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John Kelly's Washington

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John Kelly
Friday, May 7, 2010; 12:00 PM

Is that Scarlett Johansson, Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber? It can only mean the <a href='http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/03/AR2010050302088.html'>White House Correspondents' Association dinner</a>. But does the gala represent the true Washington? Whom would you invite to sit at your table--and why? Chat with John about the annual celebrity invasion. Plus: Are we <a href='http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/02/AR2010050202901.html'>coddling our ducklings</a>?

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John Kelly: Scarlett Johansson has not called. She has not e-mailed or attempted to friend me on Facebook. Not that I really expected her to read my Tuesday column, be upset by my dismissal of the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, then call up eager to disabuse me of my notion that she's a lightweight--over drinks or dinner, say. No matter. I can live with the rejection.Some people liked that column. Some people hated it. Oh you'd go in a minute if you were invited, the latter said. I guess that may be true. But I'm not even sure I understand what it is. That may be because I don't cover the White House. But then again, neither does Justin Bieber.We all know that the White House doesn't have much to do with Washington--at least the Washington most of us live in. So if you were throwing a real Washington dinner, what "celebrities" would you invite? Which local personalities would you want to spend the evening with? Why? My list included:The Mysterious Walking Man (a sinewy guy with a dirty-blond ponytail seen walking everywhere from Germantown to Georgetown)? The chatty vendor who used to hawk the Examiner at the Forest Glen Metro station? Lisa Baden, the WTOP traffic lady? Channel 9 weather dude Topper Shutt, just so that when I'm deep in my cups I could say, "Shut it, Shutt!"?Whoever's next in the queue at the slug line on 14th Street NW? Roy L. Pearson Jr., the D.C. administrative law judge who sued the dry cleaners for $54 million to get his pants back? Ace Rosner, the 92-year-old, one-armed, ex-CIA racecar driver.Who's on your list?Should we let the ducklings of D.C. fend for themselves? Or should we let nature take its pitiless course? In other words: Are we coddling our ducklings? (That sounds like an Asian delicacy: coddled duckling.)We've entered one of those patches where--due to sunspot activity or volcanic ash--news keeps happening. Some of it is global--Greek financial meltdown. Some of it is national--Gulf of Mexico oil spill. But a lot of it is local--that tragic lacrosse murder in UVA, the arrest of suspect's in that D.C. principal's murder. I think I'm looking forward to the lazy days of August. You?Granny pod? Why do I find this troubling?Oh those Japanese: "The dress that turns into a Coca-Cola machine to ward off attackers."Okay, let's chat.

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WHCA Dinner: This event has gone from bad to worse. It's bad enough that reporters who are supposed to be objectively covering politicians spend a night schmoozing with them and patting themseleves on the back. What's worse is that it's become this Hollywood B-list event. Celebrities that have nothing to do with politics are supposed to improve this event? To put it bluntly, this event does not show your colleagues in their best light and only feeds the mistrust of what many derisively refer to as the mainstream media.

John Kelly: I think that Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts nailed it in their post-dinner story: "'Nerd prom' no longer." There seemed to be more celebs this year and fewer of the weird people-in-the-news. Those flashes in the pan were odd, but at least there was some justification, in a goofy kind of way. Now it seems to just be people from People. I can't quite tell if any politicians actually go, but I suppose they must.Does that make you trust the media less? I've never had to cover anything "serious" and thus never really felt the pull that must come from befriending the people one covers. I think on balance journalists do a pretty good job at staying objective, but it's the appearance that must register with readers.

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Ballston Dude: Also, please interpret this image.

John Kelly: You think that while D.C. office workers are out helping Momma Duck and the babies across the street, Daddy Duck is rifling through their desks, purses and briefcases.That second image grates on me.

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Tony K:: Why somuch hate from Tony K for your WHCD article? The bitter old man shtick has certainly run its course...

John Kelly: It's gotta be an act, right? Same with his sidekicks. I think the "Jeanne" is Jeanne McManus who used to work here. She seemed like a pretty nice person.

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Cabin John Bridge: John, if you can handle another comment on this: Of course there was no pedestrian walkway on the 2-way CJB! In fact, there were prominent "no pedestrian" signs posted on each end. The problem, of course, was, what were your options? There really weren't any! So some of us sneaked across -- cars were considerate -- and there was also an informal hitch-hiking arrangement, where this was permitted only for purposes of getting across the bridge. Times were, or seemed, safer tback hen; and I don't recall any trouble that came of it.

John Kelly: Several readers wrote in disbelief that the bridge could ever have been two-way. It looks so narrow. It is so narrow. And remember, it wasn't even built to carry traffic, let alone cars, let alone cars going in both directions. But, yep, it did. Nevertheless, the huge moving truck came across the bridge. The father said, What, are you crazy? Didn't you see the weight restriction sign? The driver said, It's okay, I drove really fast across it.

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Cleveland : Thank you for your recent article on ducks. Those mocking birds deserve the negative attention, they attack humans. We are docile creatures who have not yet adapted to your urbane landscape.

John Kelly: "Urbane"? Well, parts of it. Probably not the parts that are in Urbana.

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Good Humor Christmas Songs: I live in Edgewater, south of Annapolis, and the local Good Humor truck plays Christmas songs, not just secular "Here Comes Santa Claus" but religious ones as well. This strikes me as somewhat incongruous. I doubt it cuts into sales, but do you associate Christmas and ice cream? It just seems sorta strange.

John Kelly: Well, it gets your attention. There's an ice cream truck that plies our neighborhood. It has some annoying pre-recorded ditty (non Xmas), punctuated by what sounds like a child's voice saying "Hello!" It drives my daughter crazy, not because of the recording, but because we can hear it for blocks and never know if it's going to come down our street. She's gone out in search of it before, only to hear it fading away like a ghostly apparition.This was an interesting article from City Paper, about a guy in D.C. who doesn't sell drugs from his ice cream truck.

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John Kelly: So: Mother's Day. Does it seem early this year? What are you doing for your mom? Even more pressing, what are you doing for your wife? I know she's not your mother, but your no-good kids aren't doing anything so you better get on the stick. Me? I'm taking MLW to the MLB.

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The Ducklings have a great PR team: Ducklings. And whatever happened to Ping?

John Kelly: Ping is hugely successful as a result of his line of high-end golf clubs.

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You're out of the will!: "the arrest of suspect's"Seriously??

John Kelly: This is what you get when you chat without a net. Im sorry.

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John Kelly: This is just great: "Lettuce recall; E. coli outbreak." I'm sticking to Twinkies.

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Ice Cream Truck Songs: The ice cream truck in my neighborhood plays "Helter Skelter." This also strikes me as somewhat incongruous.

John Kelly: I guess it really ought to play "Ice Ice Baby."

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re: good humor: Is it an Australian truck? They probably eat ice cream around Xmas time. Franken sense and mursicles, mangercreme sandwiches, and mistletoe cones

John Kelly: Not to mention chocolate-filled little baby Jesuses. Jesi?

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one of those patches where--due to sunspot activity or volcanic ash--news keeps happening: Best example: World finances going into a death spiral cuz some junior stockbroker typed an M instead of a B!

John Kelly: Yeah, what's up with that? They're sorta close on the keyboard, but they use different fingers--at least the way I type. He really had his head up his mutt.

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Correspondents Dinner: I don't see a problem with reporters and politicians having a night of schmoozing, and really, if people do- you need to loosen your collar so you can breathe. People are people- they're allowed to have fun sometimes. It's not like they're making major policy decisions at the dinner and the reporters aren't covering it. To say they shouldn't interact they way they do- that's like saying I shouldn't talk to anybody that competes with my company for contracts. Too many tightly wound people in this area!

John Kelly: Good point. What I want to read is a story that actually says what goes on at the dinner. I guess people try to ogle the celebrities. But what do people talk about? And if they're talking about important stuff, do the reporters cover that, or is it off the record? Or is it assumed that it's frivolous night full of nothing but fluff?

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Pending bonus for you?: WaPostCo reports a $45M profit. What will you do with your share, bail out Greece?

John Kelly: We should buy Newsweek! Oh, wait....

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Mother's Day: I was recently in Chicago and saw Fannie May Mint Meltaways in a local grocery store. They're my mother-in-law's favorite candy, so I bought a box for her. My own mother died about a year ago, so I will light a candle for her. My one-year old is not quite up to planning anything for me, but we're having my in-laws and my father over to dinner on Sunday for grilled steaks. I love to cook so wouldn't mind doing it, but my husband wants to give me a break. I will make dessert, which will be fun.

John Kelly: That sounds like a lovely day. The weather is supposed to be cool, but dry.

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Ducklings and the WH Celebrity Dinner: I'm impressed with your boycott of the WH Celebrity Dinner (that's the name, right?), irrational dislike is the greatest. You should go to the dinner and bring the ducklings.

John Kelly: Well I like to think I wasn't totally irrational. Bring the ducklings? Only if Ozzie Osbourne isn't there.

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White House Funny Dinner: If John Kelly and his funny hat don't get an invite to the Funny Dinner, how does a reporter get an invite?

John Kelly: Exactly! My editor said, "You've never gone?" Apparently everybody here but me has gone. We seem to end up with empty seats at our table and so they have to try to unload the tickets. I think the lady who waters the plants went this year.So, no one has any idea who they'd invite? Good think you guys aren't party planners.

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Congratulations: Yes, congratulations, John. You're nobody in this town until Mr. Tony has blown some hot and bitter air in your direction. But be careful if you decide to respond, he doesn't seem to have too much tolerance for jokes that go in his direction.

John Kelly: My two proudest moments: George Will quoting me in a column of his and Tony Kornheiser trashing me on air. (Although I guess the proper verb is "crushing.")

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Forest Glen metro: No question...just writing to say that I loved the Examiner guy at the Forest Glen station! BTW - He transferred to Shady Grove (at least, that's where he said he was going). He always had a big hug for me and even though I'm not entirely a morning person, he always started off my day with a smile. Always in a good mood - even in the bitter cold or on a rainy morning. We need more people like him. Ohh...and normally I wouldn't pick up the "other" paper but how could I say no to him?

John Kelly: He used to greet My Lovely Wife with "Hello, Miss Lady." Then he moved to "Hello, Miss Silver," a reference to the white streak she has in her hair. She can be pretty dour first thing in the morning, but she warmed to him, especially since he doesn't try to force the paper on anyone. He just makes his happy comment and lets you walk on. I felt sorry for the woman next to him handing out the Express. There was no way she could compete.

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What are you doing for your mom? : OR worse, mother-in-law. Mine is the old fashioned sort who thinks the wife should do everything. I come from a family where every adult is self-sufficient. We expect each adult to buy gifts for their own mother. So my husband does nothing and *I* get talked about.

John Kelly: Ouch!I saw a great photo yesterday. I was at a seamstress's dropping off some suit pants to be altered (three suits for $300 in New York, remember?). As I waited I flipped through an album of hers filled with photos of wedding dresses she'd made. There was one that showed the bride and groom, sort of mid-chest up, with what I took to be a mother-in-law right between them with a sort of defiant look on her face. The bridge was wearing a forced smile. I guess it was the groom's mother.

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The tragedy at UVa: Hey, John. Several Post stories have talked about the alcohol culture at this school (pretty much like other colleges, really) and that students are supposed to report themselves for being arrested (ha!). Though we don't know that alcohol is related to this murder directly, UVA has changed since I attended -- then people drank a lot, but now it seems people drink for the purpose of being severely drunk. That, of course, leads to violence, accidents, rapes, unintended pregnancies, fraternity/sorority hazings, etc. It's scary. As a parent, what do you think we can do? Better enforcement of the law just doesn't happen on campuses.

John Kelly: Doesn't it start with the kid? I would hope that parents can prepare their kids for college so that the students themselves can make good decisions for themselves. Or is that naive?

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Seamstress: "The bridge was wearing a forced smile. "Sometimes your typos mean more than the original word would!

John Kelly: The Cabin John Bridge, perhaps?

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Invite: I'd invite you. We'd begin with apertifs at the Town Hall in College Park and then move on to some serious drinking at the Tick Tock in Langley Park. You wouldn't have to pretend to like all the folks you can't very well badmouth during your chats. We could bemoan the fact that nobody reads (but everybody seems to be writing) and that newspapers, news magazines and more importantly, serious literature have all gone the way of pay phones and decent coffee. And eventually we could retreat into ourselves and privately return to better times and better places...

John Kelly: In a limo, I hope.Don't retreat too far! We need to make our better tomorrows.

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Way Off Topic: I was talking to a colleague about her doing her daughter's hair, and thought of Lonnae O'Neal Parker's beautiful magazine piece on this subject (a few months ago). Can you help dig it up?

John Kelly: Here it is, thanks to producer Rocci. He's also gonna post a column I did 13 years ago (wow) about my daughters' hair. See, I can be sensitive too.

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Protecting the ducks: Is OK as long as it is native good ducks. Where I work, I can be 10 minutes late to work cuz some softie is yielding for the Canada geeselings. Those things are invading species, the Kudzu of the air and squeeze out our native species. Kill 'em! Plus they are mean and snapped at me once.

John Kelly: So if they crossed in front of you, would you floor it? I think you'd probably be chased down and beaten with a Starbucks mug.But I do agree with you about the Canada geese. Goose birth control?

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Rocci Fisch: From the archives: Hair a Parent.

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Some junior stockbroker typed an M instead of a B: OOPS! I just did it! I MEANT typed a B instead of an M! w.o.w.

John Kelly: What a difference a letter makes. Would you rather look out your window to see a MB (Mercedes-Benz) sitting in your driveway, or a BM?

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Local celebrity dinner: I would invite the Blue Man Group, the cast of Avatar in costume, and Clinton Portis. I would let Clinton wonder why he's the only guest not wearing blue. Was it on the invitation?

John Kelly: And you can invite the Smurfs: Virgil Seay, Alvin Garrett,and Charlie Brown.

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Would you rather look out your window to see a MB (Mercedes-Benz) sitting in your driveway, or a BM?: An MGB! Green!

John Kelly: Much better than a green BM.

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Mysterious Walking Man : Hi John, I keep seeing this guy. In fact I passed him on my bike this morning in Bethesda tunnel on the Capital Crescent Trail. Do you know anything about him? I have seen him for years and am always very curious, but I don't want to stop and ask. This chat was the first reference I've ever seen to him. Please provide some information if you can. thanks, wheaton

John Kelly: I once pulled over when I was driving in Rock Creek and talked to him. He seemed uncomfortable and because of that I haven't pressed it. I think he will probably remain a mystery.

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Pate query: John:On an entirely different tangent, could you make an unabashed recommendation for a brand and make of a good snap-brimmed Bogie-like fedora for a guy with a similar head shape as yours, that is, rather round but this side of a Bruce Beaudreau-like melon?

John Kelly: My black fedora was made by Stetson. I have a brown one, but I can't remember the maker. Or the maker of my gray straw one. I have a straw panama that is Borselino. And I'm in the market for another one. Happy shopping!

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Poor bride: Wonder how long the divorce took.

John Kelly: I may have to sneak that photo out of the album when I go back to pick up my pants.

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ice cream truck music: AHHH! The ice cream truck in my old neighborhood had that same HELLO! in between the songs! Hated it! It was so annoying!Now I want ice cream.

John Kelly: It must be some sort of Pavlovian, "Clockwork Orange" thing. You're conditioned to want a Nutty Buddy whenever anyone says "Hello."

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Much better than a green BM.: But I would take a green BMW.

John Kelly: Ha!

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UVA Tragedy: I'm a little concerned about the poster who questioned what parents can do to ensure their students are safe on campus. The helicopter parent mentality is becoming all pervasive. The students are in college. It is time to cut the strings. I'm glad colleges stand up to sending report cards to the student's parents. How demoralizing? You're told you're finally a legal adult and can vote but you still have to have mommy and daddy's permission to go to a party or take a certain class? I guess the next step is that when Johnny is reprimanded at work for goofing off and playing online (ha!) that mommy will come and let the boss know that Johnny is an all-star and doesn't deserve that kind of treatment and needs a trophy now for all his hard work. I'm sick of these kinds of parents and I see it at work all the time. I can't tell you how many coddled kids in school say stuff like "oh, I don't work because my parents want me only to focus on the two classes I take once a week." Grow up! Be an adult and work. Sorry for the rant but I am really tired of hearing that colleges should give even MORE information to parents about what students are doing instead of simply raising your kids right and letting go like you're supposed to do.

John Kelly: How do you stand on kids returning home to live with their parents when they're 25 or 26 and done with grad school but can't find a job? My wife says no way that's happening. I wonder if we'll have the fortitude should it come to that.

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when I lived in Frederick, maryland: There was a man who'd stand by the morning commuters and wave good morning while he drank his coffee. His faithful German Shepherd was with him. One day the dog was not with him. Once people who didin't know him beyond waving every morning learned the dog died, there were offers to give him a new dog. He refused at the time cuz he was heart broken. I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Johnson and learned most of what I know about cooking from him. Have not eaten ribs since I left since his were The. Best. Ever. Bless you Mr. J!

John Kelly: Here's a fascinating bunch of photos from the Guardian, about a dog who loyally attends all the protests in Greece. He must be busy these days.

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DC people: Cool Disco Dan, Borf, the protesting lady from Georgetown (deceased?), compliment man of Adams Morgan, Bible guy of Carabou Coffe at L st, and the guy at McPherson Square who whistles and tries to sell a used camera, Benny Olson.

John Kelly: That's a great list. Invite me, please.

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Re: Pate Question: Go to Bad Billie's Hats in Gettysburg. Great selection of historic and contemporary styles.

John Kelly: I've been to Hats by Haber in Silver Spring's Kemp Mill neighborhood and the HAttery in Georgetown Park. Is Georgetown Park even around anymore? I must go check.

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Canadian Geese: Just to correct the previous poster - Canadian Geese are native to just about the entire U.S. and Canada. The problem is that resident non-migrating populations have skyrocketed, and those are the ones that have become a nuisance.

John Kelly: Maybe if we could convince the deer and the geese that they were mortal enemies we could just sit back and let those two problems take care of each other.

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College report cards: If little Johnny is footing his own bill, then sure, I don't see any reason why his report cards should be sent to his parents. If his parents are footing the bill however, I think they have a right to know how he's doing academically and whether their money is being well-spent.

John Kelly: Fair enough, but certainly you'd draw the line at, say, calling up a professor and arguing for a better grade. The kid has to do that herself, or she'll never grow up.

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the BEST Ice Cream Truck ever: Came by my OFFICE right after lunch. That dude made some cash. I MISS HIM!!!

John Kelly: It's all in the timing.

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The ice cream truck in my neighborhood plays "Helter Skelter." : Fully supports the Clown Murderer undercover driving an ice cream truck theory

John Kelly: Ewww.

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Canadian Geese: We just need more coyotes and cougers.

John Kelly: There you go. And when they get out of hand we can import komodo dragons.

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oh the weirdest wedding photo: Is one I saw on Facebook: a Bride and two older folks (parents or inlaws) smiling super wide: the Bride is hold a picture of a man. Is that her husband? Where is he? Why isn't he AT the wedding? Can you HAVE a wedding without the groom?

John Kelly: If not, here's what happens: "Survey: Sexual satisfaction ebbs for 45-plus set."

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"Whom'?: "Whom would you invite to sit at your table-" *Whom*?

John Kelly: Gimme a break. I got it right most of the time.

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Better Tomorrows: Well they DO say that any morning you get out of bed is a day you might have slept in...

John Kelly: Which seems like a good point at which to end this chat. Thanks for stopping by. We really must have dinner some time. Or ice cream, anyway. Enjoy the weekend and don't forget dear old Mom.


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