All The Usual Suspects

A bipartisan corps of poobahs gathered yesterday at the Inside-the-Beltway equivalent of Ground Zero -- that is, the Palm restaurant on 19th Street NW, where their flattering-to-the-point-of-unrecognizable caricatures crowd every inch of wall. They had come to celebrate general manager Tommy Jacomo's 30th year in business and eat -- what else? -- a free lunch.

Present were elder statesmen like lawyer-lobbyist Bob Strauss, sports icons like Sonny Jurgenson, business leaders like AOL founder Jim Kimsey and real estate developer Joe Robert, ideological warriors like Solicitor General Ted Olson and former education secretary Bill Bennett (who told us, "I'm glad my mother loves me, because people keeping walking by saying 'Hi, Bob,'" -- as in Bennett's absent big brother), political operatives like Mary Matalin (accompanied by husband James Carville and daughter Emma) and, of course, Mayor Tony Williams.

Hizzoner presented the birthday boy with a framed certificate and declared yesterday "Tommy Jacomo Day." He instructed: "Now I don't want you to hang this up in your garage. I want you to put it in a place of honor."

While biting down on slabs of meat, partygoers watched a video produced by Tammy Haddad and Russ Hodge featuring many references to Jacomo's penchant for dispensing erroneous horse-racing tips and, as recording industry lobbyist Hilary Rosen put it, "You know I only come there for the sex jokes." In remarks, humorist Mark Russell celebrated the Palm's menu of "testosterone straight-up," and Carville told Jacomo: "We don't fear you, man. We love you." To which Bennett chimed in: "We fear the food."

* Michael Keaton plays hard-charging CNN producer Robert Weiner in "Live from Baghdad" -- HBO's Gulf War epic being screened tonight at the French Embassy -- so he knows a thing or two about ink-stained wretches.

"Journalists are not without their ego, let's face it," the 51-year-old actor told us yesterday. "I also played one in 'The Paper.' I understand this adrenaline rush to excitement. If you've got any addictive gene in your personality and you have the kind of nose that can sniff out where it's gonna happen next, it can be a very addicting job -- especially for war journalists."

The movie -- for which Weiner wrote the screenplay based on his 1991 war reporting experiences -- is the beneficiary of great timing. It premieres Dec. 7 -- "That's Pearl Harbor Day," Keaton pointed out -- and it's also appearing at a time when the United States is poised to green light a real-life "Live from Baghdad, The Sequel."

"We're probably dealing with a monster in Saddam Hussein, but I think we have to do everything we can to not actually go to war," Keaton said. "We're talking about Iraqi women and children. Iraqi people, Alaskan people, Haitian people, Brazilian people -- it doesn't matter what kind of people -- they all love their babies the same way."


* A year ago our Post colleague Carolyn Hax, whose "Tell Me About It" column runs in 200 papers, announced to readers that she and husband Nick Galifianakis were getting a divorce. Yesterday the 35-year-old Hax dropped another bombshell: On Friday she's getting married to Connecticut educator Kenny Ackerman, 34, whom she has known since grade school in New Haven, and in March she's scheduled to deliver twin boys. "A girl gets busy," Hax quipped, adding that Galifianakis, who remains a close friend, will continue to illustrate her column.

* Lights, Action! Chris Wallace and his wife put on quite a show at the CVS store in Washington's Spring Valley neighborhood last weekend. The ABC News correspondent was at the cash register paying for a variety of household items Saturday when Lorraine Wallace came rushing up to the front of a long line with Christmas lights. "They're on sale! Three hundred lights for $3.99 -- if you have your CVS card!" she shouted jubilantly. "I have my CVS card!" he shouted back. But as she handed him three big boxes for the cashier to ring up, Wallace did a double-take. "Nine hundred lights? Nine hundred lights? Why do we need nine hundred lights?" Lorraine Wallace theatrically rolled her eyes. "He doesn't do the tree," she informed their fellow customers, who grew less and less amused when Wallace's credit card refused to be read and kept everybody waiting for a good five minutes. Wallace gallantly announced: "It's her fault."

* Jimmy Carter is never one to mince words, and at Monday's glittering dinner at Swedish ambassador Jan Eliasson's house in honor of this year's six U.S. Nobel laureates -- including Peace Prize-winner Carter -- the former president was true to form. In his remarks to the black-tie crowd -- including hostess Kerstin Eliasson, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor and Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) -- Carter lamented the U.S. tilt toward Israel in the stalled peace negotiations. "We are basically in bed with the Israelis now," he said. "There has to be an element of objectivity."