'd love to carry on as your favorite online Quidnunc and unlicensed Pharmacist.


SoFlo, D.C.: Quidnuc,

Was it you or Anne who had the pleasure of speaking with the super talented and super hot Dave Grohl recently? Is he as grounded and socially conscious as he seems? Maybe he should run for office. I read an interview where he said he thought he was getting too old to be a rock star. Draft Dave!

Richard Leiby: Neither Anne nor I spoke with Grohl -- he made his comments in Rolling Stone and we cribbed them. But I did talk to John Kerry's people about the fact that the Foos' new double-album ("In Your Honor") is a tribute to the defeated presidential candidate. Kerry was so delighted he agreed to renew his bass-playing skills and be an opening act for the Foo Fighters.

(By the way, an old pal of Grohl's says we got it wrong by saying Grohl grew up in Vienna, Va., saying he's a homeboy from Alexandria and Springfield. Anyway, Dave's management tells us that Dave went to Thomas Jefferson H.S., which makes him a north Virginian. Not that any of this matters...except during high school reunions...)

And, yes, I'd like to see an indie-rock star in the White House. Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes should start thinking about the 2020 election right now.


Washington, D.C.: All Mighty Quidnunc, How excited are the folks at the Post that Sir Dustin Diamond, Mr. Scheech Powers himself, is doing an online chat today? I'm not sure if there is a Pulitzer for such things, but if so is there any sense in delaying the inevitable?

Richard Leiby: It's a high honor to precede Screech online. Details from our very own web site:

On April 17, a fuzzy eagle named Screech was "hatched" at RFK Stadium as the Nationals' new mascot. Now, a different "Screech" is sharing his thoughts on the newly unveiled mascot's given name that he knows too well.

Join Dustin Diamond, otherwise known as "Screech" from "Saved by the Bell," to chat about the 6-foot-2 eagle.


Harrisburg, Pa.: Did you hear about Ann Coulter's temper tantrus at Harrisburg International Airport? She claims she was patted down inappropriately, probably by a traitor liberal who always wanted to deviantly touch Ann Coulter. The airport stated they reviewed the film and that the female employee who patted her down did so "by the book", but then we should know never to trust the word of anyone connected to this current government in any fashion.

Richard Leiby: Didn't hear about that -- send me a link. But her behavior would be consistent with what Time magazine reported in his humongous cover profile of Ms. Coulter last week:


Last year Coulter wrote a column in which she joked, "Like many of you, I carefully reviewed the lawsuits [alleging bias] against the airlines in order to determine which airlines had engaged in the most egregious discrimination, so I could fly only those airlines ... Imagine the great slogans the airlines could use:

"'Now Frisking All Arabs--Twice!' ...

"'You Are Now Free to Move About the Cabin--Not So Fast, Mohammed!'"

But that's not (or not only) a joke. Coulter actually favors discrimination based on skin color in airports. She argues that airports should establish a separate line for men and boys whose complexion suggests they could be from the Middle East; they would be screened more thoroughly than other passengers.

"Basically," she says breezily, "aged 15 to 45--12 to 45, say. Swarthy men ... We'd be searching, you know, Italians, Spanish, Jews, males--but you're excluding the women. You're excluding the old people. You're excluding American blacks."

"Didn't we throw out discrimination based on skin color a long time ago?" I ask.

"This is just safety, and I wouldn't do it for drug dealing," she says. "I wouldn't do it for speeding. I wouldn't do it for a normal crime. It's a serious issue, but it is insane what is going on in the airports right now." Coulter's friends had told me that nothing angers her quite like standing in an airport security line. (She travels frequently to give speeches at $ 25,000 a pop--up to $ 50,000 if she must cross the Mississippi River.) Conveniently, her plan would let her glide through a metal detector the pre-9/11 way (shoes on, dignity intact).



Lancaster, Pa.: If I mix taking Viagra and Rogaine at the same time, will there be any weird side effects?

Richard Leiby: No comment.


Richard Leiby: Speaking of Time mag, here's a link to its online expose' yesterday revealing that Tom DeLay was puffing a Havana stogie recently -- a no-no for a big foe of Fidel!


Southern Maryland: Were you freaked out by the photo of Bush holding hands with Prince Abdullah? Not for homophobic reasons, but because if Bush was gay, why wouldn't he go for some homegrown, red-blooded American stud?

Richard Leiby: No, I wasn't freaked in the least. I personally have held hands with several Iraqi men, and possibly some Kuwaitis. I've also been kissed by Iraqi men, on the cheeks and forehead and shoulders, and a good friend in Baghdad once sprayed me with cologne.

It wasn't because I stank more than usual -- it's just a cultural thing. And an honor to be considered their Habibi.

_______________________ But Did He Inhale? (Time, April 27)


New York, N.Y.: Dear Mr. Leiby:

What's your take on recent revelations (based on FOIA requests) that "Jeff Gannon" was in and out of the W.H. regularly, sometimes for hours, on days when there were no press briefings?

Man, if I had a news-reporting license I'd be all over THAT story -- what was his business? Who was he seeing? Who sponsored this guy, brought him along from Delaware anonymity to a seat in the White House press pool?

Is any reporting being done along these lines, that you know of? And if not, why not!?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Richard Leiby: I have to leave such professional investigative journalism to my White House colleagues for now, but I may drill down on the Gannon matter after I leave the column.

I'd really like to meet Jeff and spray him with cologne.


Frank Boo, TH: My self-editing device just kicked. I cannot quote that movie. What time will you be arriving at the dinner?. No real stalking issues, just, er, um curious

Richard Leiby: I will get to the White House Correspondents Dinner around 5:30 to gladhand at the Newsweek and Creative Coalition pre-parties. I'd like to meet Hopper, and my teenage daughter is insisting I secure the autograph of "Lost" cast member Evangeline Lilly...

My daughter sent me this email:

Here's a picture of her, since you said you weren't sure what she looked like...

_______________________ Evangeline ("Lost," ABC)


Iowa: If Ruth Bader Ginsburg was "sporting sheer black lace gloves" (matches the robes?), what about the other justices present at the book party? Leather, stilettos, bling, chains?

Richard Leiby: Jsstices Breyer, Souter and O'Coonor were all dressed appropriately. So was the bearded dude from the Santo Domingo heavy-metal band, JLS, who attended. Incidentally JLS will be playing at the State Theater in Falls Church next month.

Check out for JLS news, in Spanish!

_______________________ ESTUDIO828


Clifton, Va.: What is the lovely Anne wearing today? She can demonstrate the TSA frisking procedures on me anytime? I can be the independent arbitrator on whether Ann Coulter's story is credible?

Richard Leiby: Clifton, you're as frisky as usual.

Anne is wearing sheer black lace gloves -- it's part of her Ruth Bader Ginsburg - AC/DC look. She's all in black today.


Anonymous: I can't get that Time link to work. Is it just me? But Did He Inhale? (Time, April 27)

Richard Leiby: Take another hit. Of Fidelismo.


Alexandria, Va.: Do you keep up with Nancy Nall, one of your colleagues from your days as a Knight-Wallace fellow?

She writes a charming blog. Reading it is like meeting a friend for coffee. She tells her readers what she's been doing lately, what she's read in the news, and what she thinks about it. It's very smart -- a mix of getting the dog groomed, the travails of becoming a rower and incisive, left-of-center observations about what's going on in the world. Very human, lots of fun.

If you're not already a reader, you should check it out.

Richard Leiby: Thanks. Happy to link to any blog that is NOT Wonkette. It's at I've never met her because we were journalism fellows in different years.


Tenleytown, Washington, D.C.: QuidNuncDa'Funk: Maybe you can get Rare Essence or EU to do a go go themed exit song for you. On the other hand, Chuck Brown might be more age-appropriate. Do you know your next destination yet? Head of the Irkutst bureau perhaps?

Richard Leiby: I know one thing: Baghdad isn't looking like a good alternative. A friend of mine, Marla Ruzicka, was killed there recently by a suicide bomber on the road to the airport. She was one of the kindest human beings I have ever met.

_______________________ Bad day in the newspaper biz (, April 28)


Richard Leiby: And now for something completely different: NEWS FLASH! Older men in Washington regularly hit on interns!

An intern's life in D.C.:

Granddads hitting on me

Monica gave us bad name



WASHINGTON - It is 11 a.m. in Washington. Here I am, an ing{e 20-year-old intern, sipping my coffee and desperately trying to figure out how my tape recorder works so I can accurately cover an event at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, when a man in his late 50s walks over and offers to help.

I think to myself, "Wow, this is a nice gesture. What a cute old man." We start chatting about how one of my college professors works at the same think tank. He asks me if I'd like to attend a conference with him, and slips me his business card. The cute grandfather act has vanished.

"Call me, anytime," he says, with a smirk.

Later that day, two other middle-aged men try the same pickup routine. In my four months working as an intern at the Washington office of a British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, I have been constantly propositioned by middle-aged men in bars, train stations and various work situations.



Alexandria, Va.: I'm really looking forward to reading whatever you write in your next WaPo incarnation.

Your story about John Edwards and the death of his son was terrific, as was your story about the day you were an Iraqi general. (I'm sure there are more, but I'm a relatively new Post reader. Only know about those because you've linked to them in this chat.)

And, I have a great story idea ...

Richard Leiby: Thanks, Alexandria! Perhaps we'll repost those pieces May 19 as we review Quid's Greatest Hits. And I'd love to hear your story pitch so long as it's intern-related.

We need some juicy items before we leave.

_______________________ An intern's life in D.C.: Granddads hitting on me (Daily News, April 28)


My short list ... : "Except for a raging war in Iraq and the outrageous price of gas, what's not to like?"

Condoleezza Rice?

Richard Leiby: Sorry, but we LURVE Condi. And Wolfowitz, even now that he's at the World Bank. My column would have been nothing without them.

Oh, right: I also had the Bush twins to make hay with. And I have exclusive breaking news on the Twins Front. I just got shot down on a request to escort Jenna to the Bloomberg after-party.

Here's what I sent yesterday to their White House handler, Susan Whitson, and her reponse:

"Hi, Susan -- Long shot, but I want to extend an invite to Jenna to attend the Bloomberg afterparty as my guest (after the WH correspondents dinner).We don't think she's accepted any other invite. I've written about her but won't be any more because I'm giving up the column May 19. Certainly would love to meet her. Thanks, Rich"

THE RESPONSE: "Thanks for the invitation. Unfortunately, they are not planning on attending."



London calling: Hello Quid. Did you see Joe Strummer Rocks Again on PBS this week? It was awesome! Good luck with your garage band!

Richard Leiby: I saw that film by Dick Rude on the big screen at AFI in Silver Spring about a year ago. It WAS awesome and quite bittersweet. Fans must see it. He not only did Mescaleros stuff but standards from the Clash Canon.


Washington, D.C.: Only in D.C. do people brag about how much they work and how frequently they get hit on by unappealing men.

Richard Leiby: I think it has something to do with the fact that most men in D.C. ARE unappealing.


Monterey, Calif.: Are you a Springsteen fan?

Any comment on "Devils and Dust"? (Note: that is the new album title, NOT W's cute but classified nickname for Iraq.)

I'm seeing Bruuuuucce live in L.A. on Monday. Paid 85 bucks a seat on Ticketbastard.

The online brokers now have them at ... $1000.00 plus!

Richard Leiby: I like The Boss but do not lurve him enough to pay big bucks. Having seen him at the Orange Bowl in Miami 20 years ago, and last year at MCI Center headlining Vote for Change, I've had my lifetime Bruce Dose.

Also, though I know he's still vital at all, check out this quote from Mark Mothersbaugh (formerly of Devo) on life in a touring rock band:

"It's really cool when you're 20; it's a really great job. When you're 30, you're thinking it's time to move on; and when you're 40, shame on you. If you're 50 and you're doing it, you're just pathetic, I think."


Iowa: Just curious, are there no hot young male interns for D.C.'s powerful women/matrons/ladies who lunch to hit on?

Richard Leiby: I'm certain there are aspiring male gigilos in town but I haven't spotted any obvious ones at powerlunch places like The Palm.


Iowa: How will your successor be chosen? Do we get to vote? And if we suffer from severe Quidnunc withdrawal symptoms, will there be a class action suit filed on our behalf so that we may obtain legal redress for our pain?

Richard Leiby: Here's how the next Quid will selected -- he or she has to identify the song that begins:

Midnight to six, man

For the first time from Jamaica

Dillinger and Leroy Smart

Delroy Wilson, your cool operator...

And that's it for today. Lurve, Quiddy.


20009: All Knowing One: I was told by a friend that it's easy to get into the pre-dinner cocktail party at the Hilton on Saturday -- and that one just has to dress right and sneak out sheepishly when others are called into dinner. Is this correct or is my friend just trying to embarrass me when I show up at the Hilton?

Richard Leiby: Okay, one more just to help the Public: YES, you're being set up for a fall. You really need a ticket because there will be security screeners, give that George Dubya will be in the house...


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