Reliable Source: Live Discussion with Post columnists Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts

The Reliable Source

Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 28, 2005; 12:00 PM

The Reliable Source is back, under the stewardship of Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts . Appearing in the Style section on Tuesdays through Fridays and Sundays, The Reliable Source brings you gossip from across the region and around the world -- candid looks at the lives and loves and hijinks of all your favorite bold-faced names, be they congressmen or millionaires, ballplayers or newsbabes, nightlife divas or master thespians, DJs or gadflies, has-beens or will-bes.

Argetsinger and Roberts are online each Wednesday at Noon ET to discuss your favorite gossip, what you thought about their recent columns or who you want to see them writing about in future ones.

The Columns

John Roberts and the Lines of Fire (Post, Sept. 28)

Picture This: Ben Affleck, Senator From Va. (Post, Sept. 27)

Argetsinger is a veteran of all those high-fiber good-for-you sections like Metro and National while Roberts brought you the champagne and bon-bons of Style's society beat.


Amy Argetsinger: Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining us for our very first live chat as The Reliable Source! We're thrilled to be here, and we look forward to your questions, complaints, hot tips and suggestions of who and what you want to be reading about under the new RS regime. Any thoughts about Benator/Sennifer? Casting suggestions for "The Killing Zone"? We're eager to hear them...

Roxanne Roberts: Plus we're dying to know----okay, not dying but weak-kneed---to know who and what floats your boat, gossip-wise. Let the party begin.


Rosslyn, Va.: Senator Affleck? Really? The Dems can't find anyone else? Is Matt Damon available? At least he went to Harvard.

Amy Argetsinger: Sure, but he's not moving to Virginia. Location, location, location, folks.


UpMo, Md.: Congratulations on the new job(s)! Will you be doing gossip wherever you find it, or just sticking with D.C.? If you're roaming, might I recommend Annapolis, where the hair flies regularly, and Upper Marlboro, where back stabbing is a fine art. We'll feed you what we can find.

Second, will you take nicknames in the grandstyle of Quidnunc? Has anyone offered you one yet? Such as, the G (as in Gossip) Diva Squared to be spelled G Diva2.

Amy Argetsinger: Thank you very much, and thanks for asking that particular question. The Reliable Source is devoted to covering the entire Bold Faced community of the larger Washington area. And we are deeply interested/intrigued in the back-stabbing, hair-pulling ways (your words!) of our local leaders. I lived in Annapolis and covered that area for the second half of the '90s, so I know and love it well.

Roxanne Roberts: Here's the deal: We want more local gossip about more local people. Think a Washington Post version US Weekly, which loves to spot celebs at the dry cleaners. We want it all, kids. John Roberts at the soccer match. Tom Delay buying videos.


Just Curious: I am behind the times ...

Lloyd's leaving The Reliable Source was quite monumentous ... but Leiby's was ... on the whimper-scale? Whatever happened to Richard Leiby?

Also, is his feud with Gene Weingarten for real, or a front to "boost the ratings", so to speak?

Roxanne Roberts: He's a discreet one, that Leiby, slipping out with the fabulous Post farewell cake. Actually, Rich is sitting mere feet from us, churning out his first love: long-form investigative articles. Weingarten comes over daily to shoot spitballs, but no bloodshed as of noon today.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Will quoting obscure '80s band ensure getting your question printed, like it did with Leiby? How's Quidnunc doing, anyway?

Roxanne Roberts: I am hopeless, lame, clueless---pick your insult---when it comes to band names other than the Beatles. Blame it on my parents. I thought Quidnunc was New Zealand beer.

Amy Argetsinger: That should totally work for me, though. Hit me with your best shot! (not obscure, I know, but very '80s and very apropos...)


Washington, D.C.: I've always loved Lynda Carter and take pleasure that she's a local resident.

In this past year, she has appeared in two movies and will be on TV. Does this signify a major shift in her life? Will she be leaving us for Hollywood? Is she trying to land the role of an elder Amazon in the new Wonder Woman movie?

This inquiring mind would like to know.

Amy Argetsinger: Your interest in more Lynda Carter news is duly noted! Can't provide those answers quite yet, but we will do our best to OWN the Lynda Carter beat.


Twin Question: Dying to know if Jenna is still dating Henry Hager, son of Virginia Lt. Gov. John H. Hager. Is Babs seeing any one??

Any scoop?

Amy Argetsinger: We promise an answer on this very soon. In fact, we already have high-ranking editors demanding we get you something on this soon. We promise to OWN the Jenna Bush beat, just as we will own the Lynda Carter beat.


Arlington, Va.: It's great to have the Reliable Source up and snooping again. I wish you both a long and fruitful tenure. Which brings me to my question ... there seems to be something about the Washington gossip scene that chews up columnists (and then spits them out, to other publications). Why is this? Does the nastiness of political boldfaces caught being less-than-on-message wear thin after a while? Is this unique to Washington?

Amy Argetsinger: Good question. The simple answer is that this is a very hard job -- the past couple days have been the absolute busiest of my life. You have to constantly juggle several dozen completely unrelated items at once, make numerous phone calls just to report out an item of a mere sentence, while fielding a million phone calls and e-mails from people pitching great stories and lame ones. The Post, meanwhile, has traditionally chosen to give guardianship of this fine column to regular journalists like ourselves -- people who, for the most part, had not spent their lives in the gossip industry. There's a very reasonable expectation that most normal and sane reporters will not want to do this job forever, and that's perfectly all right with everyone here. With the exception of Mr. Grove, who continued his gossip column elsewhere, all other former Reliable Sources have been happy to return to more traditional reporting jobs here at the Post once they've gotten the gossip thing out of their systems.

Roxanne Roberts: Cleverly, we have added a masseuse to the RS team, who rubs our backs and brings us green tea whenever we break a nail. We expect to last AT LEAST a month.


Arlington, Va.: There is a rumor that a high official at the White House has returned to heavy drinking. It must be true because it was a story in the National Enquirer. If you had the requisite two sources, would you go public with this or a similar story?

Amy Argetsinger: If we had this solidly reported and solidly sourced, absolutely. Though something tells me our colleagues on the White House beat -- you know, the normal reporters? -- might rightfully lay claim to that story over us...


Ale: We all snickered when we read about Senator Affleck -- until we got that pit in our stomach. I.e. - the realization that as Dems living in Virginia, we would have to vote for him.

And Roxanne -- love you on Wait, Wait, Don't tell Me!

Roxanne Roberts: Now, now---think how much fun the Benator would be. More fun than the Ar-nuld. Cuter, too. I think you're forgetting the entertainment value of political theater.

And mega thanks re WWDTM. Best damn funny weekly news roundup on public radio.


Wilmington, Del.: Hey Amy and Roxanne, I'm really interested in seeing how the two- person Reliable Source column is going to work. Do you plan on writing stories together or splitting them separately? Amy, can we expect more tidbits from celebs personal movie collections?

Amy Argetsinger: Hello Wilmington! Thanks for the question. How will this work? That's exactly what we asked ourselves a few weeks ago! So far, what seems to work for us is to report and write items separately -- *but* in constant communication with each other, contributing to each other's reporting, reviewing each other's prose, and never hesitating to say politely, "yeeee-ahh... doesn't really work for me." So far, it's working out swimmingly!

As for celebs personal movie collections... what are we talking about here -- cinema a la Paris Hilton? We can only hope. Alas, despite having spent the past year in L.A., I didn't always get invited to those kinds of parties...


Herndon, Va.: How are the Bush girls these days? I saw something about Jenna checking into a spa with a guy. Does the Bush machine call you back on this to give you crap? I'm sure Barbara (Sr.) is reading all the papers and trying to keep the family name in tact.

Amy Argetsinger: Oh, come on. Only the most desperate C-lister would want to call in an invasion-of-self-privacy tip about herself going in for spa treatment. Jenna is A-list in our world, baby, and I assure you the White House would never phone in that kind of news...


Rosslyn, Va.: Roxanne, will you still cover the party circuit, or will the Post find a new person for your old beat?

Amy, I am sorry, but I don't recognize your name, what is your history?

Amy Argetsinger: I've been with the Post for 10 years, most of those on Metro (you should check it out sometime -- appears daily right between the front section and Style -- it's pretty great!) covering the Annapolis area and the Naval Academy for a few years, followed by the higher-education beat. I spent the past year as the Post's Los Angeles bureau chief, covering Schwarzenegger and mudslides and wild chimp attacks, among other things.


Re: who and what floats your boat, gossip-wise: Can you try for at least one good Bush twins item a week? From the lack of coverage over the past couple of years, one would think that they actually matured once they got out of college. But considering how old their dad was when he started acting like a grown-up, that can't really be the case can it?

Roxanne Roberts: I fully expect the twins are evolving into mature young citizens who will contribute much to the public good. On the off chance they're not, we'll share. We're nice that way.


Washington, D.C.: Isn't it possible that Jennifer Garner is really the one Virginia Democrats are after to run for office? She seems like the smarter of the two, and "Elektra" aside, hasn't made nearly as many bad movies as Ben that voters might hold against her.

Amy Argetsinger: She's also a stupendous kickboxer, as any loyal viewer of "Alias" would know.


Bennifersville, Va.: If Ben and Jen move to Charlottesville, should we expect the National Enquirer to open a bureau there?

Amy Argetsinger: Hello Bennifersville! Yes, let's hope that they do. That would be amazing. I love Charlottesville -- wonder if the Post would let me start stringing for the Enquirer...


Washington, D.C.: Is Tom DeLay going to resign today?

Roxanne Roberts: If he does, that scamp hasn't told us. I'll check my messages.


Fairfax, Va.: LOVED the Benator column. Very funny. Did you hear they're having a baby girl? How true is that rumor they are moving to Charlottesville?

Amy Argetsinger: sounding more and more true by the day. We'll let you know what we know when we know it...


Washington, D.C.: So what's the dish on Lloyd Grove leaving NY for the West Coast? Is he getting pushed out or leaving on his own?

Amy Argetsinger: Is he leaving for the West Coast? I don't know, woke up kind of late this morning... There's talk that he's in the midst of renegotiating his contract with the NY Daily News, and unrelated buzz from pundits who have made the case that Lloyd should head West and jump-start gossip coverage at the Los Angeles Times, which surprisingly has no gossip column per se. But that's just chatter -- don't know that Lloyd or the Times have been looped into any of it...


Los Angeles, Calif.: I think we all would like more insight on "brown the clown"! from FEMA. Why is it that he now has the answers? To what went wrong? If he knew his job, he would have known the answers before this? Why is it, that his unacceptable treacherous actions are everybody else fault?

Amy Argetsinger: Probably a question for our marvelous new homeland security reporter Spencer Hsu -- let's get Spence a live chat of his own!


Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C.: Amy and Roxanne -- Welcome! But I have to admit, I really missed having a Post gossip chat last month when WRC- TV's Wendy Rieger was going through the most ghastly series of hair colors and styles seen on a TV anchor in many a year. At one point she had a truly awful short, dark brown style that added ten years to her appearance, which got changed about two days later. Thank God we once again have an outlet for opining on such important matters! (And what's up with Barbara Harrison's hair these days?)

Roxanne Roberts: Now we're getting somewhere: TV Hair. There's something in the collective DNA that needs to know why Wendy isn't blonde today. We have a separate team devoted solely to hair alerts and blonde jokes.


Washington, D.C.: Maybe the Virginia Dems should get Carl Weathers to move to the state? As he pointed out recently on SNL -- he's the only major cast member of Predator who hasn't won a major governor's race.

Amy Argetsinger: Ha! Like that idea...


Washington, D.C.: You posted Dana Rohrabacher screenplay found in the John Roberts papers at the Reagan library. It's not too difficult to find the (Michael Jackson-obsessed) Roberts' editing: In the screenplay, a "kindly old" man "complains, softly, that VOA has been playing too much Michael Jackson music lately. He says he has doubts about the musical taste of America's young people."

And there's one other reference to the King of Pop ...

Amy Argetsinger: Yes, it's great, isn't it? Clearly the 30-something staffers in the Reagan White House were troubled and transfixed by the rise of Michael Jackson -- it's a recurring theme in the Roberts papers...


Washington, D.C.: You sort of brushed off the is-Bush-drinking question, saying the White House correspondents would be more likely to break that sort of story. But that's exactly wrong. They're way too embarrassed to even ask anyone about it! It's up to butt-kicking gossip columnists to unearth the dirty little secrets of the White House that the normal press corps is complicit in keeping. Are you up for the challenge?

Amy Argetsinger: are you up for the challenge? Yes sir!!!

I said, are you up for the challenge??!?!? YES SIR!!!!

Thanks for the kick in the butt. We needed that. Feeling very energized. Just what I needed before I duck out to stalk Angelina for the day...


Potomac, Md.: Any chance that your column will be less mean-spirited than what we've seen recently, and more like tone of Chuck Conconi?

Roxanne Roberts: We are fair and wise goddesses of gossip hoping to follow in the grand tradition of all the best who came before us. We'll dole out tidbits and call them as we see them. If you behave like mature, productive grown-ups, we'll take note. If you yell at waiters and pull rank, we'll report it. If you dance naked in public, we'll mention your tan lines.


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Hi Amy and Roxanne. Welcome aboard!

I like the fact that you're willing to accost Bush kin, but who cares what they think about football?!

Amy Argetsinger: Heck, I think we just like having an excuse to accost people. You gotta ask them something!


Washington, D.C.: Great job with the new addition, you two! Any more juice on George Clooney's appearance here this week?

Amy Argetsinger: We tried, but couldn't find much. Can you help us?


Arlington, Va.: Was the Ben Affleck-for-VA-Senator tibit for real? It seemed like it was AN IDEA expressed by "unknown" people that got stretched into an excuse to put Affleck's handsome face on the web page for a few hours.

Amy Argetsinger: Hey, they are REALLY talking about it. Note that the story did not say that they've actually ASKED Ben Affleck to run, let alone that he will run. Don't you think it's interesting they're talking about it? Doesn't have to actually, you know, happen, does it?


Washington : Amy, I met you once and you seemed very cold. The last guy apparently hated parties. Aren't those both impediments to this particular job?

Amy Argetsinger: Oooh, ouch! Hey, what happened to all those friends of mine who were going to flood the chatroom today? I love parties. Do I gotta be nice too?


Washington, D.C:. Writing about every time Angelina Jolie comes to town is not gossip. Ripping the veil off the self-satisfied political/media elite, that's good gossip. Would you agree?

Amy Argetsinger: Sorry, no time to answer -- gotta run off to see Angelina. Roxanne will take it from here! Talk to you next week...


Yay!: So happy you two are will be this city's gossip mavens.

One request: even though gossip is all about name dropping, could the references to Cafe Milano be limited? Even though it's the white hot nuclear center of gossip in D.C? Sometimes it seems that the Post is on the CM payroll ...

Roxanne Roberts: Every era has a hot spot. For years, it was the Jockey Club, now it's Cafe Milano. We focus on people, not places---and we'll give you sightings from everywhere as merited. But we're not going to skip a Brad-Angelina-canoodling-in the-corner item just because it happens at Milano. Trust us on that.


20009: Has Eva Longoria been back in town? Huh-huh? Has she?

Roxanne Roberts: Do I detect a panting sound? Down! Sit! Stay!


Washington, D.C.: I just wanted to get a feel for how old you two are. Thirties? It seems that you have a lot of experience at the Post already, but your writing reads sort of youthful.


Roxanne Roberts: I'm ancient, Amy is a mere slip of a girl. Collectively we're 87 going on 25, but wise beyond our years.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi there! I really hate to ask a serious question here but what new things do you both think you can bring to the R.S. by virtue of your gender that your last two predecessors couldn't? (being male) I would think that the power hungry men of D.C. would be just delighted to share a tidbit or two with you as compared to Lloyd or Quid.

Amy Argetsinger: Not me -- I'm an infamously cold person at parties! (see above) How about you, Rox?

Roxanne Roberts: I think it's less about gender and more about dishing. But if a power player decides to share based solely on my XX factor, I'm happy to listen.


Breaking News: FYI- WTOP is reporting that the Wizards Andray Blatche was shot during an attempted carjacking. Surprisingly, he was the victim.

Wizards' Blatche Released from Hospital (WTOP Radio)

Roxanne Roberts: Me-ow.


DeLay indicted.: DeLay just indicted. He may have to step down as House Majority Leader.

Roxanne Roberts: The Hammer has shown a remarkable ability to prevail against all conventional wisdom. Stay tuned. This transcends the gossip pages, big time.


Virginia: Can you two ladies post pictures of you in your party dress?

Roxanne Roberts: One dress for both?


Vienna, Va.: I read recently in the Post that Dave Marash of Nightline, who used to be a local news anchor, has been "disinvited" to work for the all-new definitely-more-shallow Nightline. He is so warm and witty and talented and brilliant, he's definitely an "A" list celebrity as far as many Washingtonians are concerned, so I'd like you to follow up about where Dave is headed.

Roxanne Roberts: Noted, Mrs. Marash. You're a good mom to write.


Washington, D.C.: Hi,

Can you please track the dancing antics of little Jack Roberts? I love that the Bush administration along with the Roberts family are supremely embarrassed by this adorable kid!

Roxanne Roberts: I can hardly wait for Parent's Night at his school.


Vienna, Va.: For a while this column in the Post featured celebrity tipping, and I particularly enjoyed reading this. Please bring back this element! I love finding out who stiffs the waitress, who leaves a hundred dollar bill, who is gracious and who is ungracious. Let these celebrities know that we are watching them and judging them by their behavior! (Defining "celebrity" as "someone I have heard of," so it could include film stars and politicians and athletes and authors, etc., etc.)

Roxanne Roberts: We'll try to stay on top of all the big bucks doing of the Rich and Beautiful. Promi$e.


Potomac, Md.: What people want to know is not so much the blue-blood "celebrity" stuff about receptions and cocktail balls and petty chats and fundraisers, blah, but the really insightful, interesting, oddball, quirky, funny stories out there -- The New York Times reporter who allegedly trashed her rented condo; the low-level girl on Capitol Hill who writes a dumb blog about sleeping around the Hill; the local person who gets a bit speaking part in a movie; someone who pens a screenplay; someone who writes a book; those types of things. The reality on the blue-blood circuit of parties, receptions and balls -- no offense to the great work done by Roxanne through the years -- is that a very, very, very small percentage of people in the Washington metropolitan area ever get in the door to any of these things, and therefore they really are of no real consequence to most of us. But the quirky stories, and even the stories about celebrities with at least a solid news peg to them(Ben Affleck running for Senator, Trump having a baby, someone getting divorced, etc.) those are the ones that register.

Amy Argetsinger: And I think that's what you'll find in the column. We want this to be a column that's interesting to our entire readership, not just insiders.


Roxanne Roberts: So, the hour is already up and there are too many unanswered questions. Look, guys, I'll learn to type faster, okay? Keep the comments and questions coming and we'll try to answer more. We'll be here every Wednesday at noon, and you can always e-mail. This column is for you.


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