The Reliable Source
Hosted by Lloyd Grove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 28, 2003; 11 a.m. ET
Got a rumor to dispel or confirm? Looking for dirt on your favorite or most-hated Washington celebrity? Ask "The Reliable Source" columnist Lloyd Grove.
Grove, a 20-year veteran of The Washington Post, has been writing The Reliable Source column in the Style section since May 1999.
Grove grew up in Los Angeles and Greenwich, Conn. He was an English major at Yale and worked for the Kansas City Times (now defunct, we think), the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the Dallas Morning News before joining the Post on the Weekend section, where for a few years he reviewed practically every live theater show that opened in D.C., including a few in church basements.
From there, he joined Style as a general assignment writer with a special interest in politics, and spent a year and a half covering the 1988 presidential campaign for the National staff. In 1991 -- after an ill-advised book leave -- he returned to Style and served as a political reporter, with occasional detours into television and movie coverage. He also has written extensively for Vanity Fair magazine.
A transcript follows.
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Lloyd Grove: Good morning, my fellow media-saturated consumers! As I think I told you, I was in L.A. for the Oscars last weekend. All I can say is it's great to back in Washington, D.C., where when a leading citizen makes a threat, he follows through on it!
Come to think of it, I have an idea for a new reality series: 'WHEN CELEBRITIES ATTACK!'
Darn, wish I had footage of Tim Robbins, claws out.
Anyway, on to your issues:
Chantilly, Va: Lloyd,
I had to laugh the other night when Leno made fun of your encounter with Tim Robbins. He really made him out to be a jerk. Hope you caught it.
Lloyd Grove: I heard about it afterward, and asked the folks at the Tonight Show to get Jay to send me the cue card on which the joke was written. Not often I make late-night television.
Congrats: You really hit your stride this week. The Robbins stuff was just hilarious reading. And the Max Baucus Georgetown home was equally amusing. Today was lame though. Were you burned out?
Lloyd Grove: What a nice, um, compliment?
12th Floor Metro Center: So has Tim Robbins called you yet about today's story on Susan Sarandon? Don't worry, Lloyd, we got your back.
Lloyd Grove: He never calls, he never writes.
Arlington, Va.: Just a few notables about the “hero of the working man” Michael Moore. First, Moore lives in a $1.27 million apartment in Manhattan. Secondly, writers at "TV Nation" (a series that attacked corporate greed), had to use union reps more than once to settle payment disputes. Lastly, at a recent speaking engagement at Cornell University, Moore was confronted by a student about his $10,000 speaking fee. Moore’s response was an obscenity-laced tirade berating the lowly student for questioning his majesty.
Lloyd Grove: What a guy!
Washington, D.C.: Tim “what’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding” Robbins threatened you with bodily injury after an unflattering article. Janeane Garofalo, famous for her acerbic wit, threatened to quit the anti-war movement after being verbally accosted in the street. Michael “Let my people go” Moore verbally assaulted a college student after questioning the duplicity of his $10,000 speaking fee. Seems Hollywood leftist have brought new meaning to “dish it out, but can’t take it.” Maybe all that plastic surgery has stretched out their skin too much.
Lloyd Grove: If Michael Moore has had plastic surgery, I can understand why he's so angry all the time!
Kensington, Md.: Lloyd, while I do not endorse anybody using you as a punching bag, or threatening to do so, I couldn't help but get the impression that you fanned the flames a little when interviewing Lenora Tomalin. I know she's a very active and outspoken person, but I just wonder if the fact that she's Susan Sarandon's mother and they disagree is really gossip-worthy.
Lloyd Grove: Judging by the huge reaction to the Lee Tomalin interview -- even a famous movie star who has the same initials as Warner Bros. Told me he saw it and liked it -- I think it's not even a close question.
Cubeville, Va.: But Lloyd, aren't you afraid Tim is going to come after you? He is a scary man.
Lloyd Grove: I was pleased to hear from one of Tim's non-relatives by non-marriage yesterday that contrary to reports that he is a violent hockey player who specializes in hard checks, "he's a finesse player."
So maybe I won't go out and buy that hockey stick, after all.
New York, N.Y.: What's Kenneth Branagh doing theater-going in D.C. when he's got a play in previews here that's opening Sunday? Shouldn't he be carefully gauging audience response for "The Play What I Wrote" and not bolstering D.C.-based theater attendance? We'd like to be set a-twitter HERE, thank you very much.
Lloyd Grove: He was here to support his good mate Richard Clifford, director of the Folger Theater production of "Elizabeth the Queen."
Washington, D.C.: Hey Lloyd,
Tough week for you and your brother in the trade Richard Johnson. Threats of bodily harm, vodka cocktail showers. When will the horrors end?
Tim Robbins is a pretty big guy. Were you scared? Looking into securing the services of a bodyguard? Ha ha ha.
Lloyd Grove: Nah. Anyway Len Downie made a point of volunteering to me that bodyguards would not be a legitimate business expense.
Famous Move-Star WB?: Wallace Beery?
Lloyd Grove: Wanda Baucus!
Washington, D.C.: Glad to heard William Bendix liked your Susan Sarandon piece.
Lloyd Grove: He told me it was "respectful."
Fairfax, Va.: Well, I don't know. It seems like Tim should be taking up his grievance with his not-mother-in-law. She said it. You just reported it. Talk about "kill the messenger"!
Lloyd Grove: Interesting point.
Not only interesting, but a valid one -- indeed, one I was attempting to make to Tim when he unleashed Chang on me.
Georgia?: Any idea who the politician Cindy Adams was referencing in her column today? Something about a fatal attraction relationship? The headline might just be a reference to the song, but it might be a clue.
Lloyd Grove: This is Cindy's item:
A POL many of us know is in a real-life fatal attractionish relationship. The person's love interest exhibits obsessive tendencies. Friends, family -- especially the children -- are concerned. Maybe in a few months I'll write more. This is just to say, right now we're all watching.
I haven't the faintest, though I suspect it's a New York type (if anyone). Too bad I can't do blind items here.
Washington, D.C. -- question about sources, quotes: Hello. I was wondering, do people realize that their comments are likely to get into the column when they say crazy things to you, such as Robbins did? Or are they just staggeringly stupid?
Lloyd Grove: I have a sense that Tim thought our entire exchange was man-to-man and off the record, and was surprised, embarrassed -- and then, after it got the amazing circulation it received and became Leno-fodder -- enraged that I printed it.
Frankly, until Tim uttered the money-line, I would have been happy to keep our conversation between us. But it was just too good.
Washington, D.C.: Reporter = reporting a story
Seems as the most important star today is you, Lloyd.
Lloyd Grove: Why are you sitting there yawning over your keyboard? You needn't write in to my show. Take a nap. Or go out and take a walk, get some fresh air, do something useful. Then YOU can be the star!
New York Avenue: If you don't spring for dinner out and a foot massage this weekend, Tim Robbins will be the least of your worries.
Lloyd Grove: I'm not fooled, so don't even try.
Arlington, Va.: Richard Perle resigned from that Defense Department Board that would have created conflict of interest problems with his being paid something like $700,000 to lobby the Defense Department. Perle realized that it wasn't the principle of the thing; it was the money.
Lloyd Grove: Sounds like as good an analysis as any.
Arlington, Va.: Hi Lloyd. Where will our Miss Chung land?
Lloyd Grove: Good question. It's too bad that Connie was humilated by CNN execs, and this isn't the first time she has left a job situation on bad terms -- remember when CBS paired her briefly with Dan Rather? This was before the Gingrich mom incident.
Anyhow, Connie doesn't need to work for a living -- she and Maury are majorly rich -- so maybe it would be well at this point for her to do some good works and run a charity, or perhaps start a documentary production company.
SS: Lloyd, please, please, PLEASE, strike the term "cause celeb" from your vocabulary. It's incredibly annoying.
Lloyd Grove: Never!
Speaking of bodily harm ...: After Adrien Brody planted such a big one on Halle Berry, do you think that her hubbie is going to hunt down and kill Adrien Brody? Will he have to go into exile in France with his buddy Roman Polanski?
Lloyd Grove: That was sure creepy. It was practically an assault. I'm sure Halle and her husband are not happy.
Washington, D.C.: "President Bush has "some level of frustration with the press corps" for accounts questioning the U.S. and coalition war plan in Iraq, and he finds it "silly" that such skepticism and questions were being raised just days into a conflict he says is going quite well, according to a senior administration official."
Shame, shame on you silly journalists.
Lloyd Grove: Actually, he may have a point. Especially if he's thinking of the BBC, which has put on a series of ridiculous reports of late.
Don't forget that there was a great deal of doomsaying about Afghanistan and then suddenly (?) the Taliban crumbled and regime-change occurred.
On the other hand, I think the pessimistic military analysis is coming from the studios in New York and Washington, not the brave reporters in the field.
Just my two cents.
Richard Perle: Gee, given that Perle was threatening to sue Seymour Hersh over the revelations that eventually caused his resignation, maybe HE should have thought about siccing Tim Robbins on Hersh!
Lloyd Grove: Tim Robbins and Seymour Hersh are probably friends. I can't conceive of a world where they haven't broken bread together.
Washington, D.C.: Hey Lloyd -- One point about the whole Robbins dust-up- Movie stars are fair game. Even movie stars' parents. But their kids should be off-limits. Maybe that's what really ticked Robbins off so much.
Lloyd Grove: That was an argument he thought of about midway through his tirade. Here's my view: Lenora Tomalin told me an anecdote about her grandson, I thought it was worthy of publication and I printed it. I don't think I'm in the business of censoring my interview subjects.
Anyhow, she didn't say anything terrible -- and it was a comment on how the parents were raising the kid, not on the kid.
Unfortunately I never got the opportunity to share those views with the aggrieved father (who I understand has not been nice at all to an 80-year-old woman who has the right to say whatever she pleases to anybody she wants, just as Tim and Susan do.)
I think, in the end, that's what got Tim so steamed -- that a very energetic and impressive lady, with whom he has violent political disagreements, managed to get ahold of the same celebrity megaphone that he and Susan like to use.
But this is America, Tim. Non-celebrities are people, too!
Long Beach, Calif.: Do you know what the seating arrangements were when Katherine Harris traveled on AIR FORCE ONE to Flordia? Did she serve drinks and peanuts? Did she confer with Bush on anything important?
Lloyd Grove: I don't, but let me guess that they were sitting behind the presidential cabin -- they being Harris and the other members of Congress -- and that Bush came out during the flight to shmooze.
As for your peanuts and drinks question, I think you know the answer to that, smart-aleck!
Creepy?: I don't think Adrien Brody's "attack" on Halle Berry was creepy at all -- just an exhuberant display of incredible happiness. It was almost a comic thing, the way he bent her back. She did look annoyed, but only because her lipstick was smeared, I think.
How is it that nobody is allowed simple emotion any more?
Lloyd Grove: Well I see once again that two people can watch the same creepy event -- it looked like there was some tongue-hockey involved, too -- and come to utterly different conclusions.
Dupont, Washington, D.C.: Yowza! I totally second the motion to ban "cause celeb" from your column. It doesn't even MEAN anything! It's just a bastardization of cause celebre! I love your columns, but that bit just irks me to no end.
Lloyd Grove: Do your worst, I'll never stop!
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Where did you get that inspired "Tim Robbins playing X character" format for that exchange? I thought that brilliant -- AND hilarious!
Lloyd Grove: Many thanks. Actually, I thought of doing it after my girlfriend -- who witnessed the encounter -- told me that Tim seemed to be ACTING! Later on, somebody told me that he said the same threatening line in "The Player," but I'm afraid I screened the movie -- in search of this very similarity -- and couldn't find it.
Nice to see the movie again, though. Tim is a lovely actor.
Re: The Kiss: I'm with you, Lloyd. I thought Brody was way out of line.
Lloyd Grove: I big hug and a peck on the cheek would have sufficed. Kiss on the mouth? Yuk!
Creepy ... YES: Tell "Creepy" to just try turning a stranger backwards over his arm while clutching her tightly and shoving his tongue down her throat next time he feels ebuillent. See where that gets him.
Lloyd Grove: It's even comfortable watching two married people do that -- unless, of course, it's Al and Tipper Gore!!!
Columbus, Ohio: Obviously Robbins crossed the line. However, for you to give play to a woman who would shamelessly inject her grandchild into the news -- well it says a lot about you and her ...
Lloyd Grove: Yes, it says she has worthy opinions and I believe in the First Amendment.
Arlington, Va.: I was coming out of Maxim, a Russian restaurant near the White House on Wednesday, at Tom McMillan, former Congressman and basketball player was coming in. Such is my life that its highlights are seeing former celebrities!
Lloyd Grove: And Tom is taller than Tim Robbins.
Los Angeles: Lloyd will you please write an unflattering article about us, we need the exposure to kick start our career.
Ernest Thomas aka 'Raj' from "What's Happening."
Lloyd Grove: KICK start? I don't like the sound of that.
Washington, D.C.: Lloyd,
I read the pool report yesterday about Ari making a Hobbit reference during the gaggle on AF1. Do you know if he's some sort of scifi/fantasy fan?
Lloyd Grove: Well there have been two blockbuster Lord of the Rings movies, so you hardly have to be a niche fan to know about hobbits and their breakfasting habits.
Gossip Columnist Survivor: On this imaginary TV series, who would last the longest on the island? You, Cindy Adams or Liz Smith? To make it interesting, let's assume we can bring Louella Parsons or Walter Winchell back from the beyond to compete.
Lloyd Grove: Liz and Cindy are ALREADY on Survivor Island!
Arlington, Mass: Lloyd - Why did Salma Hayek look so PO'd at the Oscars?
Lloyd Grove: Dunno. Maybe a tiff with Ed Norton? I saw them at the VF party and come to think of it she did look a tad annoyed.
Maryland: I thought Halle Berry played along well after Adrien Brody's kiss -- I was about to write who wouldn't have taken the opportunity, but I guess Michael Jackson wouldn't. Anyway, has Halle commented on the kiss since the broadcast?
Lloyd Grove: Haven't heard any response from her, but she could hardly have done otherwise on network television in front of tens of millions. She an actress, after all, and it wouldn't have worked for her to express displeasure on screen.
Washington, D.C.: Lloyd-
What will happen with the White House Correspondents Dinner? Looks like the war will certainly drag on through April. Do you think it will be cancelled, will anyone show up and could it be the stage for round 2 of Grove vs. Robbins?
Lloyd Grove: I very much doubt it will be canceled, though I would expect that if the president comes, and the war is still raging, his speech will be totally serious.
Bethesda, Md.: Lloyd, I like “cause celeb”–it does too mean something: a celeb who goes around talking about a cause all the time. It’s CLEVER. Just wanted to give you some support.
Lloyd Grove: Many thanks!
Washington, D.C.: Do you really believe you are doing something useful? Amusing, sometimes, but useful?
Lloyd Grove: Too deep a question, too early in the day.
Washington, D.C. : Do you think Penn and Robbins' tendency to threaten physical violence will have any impact on their status as sainted peaceniks? Surely their fellow peacenugget celebrities should be shunning their violent tendencies?
Btw, have you looked into some personal security? I would be very sorry to see your good looks spoiled.
Lloyd Grove: I think I can take 'em.
Blind?: You did that blind item about T--- B----- a few months back- the lobbyist whose wife exposed him in the e-mail. I hear that guy is ruined -- but not because of you of course. The damage was done!
Lloyd Grove: That was a blind item in appearance only. It was factual, we just decided to leave out the names. In the N.Y. tabloids, blind items are generally items that aren't nailed down, but can titillate without legal risk.
Do you know where online one could see the unauthorized Bush hairstyling? The 10 second feed on smoking gun was not very satisfying.
Lloyd Grove: I know many are on the hunt for this video -- and given all the broadcast outlets that ran it -- I have little doubt it will turn up on the Internet in due course.
New York, N.Y.: Does the "useful" questioner really believe that questioning the motives of a gossip columnist is his stated purpose in the universe?
Lloyd Grove: Obviously he does -- for the 20 seconds it took him to do so.
15th and L: Maybe I should chalk it up to fatigue, but seems that all the invective hurled at celebrities who voice their opinions on, well, everything is getting just as tiresome as the celebrities themselves. It appears that the criticism of people such as Susan Sarandon is just as predictable as the advocacy itself.
Lloyd Grove: Which is why I go to the blood relatives -- to freshen up the debate.
Brody Bashing: So, do you think that he would have taken such brazen advantage of the situation if the presenter had been, say, Kathy Bates? Or, heaven forbid, Luise Rainer -- he might have snapped her like a twig!
Lloyd Grove: Too deep a question, too early in the day.
Long Beach, Calif.: Perle is still on the Defense Policy Board. He resigned as the Director of the Board, and is now just one of the guys.
The Prince of Darkness is ALIVE.
Lloyd Grove: I suspect that he won't be on the board for much longer. Just my guess.
Washington, D.C.: Lloyd, be more skeptical of those brave embedded reporters in Iraq. Like most of us, they are spectators who have never fought in a war. Especially Koppel. He can't even quote Shakespeare correctly. It's not "WREAK havoc and UNLEASH the dogs of war," it's "CRY havoc and LET SLIP . . ." the sequential hard "k" sounds are music.
Lloyd Grove: Thank you, Mr. Branagh!
Laurel, Md.: I was quite offended by your comments in today's column regarding the United Way and Susan Sarandon. The United Way has every right to do what they did. They are not a body of government that is preventing her from speaking her mind, they are an organization that decided her opinions were creating bad publicity for them. Sarandon's freedom of speech is still intact, but so too is the United Way's freedom of association. They choose NOT to associate with her, and I applaud them for it. To Andrew Barnes and his ilk, you are only "way over the line" if you decide not to let yourself be represented by someone with a liberal viewpoint. I seriously doubt he would find fault with an organization deciding in a similar manner not to be represented by a controversial conservative. Finally, Mr. Grove, you should be ashamed of yourself for that last line of your column. As I said, there is no one attempting to silence Sarandon completely (though, in my opinion, what a sweet silence that would be); the United Way is simply exercising their right not to be embarrassed by their choice of speaker.
Lloyd Grove: Differences of opinion -- what makes the world go 'round!
Northern Virginia: If Mr. Robbins would have hit you, would you have pressed charges?
Lloyd Grove: Depends if medical attention was required. I can't imagine in my wildest dreams that he would ever ever would have done such a thing. He's a hothead, not a criminal.
Shakespearean Tongue: Not to argue with Mr. Branagh there, especially not about the accuracy of the quote, but wreaK havoC and Cry havoC both have hard "k" sounds...
Lloyd Grove: You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!
Hollywood, Calif.: Re: Selma ... local papers have intimated that Ed was drinking all night and that at one point, Selma had to drag him from the Kodak bar ... just a thought.
(Love your stuff, btw)
Lloyd Grove: I saw him up close and personal and he was perfectly sober and clear-eyed.
Washington, D.C.: Okay, TR thought his threat was off-the-record, but how about Mrs. Baucus? Didn't she realize that her comments were column-fodder and would do her husband no good back home?
Lloyd Grove: I'm sure she knew her views aren't the prevailing ones in Montana, but she has a mind of her own and her husband has almost six years till the next election.
Another question about quotes.: So if Tim had said, "Strictly off the record, if you write about my family again I will beat your ass," would you have been able to print THAT?
Lloyd Grove: Yes, because in order for something to be off the record, the reporter has to agree -- and I never would have agreed. Also, it implies that the reporter and the other guy have some sort of continuing relationship based on something other than the other guy's anger.
Alexandria, Va.: We love Katie Couric here. We read nada anymore about her personal life after she broke up with that guy Werner from California. What's the scoop on her, Lloyd? Is she dating anyone special? Inquiring minds want to know.
Lloyd Grove: My information is that Katie and Tom Werner are still an item, but Tom is still taking his sweet time getting a divorce. Anyhow, I can no longer afford to take my sweet time with this forum. Must fly. Hope y'all have a great weekend and see you back here same time same place next Friday. Bye.
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