Thankful for the Taste of Mellon

From the sound of it, one might think Paul Mellon was just a regular fellow. "He was a great guy," said National Gallery of Art Director Rusty Powell. From the look of it, one draws a more complete picture of the multimillionaire, who died earlier this year. There's the East Building, for instance, which he helped create with architect I.M. Pei, above, and his donation of more than 1,000 masterworks by Degas, Cezanne, Monet, Cassatt and others. Thursday night's preview dinner of "An Enduring Legacy," held in the East Building, was a chance to honor the man and his love of art.

"I paint a bit, and it all started because of this," said Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who was once married to Mellon's daughter Catherine. Warner sped through the exhibit before returning to Capitol Hill; Pei lingered with Mellon's favorite, Degas' sculpture of a ballet dancer. Guests at the black-tie dinner included friends and admirers such as former NGA director J. Carter Brown and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, pictured at left with Anne Marie Salleo, wife of the Italian ambassador.

Not (Much) an Oxymoron

The best line at Wednesday's "Funniest Celebrity in Washington" contest came not from an alpha or beta male but from MSNBC's Cynthia Alksne, who confessed she was not all that excited about Al Gore or Bill Bradley: "It's like that wrenching decision between 1 and 2 percent milk."

The vast majority of jokes at the Improv were unprintable. Stand-up routines by journalists Christopher Hitchens and Tucker Carlson were hilarious but . . . naaah. As a public service, we bring you the best of the rest:

Presidential adviser Paul Begala: "At the White House, we measure time in dog years." Long pause. "1998 was a bitch." Clinton economic head Gene Sperling, on balancing his roles as "wonky budget nerd" and "Washington's most eligible bachelor": "We still talk about dynamic scoring--and we ain't talking capital gains." Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), pictured at left, explaining why George W. Bush wasn't a contestant: "Laura Bush was feeling not especially conservative, but especially compassionate tonight--if you know what I mean."

Lieberman took this year's crown; former congresswoman Susan Molinari nabbed second place for her takeoff on the HBO Mafia show "The Sopranos." Impressionist Jim Morris, above left, was almost as funny as event chairman Dennis Kucinich, right; Rep. Kucinich (D-Ohio) performed the entire Gettysburg Address in a Donald Duck voice. And Lieberman gave us a new motto: "With malice toward none, but a little guilt for everyone."

The 'Insider' Crowd

Al Pacino made a brief wave-by at Thursday's red-carpet premiere of "The Insider," the new film about Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco industry whistle-blower. After the screening at the Uptown, 400 guests celebrated at D.C. Coast restaurant with Wigand and his on-screen doppelganger, Australian actor Russell Crowe, left, who was besieged by autograph hounds. Also spotted: director Michael Mann, Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), columnist William Safire, actress Martha Plimpton, Mayor Tony Williams and other veterans of smoke-filled rooms.

Dancing for Dollars

Sure, it was a good cause. But judging by the dance floor--which was packed all Friday night--the first masquerade "fun-raiser" hosted by the Potomac Valley Section of the National Council of Negro Women was a grand excuse to dress up and get down. More than 350 people, including Monica and Allan Gray, right, partied into the wee hours at Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt.