There She Is . . . No, There . . . No, There . . .
* Three weeks into her reign as Miss America, Heather French is throwing both arms around life on the trail. "When you run for Miss America, so many people don't see anything but the 10 percent glamour, but it's like a political office," the 24-year-old freelance fashion designer told us. French--a registered Republican--isn't shy about talking politics. "I'm for whomever stands for veterans' causes. I believe the Democratic Party stands for bigger spending for social programs, and I'm strong on that, so I'm probably switching my registration to Democrat."
She's still getting acclimated to the 20,000-mile-a-month air travel, the rubber-chicken circuit and days that begin at 6 a.m. ("I had to sing the national anthem at 7 o'clock this morning!") and end at midnight.
The former Miss Kentucky is coming to Washington to spotlight the problems of homeless veterans with a visit to the Blair Shelter today and Capitol Hill tomorrow. "I'll be speaking extensively about what I plan to do during the year to start my homeless veterans' outreach program and start talking in a loud voice for the veterans' community," said French, the daughter of a disabled Vietnam vet.
The Bucks Flock Here
"I've made $145 million this morning," MicroStrategy's Michael J. Saylor told us yesterday over a lunch we paid for. "Of course, I lost $140 million yesterday."
The 34-year-old cyber-mogul, who was worth about $1.9 billion at the close of business yesterday, was referring to his Vienna technology company's rocketlike upward mobility on Nasdaq since he took it public 16 months ago. Saylor--who arrived here in 1994 from Wilmington, Del., with 50 employees, $10 million in debt and a middle-class electrical engineer's salary--now owns 59 percent of a 1,500-employee empire that boasts a 70 percent market share in something called "data mining" software. That's a powerful marketing tool that companies ranging from Victoria's Secret to MCI WorldCom use to hook and land paying customers. "I want to crush my competition," Saylor quipped, doing his impression of Bill Gates.
Pretty grand, we'd say, but not grand enough to insulate him from acts of God and man. Two months ago, for instance, a confused elderly neighbor in Vienna backed a Mercedes-Benz through Saylor's town house, smashing past his living room and into the back yard. The German-engineered car emerged unscratched, but Saylor's house had to be condemned. "He had my supporting beams through his sun roof," Saylor said. "I came home from work, and there were police and firefighters . . . and I couldn't even go in because they were afraid it would collapse."
But Saylor has just bought a 50-acre abandoned dairy farm abutting Great Falls Park, where he plans to create his very own "21st-century villa." Aside from a 30,000-square-foot French chateau, his Xanadu will include a six-to-nine-hole golf course, stables and a world-class wine cellar. All he needs is someone to share it with. He's in the market for "someone who's intelligent, vivacious, ambitious and attractive, and they have to be tolerant of my idiosyncrasies."
By the way, MicroStrategy--which marks its 10th anniversary Nov. 14 with a black-tie gala at the Corcoran Gallery of Art--jumped more than $12 a share yesterday, spiking Saylor's net worth by $270 million. Did we mention that we paid for lunch?
THIS JUST IN . . .
* As a special service to Newt Gingrich, here's a personalized entertainment listing: His multitalented girlfriend, Callista Bisek, will be playing the French horn in the City of Fairfax Band's Oct. 30 "Fright Night II" concert at Fairfax High School. We wanted to ask Bisek, who also sings in the National Shrine choir, whether Newt will be in the audience--but she, like Newt, didn't return our call. Said an unidentified woman at the band's office: "We don't talk about our members to the press."
* Mr. Bigglesworth of "Austin Powers" fame and Murray of "Mad About You" are the guests of honor at tonight's "Pet Night on Capitol Hill." Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Reps. Connie Morella (R-Md.) and Bob Barr (R-Ga.) are also expected at the Animal Health Institute-sponsored party in the Cannon House Office Building.
* From the Left Coast, we hear muttering from newspaper types about plans by Los Angeles Times Publisher Kathryn Downing to install a time-stamped turnstile in the lobby--for security, she has been telling middle managers. But some reporters are wondering whether Downing, who has been vocal about her belief that around 100 Times employees are "nonproductive" and should find work elsewhere, really hopes to monitor their comings and goings. "I think the issue is security, but we've only talked about it internally," said Times communications director Mike Lang, returning calls we placed yesterday to Downing and top editor Michael Parks.