The Reliable Source

Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; 12:00 PM

Reliable Source columnists Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts were online Wednesday, March 18, at Noon ET to discuss your favorite gossip, what you think about their recent columns or who you want to see them writing about in future ones.

In today's column: Meet Champ, the nation's first dog (at least until the Obamas get one). And meet the Rose of Tralee! Michelle Obama turns the fountains green, gets a prize from fashionistas. And more on the sad Natasha Richardson story.

In recent days: Bristol and Levi split; will they get back together? Bald is the new beautiful for beauty queens. Don Imus finds laughs in cancer. Actors agree: Joaquin Phoenix is totally faking. Will Obama take the Taxation Without Representationplates? Meghan McCain dominates this week's news. And can we offer you some tasty CloFu? Some George Tofu-ney?

E-mail and bookmark Reliable Source Blog.

A transcript follows.

____________________ We are having some technical issues right now but things are being worked on. Please stay tuned, we'll be along shortly.


Amy Argetsinger: Good morning everyone! Sorry for the delay. Computer problems colliding with system problems colliding with the fact that Roxanne is on vacation! But I'm here now... We'll continue into the 1 p.m. hour to make up for lost time.


A Quick PSA: Look who's shaving her head! (St. Baldrick's Foundation) to donate to Miss Virginia's quest.

Thanks, all.

Amy Argetsinger: This was the surprise talker of the week -- Miss Virginia Tara Wheeler has promised to shave her head if she raises $500,000 for cancer charities.


Sarasota, Fla.: If Levi and Bristol can't make it, what hope do the rest of us have?

Amy Argetsinger: I'm still holding out hope for them...


Northern Virginia: I never thought I'd say this, but Miss Virginia is cool. I hope that my daughter grows up to be like her. How can I make a contribution to her $500,000 goal?

Amy Argetsinger: I think our previous chatter just put out the link...


Natasha Richardson: Some reports state she is brain dead, others that she is merely sedated. Anyway, they moved he to NYC which makes one believe she is somewhat stable. Any more information?

Amy Argetsinger: Just a mess of conflicting reports, but most of them seem to agree on the fact that it doesn't look good.


Clo-fu: Very clever. Is George going to hire his journalism-professor dad to help with the PR for his venture?

Amy Argetsinger: Ha! I don't think so. George did not seem enthralled by PETA's idea. His response: "As a mammal, I'm offended."


Beautiful Silver Spring, Md.: This whole blonde-Republican cat fight thing would be a lot more interesting were it executed with more intelligence and verve. Meghan McCain picked an easy target in Ann Coulter and laid an inane, barely coherent critique on her. Coulter doesn't respond, but Laura Ingraham does, with what I guess was supposed to be a witty rejoinder involving Lane Bryant. Then McCain, rather than trying to stay above the name-calling that characterizes the discourse she was chastising, instead shows its effectiveness by basically saying "She called me FAT!" And the saddest thing is that McCain should own it, 'cause she's cute (and I say this as a registered Democrat).

Can we please replay this one to make it more entertaining? I feel like there's an alternate universe where McCain's critique is so devastating that it lures Coulter out of her lair and starts a free-for-all that ends in a pie fight in the Weekly Standard office or something.

Amy Argetsinger: Who ever imagined that Ann Coulter would be the one taking the high ground in a high-class catfight? She has wisely kept out of it. Ingraham's comments were tacky, but McCain missed an opportunity to stay above it when she responded with the snark about Ingraham's age (the bit about how she's 20 years older and has been a pundit as long as McCain has been alive)...


Arlington, Va.: How do you pronounce Aoife?

Amy Argetsinger: EE-fuh.


Oprah's sad news: I see that one of her two new puppies died of parvo virus. That stinks. Hope this doesn't turn the Obamas off to adopting from a shelter....

Amy Argetsinger: Yes, according to US, both of her cocker spaniels (from the same litter) got infected with parvo, which is not uncommon among puppies. One died, the other is still sick.


Re: Sourcettes on Michelle Obama, More: Inspired by your new sobriquet, I'm now imagining you in bouffant hairdos, elbow length gloves and long, spangled empire waisted gowns. But who would be your third?

Amy Argetsinger: Where is it listed that way? People are always using that, and it's always annoyed me. Cheesy, sexist, diminutive... and NOW what are we supposed to call our back-up singers?!?


Amy Argetsinger: To the person with the question about the Democratic fundraiser solicitation.... Can't find a quick answer for you on this. Why don't you e-mail us at with what you have and we'll try to find out? Thanks!


Woodbridge, Va.: IMO, Levi seems to be a decent sort, from what I've read lately. Especially since he could've taken the low road and walked as far away from this baby as he could get.

I hope a few years will make the difference and they will get back together.

Amy Argetsinger: You know, I got to admit, Levi handles himself very very well in these brief interviews we've given. It's all too easy for even a good kid that age to sound idiotic when quoted -- but he manages to say the right stuff and seem sympathetic. So yes, here's hoping they get back together... and that they run him for governor in another 15 years or so.


Baltimore, Md.: Adam Lambert: Sexy genius or pancake-faced, microphone- humping, song-ruining freak?

Amy Argetsinger: A question for the ages, or at least this week. On first listen, I thought his "Ring of Fire" was dreadful. (I heard the recap excerpt first, before I rewound and heard the whole thing.) But when I listened to the whole thing... I don't know, it wasn't bad. I'm sure he lifted the arrangement from someone else (as they all do)... He's kind of a one-trick pony, but interesting. Anyone else?


Twitter: Yes or no? George Stephanopoulos conducted an entire interview with John McCain via Twitter which strikes me as pretty shallow. Have you interviewed anyone via IM or Twitter?

Amy Argetsinger: No. I don't even understand how you interview someone in Twitter. An interview via IM I can kind of understand, but only in extenuating circumstances. (When I was on the higher-ed beat, a deaf student at Gallaudet once suggested we conduct our interview via IM -- but I didn't have IM then.)

_______________________ The Stephanopoulos/McCain Twitter Interview: For People Who Find TV News Soundbites Too Complicated (Information Week, March 17)


New York, N.Y.: Hi Ladies-

I don't understand the obsession with the need to report something first especially if it's wrong. The disaster with Time Out New York reporting that Nastasha Richardson had died is disgusting. I don't understand why her family can't be by her side in peace and then make appropriate statements as warranted. The majority of people's lives aren't going to be shattered if they don't get the latest information about this woman who was in a terrible accident. Natasha Richardson (Time Out New York)

Amy Argetsinger: I agree with you completely. Time Out New York had to apologize for prematurely running an "RIP Natasha Richardson" headline.


Washington, D.C.: Okay -- Miss Virginia borders on "wacko," but only in the way a hockey goalie can. Can you provide an address if we want to send money in support of her fundraising efforts?

Amy Argetsinger: Go to her website, I'm sure there's something there..


Washington, D.C.: Will Bristol and Levi get back together? I'm thinking no. She said he was a golddigger, and his sister said she's crazy. Not that their relationship wasn't rock solid to begin with -- after all, they have -- family values -- but that kind of talk is really hard to put behind you.

Amy Argetsinger: I don't think Bristol said anything like that. The statement she released via her mom's PAC made reference to people trying to cash in on their fame -- but I assume that was aimed at Levi's sister Mercede's story in Star. (Though Mercede later claimed she didn't talk to Star, that this story was based on an overheard conversation.)


Gimmicks of Tofu Article?: It appears we haven't "heard it all" from PETA. They release 12 or so press releases a day, and many of them largely deal with serious, malicious acts of animal cruelty under investigation by D.A. offices.

We don't hear all that from PETA, because you filter out the gimmicks. They include gimmicks not because they prefer it, but because a certain caliber of reporters necessitate it.

Why don't you do something constructive with your life?

Nightline released a shocking 9-month undercover investigation into primate labs. It is going to change the way primates are handled for years to come. You could do something with your life.

Amy Argetsinger: Who, me? Do something with my life? Whatever.

There's been some excellent reporting on animal cruelty issues -- but a celebrity/VIP column is not the place to report that.


Pancake-faced, microphone-humping, song-ruining freak?: AND highly flammable from all that hairspray. SAVE the ozone Adam!

Amy Argetsinger: I'm looking forward to his makeunder. Right now he sort of looks like the young Kurt Russell playing Elvis (am I the only one who remembers that made-for-TV movie?) but with My Chemical Romance hair and makeup.


Champ: What LARGE front paws that puppy has in the picture in the blog. Or maybe just a bad camera angle? Puppy Love at the Veep's House (Post, March 18)

Amy Argetsinger: They grow into their paws.


"As a mammal, I'm offended." : LOL! MORE reason to love him!!!!

Amy Argetsinger: It was a very clever retort.


Washington, D.C.: Which one of you would like to be the mirror A-ROD kissed in Details? A-Rod Kisses Himself In A Mirror For Magazine (WBZ)

Amy Argetsinger: Doesn't look like there's room for anyone else in that particular lovefest besides A-Rod and A-Rod.


Silver Spring, Md.: Amy/Rox: Journalism question in regard to Natasha Richardson....with sooo many conflicting reports, why report anything other than she's injured and that the prognosis is unclear? In looking at the various reports, anonymous sources, family, friends, all are reporting different things. Doesn't it make sense to step back and wait on an official statement instead of eulogizing her (see Fox News and USA Today) before it's certain?

Amy Argetsinger: A variety of reputable news organizations have credible sourcing that her condition is "serious," which seems fair enough to report.

All the undersourced talk about *how* serious her condition is, though, is troubling and ghoulish.


Arlington, Va.: So if you didn't have IM, how did you interview said deaf student?

Amy Argetsinger: Via e-mail, I think. It was a long time ago.


Washington, D.C.: I figure Bristol and Levi still get back together. They say single men outnumber single women in Alaska, but as one woman remarked years back, "While the odds are good, the goods are odd."

Amy Argetsinger: I like that.


McCain's weight: Umm, in what universe is M. McCain considered fat? Are you people crazy? By plus-sized, do you mean size 6-8, maybe?

Amy Argetsinger: So much mean and crazy talk.


My Chemical Romance hair and makeup. : He seems so 80s with his gothy hair and goth reinterpretation of a country song with a hairband/LedZepplin twist to confuse. HORRIBLE. Add his arrogance and I hate him.

Amy Argetsinger: Okay, we have a dissenting vote.


Elvis, R.I.: I don't remember Kurt Russell playing Elvis, but I do remember Don Johnson playing Elvis in "Elvis and the Beauty Queen." Stephanie Zimbalist played the Beauty Queen, I think. A classic. Sad to say, I did not need to Google to come up with this. I can also provide plot summaries of all season 1 and 2 Miami Vice episodes. Pathetic. Talk about needing to get a life...

Amy Argetsinger: We've often said that about you. But as long as you don't have a life -- check out the Kurt Russell movie. He wasn't bad at all.


Washington, D.C.: I think Kara's reaction to Adam was the best: "I'm confused, but happy." Yep, that about sums it up completely. What a completely wonderful thing to happen to Idol... they don't know what to do with him because he is obviously talented in a way that Sanjaya was not, but, whoa, what a freak!

Amy Argetsinger: It makes the show worth watching.


Lancaster, Pa.: Re: Adam Lambert/American Idol He reminds me of a young Elvis. I loved his version of Ring of Fire.

Amy Argetsinger: And a dissent to the dissent.


Brackets: Who's your final four?

Amy Argetsinger: You mean, in my 2009 Reliable Source Gossip Tournament bracket? Still putting it together, but check out last year's bracket (link to come).


A-Rod and A-Rod: He does make a cute couple

Amy Argetsinger: Meant for each other.


Washington, D.C.: I know it's not gossip, but today seems sad... dogs dying, poor Natasha Richardson and her beautiful talented family... So, I must gush that it is such a fun feeling to have your alma mater be highly ranked in the tourney when they so infrequently get there. Go Missouri!

Also, to tie to celebs -- our celeb alums include Brad Pitt (who did not graduate) and Sheryl Crow.

Amy Argetsinger: And Washington Post Pulitzer Prize winner James V. Grimaldi, a fraternity brother of Pitt's.


Some reports state she is brain dead: which is so weird cuz she was up and walking and talking after she hit her head. It was hours later when she said she didn't feel right.

Amy Argetsinger: We've already acknowledged we don't really know her current condition. But yes, the weirdness of the incident is, I guess, what makes the story so compelling.

I was wondering if she had one of those fluke episodes, like an aneurysm or a stroke, that caused the fall. Then again, though the resort has characterized her fall as minor, they also said it prompted their instructor to escort her back to her room... Who knows; we don't know anything, but it is disturbing.


Tampa, Fla.: re: Natasha Richardson: The fact that they moved her from the hospital in Montreal to N.Y. was a big indication to me that her condition is very poor. With any type of head trauma, the worst thing you can do for someone is move them, it can exacerbate swelling in the brain. I also assume that the hospital in Montreal that they took her to is similar to the Level 1 trauma centers here in the U.S., so there wouldn't have been any reason to move a critically ill patient to a hospital in the U.S.

It is just a shame -- I really do feel for the family -- this must be just devastating.

Amy Argetsinger: Again, we don't know anything, just that it's very sad.

_______________________ 2008 Reliable Source Tournament


How to know you're a nut, Lesson 1: If you can turn any situation, conversation or event into a discussion about your fixation, you are nut. I can do this my professional field, soccer and sailing. I am a mega-nut.

Amy Argetsinger: Who are we talking about here?


Ring of Fire: Johnny and June would have a fit. Adam was easily the worst last night. The only thing that helped was the mute button.

Amy Argetsinger: I thought Megan Joy's performance was baffling and off-putting -- I really expected they were going to tear her apart for not listening to the lyrics and doing such a chipper, chirpy rendition of a heartbreak song. That's such an odd interpretation that you might as well take it further -- like start busting out in a yodel.

But you know, at least Adam and Megan Joy were memorable, whereas about one-third of the others I've already forgotten.


He reminds me of a young Elvis: That is blasphemy! Elvis could sing. And sure, he got as glitter Hollywood as they come, but he started off genuine. This kid Adam is already a jaded Hollywood package and he's only 20.

Amy Argetsinger: As someone who kinda liked his performance, I still agree with you on that point.


You guys have real power...: You speak and the WaPO home page gets changed. It now it says "Reliable Sources" instead of "Sourcettes" in the description of your chat!

Amy Argetsinger: Scary, isn't it?


Washington, D.C.: Amy, saw you on Howie's program Sunday. Looking good! In other news, I have totally become obsessed with Caps goalie Jose Theodore. I have now appropriately decorated my cubicle at work. I liked watching the Caps before, so I don't think I'm stalkerish or something. But I really hope they make the playoffs so I can continue to look at those gorgeous eyes.

Amy Argetsinger: Hmmm. Google-imaging here... You know, it's always hard to find a good photo of a goalie's face, but -- hello! Kind of a Gael Garcia Bernal type, huh?

And thank you. No one does makeup like CNN.


Reston, Va.: Can I tell you how much I loved the Obamas dying the fountain waters green yesterday? Nice to see a sense of humor in the White House.

Amy Argetsinger: Oh, that reminds me -- did everyone check out the web video of the green fountains? You can see it on our column page.


Adam Lambert: Don't you think he looks like the Joanne Worley from Laugh-in)/ Steve Martin lovechild?

Amy Argetsinger: Why, yes indeed -- the secret to his charisma right there...


Washington, D.C.: Don't you think it's odd that doctors who know nothing about Richardson's medical condition go on news programs to speculate what might be happening to her?

Doesn't this seem very unprofessional? It's a given they're not supposed to talk about their own patient's medical conditions, but why should it be OK to go on TV and speculate about someone who isn't their patient?

Amy Argetsinger: I haven't seen any of these. It's a tricky area. I think as long as an expert makes it quite clear that he's talking in generalities, and not about a specific patient's case, he's okay, and might actually be doing a service. But yes, I think they'd want to be careful not to address her case in particular.


Bethesda, Md.: I've seen some pretty compelling explanations by doctors on TV in the last day or so about how a seemingly minor head injury can turn out to be life-threatening a few hours later. (Though I didn't really follow the one on "Today" who was using an orange to illustrate.)

Of course, this is going to make me even more paranoid next time I crack my head on a cabinet door or the handle on the freezer door -- I'm kind of accident-prone, and I live alone.

Amy Argetsinger: Case in point...


Washington, D.C.: Has Natasha Richardson ever been discussed in this chat forum before?

Amy Argetsinger: I'm pretty sure... not.

I was thinking the same thing yesterday, that news outlets that hadn't paid much attention to her were suddenly deeply interested. Granted, her husband is currently starring in one of the biggest box-office hits now in theaters... She got a lot more buzz earlier in her career, and when they were first married.


How to know you're a: PETA. While I'm all for eliminating cruelty to animals, a celebrity chat is not the place for political grandstanding. Saying that I now realize that responding is only going to egg them on. So, feel free to ignore this response.

Amy Argetsinger: "Egg" them on? That is so offensive!


Go, Greeks!: Which frat did Grimaldi and Pitt belong to?

Amy Argetsinger: Sigma Chi.


He reminds me of a young Elvis: Elvis wanted to sing. Adam wants to Be. A. Star.

Amy Argetsinger: Oh, I think Elvis kind of wanted to be a star too..


Richmond, Va.: and by hairband, I didn't mean a band to hold you hair back, but Hair Band, the 80s musical phenomenon. He had that tough head Banger sings sensitive vibe. Me no likie.

Amy Argetsinger: The phrase I always liked that never really caught on as much: Hair Farmers.

_______________________ Green Fountains at the White House


I loved his version of Ring of Fire. : It was an insult to Johnny Cash, thank God he wasn't alive to hear that. I loved how Randy Travis told a few singers that the original singer would like that version and note he didn't say that to Adam the Superstar Already Just Waiting for the Rest of the World to Drink the Koolaid.

Amy Argetsinger: Oh, can I just say? I [heart] Randy Travis.


Green Fountains at the White House: Why do I think this was inappropriate? I am surprised by my own reaction, but I thought turning the water green at the White House was, well, tacky. Undignified. Inappropriate. Am I getting old and cranky? Michelle Obama's taste has been so spot on so far but this seemed....dumb?

Amy Argetsinger: It's just so... Chicago! Did you all check out the web video yet?


D.C.: There is no St. Baldrick. There's a St. Balderic. But no St. Baldrick. Just like there is no St. Cloud.

Amy Argetsinger: I'm sure they explain this somewhere on the website...


Anonymous: When the heck did they turn the clocks ahead ? I definitely need to start paying more attention...

Amy Argetsinger: Well, I was wondering why you were late!


Washington, D.C.: Obama's bracket was so funny on the news this morning. I guess an ESPN writer made him promise if he won, they'd get to cover his bracket. GMA had a story on it, and it was neat to see him analyze his choices. Presidents! They're just like us!

Amy Argetsinger: Will have to check that out. But how will he do in our gossip brackets?


Adam Lambert/American Idol : There is no way anyone over 25 can like him. He's the High School musical heartthrob for college girls before they evolve out of falling in love with gay best friends. All makeup and no content beneath that.

Amy Argetsinger: Why don't you tell us how you really feel?


NYC: Why is it that we elevate a famous person's status if they are seriously injured? I've never heard of Nastasha Richardson before, but she's being referred to as a movie star.

I know she's married to a movie star and the daughter of one and the niece of another. I wish her a speedy recovery. But she's not a star. Just isn't.

Amy Argetsinger: Yeah, it's a little creepy.


CD: So umm how in the world is Adam anything like Nine Inch Nails, as Randy stated? Please tell me nothing like them so I don't have to claw my ears out next time I listen to them.

Amy Argetsinger: Adam is this year's Constantine. He'll go no further than top 7. It's a numbers game. He may have a niche audience that will continue to call in for him, but as other finalists are kicked off, their partisans won't turn to him.


Reston, Va.: Re. Natasha Richardson, it's times like these where it would really suck to be a celebrity. Imagine, you're Liam Neeson and you are making major decisions about care and treatment, and even possibly about removing life support from your wife and then in the early hours of the day, when your kids are leaving the hospital, they have photographers surrounding them asking questions and taking pictures...I can't even imagine.

Amy Argetsinger: Yep, I agree.


Washington, D.C.: Why is Meghan McCain giving that girls gone wild pose at a White House dinner?

Amy Argetsinger: White House Correspondents' Association dinner -- it's a journalist event at the Washington Hilton, not a White House dinner.


RE: Richardson: Um, yes, she's a movie star. Has been in several: The Parent Trap, Nell, Handmaid's Tale.

Amy Argetsinger: Yes, but I see the chatter's point. She is not a household name for most multiplex-goers; she has not been a fixture in US magazine (happily for her, I'm sure); she's better known in New York and London for her stage work. All those movies you cite are from some time ago. She's a very well-regarded actress.


I've never heard of Nastasha Richardson before: Just because you never heard of her doesn't mean she isn't a star. It just means your tastes are very narrow. She's not in the current hot list, but she has a very solid resume.

Amy Argetsinger: I don't think anyone's doubting her credentials here. The truth is that poor Natasha Richardson has not had a fraction of the media coverage over the past ten years that she has in the past 24 hours; outlets that paid no heed to her are now obsessed; and that is a peculiar phenomenon of our times.


How is it possible: that they didn't notice daylight saving time until 'now'?

Amy Argetsinger: Because... there wasn't anywhere they had to be until now?


Green fountains: Lime popsicles, melting.

Amy Argetsinger: Made you look! Is that the most boring web video ever, or what?


Amy Argetsinger: Confidential to the chatter with the story about the overheard restaurant conversation: Entertaining stuff, thanks!


Green Fountains: I think it's hilarious and it is very Chicago. Although I've always thought it odd and pointless to dye the river, the fountain was fine with me. Perhaps they could have done it with lights and put on a water show.

Amy Argetsinger: And music too, like the fountains at the Bellagio.


how in the world is Adam anything like Nine Inch Nails, as Randy stated?: I know. I thought maybe both were musicians about which Randy know nothing? That is their only similarity. You're weird, I don't know what you're doing, but you look sorta goth so I'll put you in the same category as NIN even though you don't have any talent.

Amy Argetsinger: Listen -- if the American Idol judges' commentaries were *informed* commentaries, would we be interested in watching anymore?


Ring of Fire: Johnny Cash covered Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails, totally reinterpreting the songs and making them his own. Not better, just his. He would have had no problem with the Chris Isaak/Jim Morrison/Middle Eastern Ring of Fire. BTW, hate that show.

Amy Argetsinger: It's America; you're entitled to hate "American Idol."


New York: "You could do something with your life."

I agree with this poster. Why don't you two do something worthwhile like submit posts to a gossip chat room and change the world!

Amy Argetsinger: I do wish I could both submit posts AND respond to them. Maybe then I could have an impact.


He reminds me of a young Elvis: Elvis had raw talent. Strip down everything else and he had real talent under those swiveling hips. I mean, he was compelled to push the envelope and go where he wasn't supposed to. Adam? Take away the hairspray and superstyled hairdo and you've got a kid who sings "tomorrow!" along with the rest of the hopeful stage kids. nothing special.

Amy Argetsinger: Like I said, looking forward to the makeunder.


Natasha Richardson: Won a Tony for the revival of "Cabaret" (with Allan Cumming).

Amy Argetsinger: Yes, as noted in our story today...

_______________________ Reliable Source (Post, March 18)


Amy Argetsinger: As always, it's been delightful chatting with you. We'll look forward to catching up again next week, when Roxanne will be back. Until then, keep in touch at


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