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The Reliable Source

By Lloyd Grove

Friday, July 28, 2000; Page C03

And We Thought Los Alamos Had Problems!

Reston resident Steven T. Smith was strolling past the Russell Senate Office Building recently, on his way to meet friends for happy hour at My Father's Place, when he discovered a top-secret document on the sidewalk. The 4-by-5 1/2-inch sheet, with "OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT" printed on top, was filled with fascinating handwritten notations such as "lacking luxury of Newt," as in Newt Gingrich; "D tensions as great as R," an appraisal of the two major political parties; and--most intriguing of all--"K K Townsend New D . . . base," an apparent reference to Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

"I thought I'd found out who Al Gore was going to pick for his vice president," the 28-year-old Smith told us yesterday. "To tell you the truth, I've found two or three interesting things on the sidewalk in the past, wandering around Capitol Hill, but nothing quite this potentially historic."

After Smith showed us a copy for our expert opinion, we immediately recognized the name printed at the bottom: television pundit William Kristol, who was Vice President Dan Quayle's chief of staff during the late 1980s and early '90s. Kristol told us he still uses the official stationery because "when I worked for Quayle, I picked up X amount of personalized notepads, and I couldn't very well leave notepads with 'William Kristol' on them for Roy Neel," Kristol's successor in Gore's vice presidential office. As for the chicken-scratches-- which also include polling data and a phone number for Adam Levine, senior producer of the MSNBC show "Hardball"--Kristol said they're "the usual gibberish you scribble down in the cab--well, maybe it was a Town Car--before you go on TV. But the more I think about it, the more I realize how brilliant it is." Kristol had no idea how his brilliance landed on the sidewalk.

Smith, who teaches fifth grade in Herndon, collects historical documents and autographs as a hobby. But after we gave him our findings, he sniffed: "This one won't exactly end up framed in my living room."

THIS JUST IN . . .

* Why is Monica Lewinsky phone pal Linda Tripp having trouble selling her book on President Clinton's impeachment troubles? Tripp's proposal has been rejected by Random House, among other publishers, while ReganBooks, according to the New York Post, offered a measly $75,000. The reason, claims Tripp lawyer Joseph Murtha, is "sabotage" by Tripp's onetime ghostwriter. Murtha told us yesterday that journeyman freelance writer Marinka Peschman "has attempted to sabotage the project, and we are attempting to undo the damage." The New York-based Peschman-- who has worked on numerous celebrity memoirs, notably movie mogul Robert Evans's "The Kid Stays in the Picture"--responded that the charge is "ludicrous" and that her lawyer has warned Murtha and Tripp not to use her work--an unfinished manuscript based on hours of interviews over seven months--without paying. "My greatest hope was to show Linda Tripp as the delightful, funny, witty, articulate person she is, and to show that she is not an evil person," Peschman told us yesterday. "I don't want mudslinging. Do you think I'm delusional?"

* The White House says Chelsea Clinton, 20, plans to postpone the start of her senior year at Stanford, in part to campaign in New York for her mom, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

* Gloating Democrats carried a trophy onto the House floor yesterday, the morning after their victory over the Republicans, 13-8, in the annual Congressional Baseball Game in Bowie. Democratic Whip David Bonior said the score is an omen for the November elections, reports The Post's Juliet Eilperin.

Charm City's Mad Genius?

Baltimore-born John Waters returns to his home town next Wednesday night for the American premiere of "Cecil B. DeMented," a screening at the Senator Theatre benefiting AIDS Action Baltimore. Waters's new camp comedy stars Melanie Griffith as a Hollywood siren who is kidnapped by a gang of guerrilla filmmakers who force her to star in their underground movie. "I'm the cliche," the 54-year-old director told us yesterday. "I'm doing an interview from the phone in the car, exactly as Melanie Griffith does it in the movie. The movie is coming true!"

Waters, who has shot every one of his movies from "Pink Flamingos" to "Pecker" in Baltimore, described his latest as " 'Die Hard' for the Hollywood-impaired. It's about terrorism against the movie business. But Cecil B. DeMented"--the guerrilla leader played by Stephen Dorff--"is not me. He's a superhero that I've written."

While Waters said his film is a message movie--"Power to the people who punish bad cinema!"--he said he's not terribly interested in the upcoming political conventions. "I'm totally a Gore man," he said, but "why do we have to have this election go on and on? People know who they're going to vote for already." Conventions, he said, are "good for riots. I'm hoping to see some good riot fashions."

Got a hot tip or a nagging question? Dish with Lloyd Grove today at 11 a.m. EDT at http://www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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