The Quiet Anchorman

We didn't know that Washington VIPs could get reserved seats at the Cineplex Odeon Outer Circle.

Neither did an anonymous moviegoer at Saturday's night's sold-out 9:30 show of "The Quiet American."

The prosperous-looking woman removed the tape marking off four prime seats for Ted Koppel and his party -- who were coming from a birthday dinner celebrating the ABC anchor's 63rd -- and then refused to relocate when he confronted her.

"You know what the right thing is," Koppel -- who was with wife Grace Anne, daughter Andrea Koppel and son-in-law Ken Pollack -- was overheard coaxing the poacher. "Come on," he added with a smile. "Do the right thing."

But the woman folded her arms as her three friends stared ahead. "I am not moving," she informed the black-leather-jacketed television star.

"We already had saved seats closer to the screen, and the manager very kindly found these other seats for us," Koppel told us yesterday. "When the woman refused to leave, we ended up watching the movie from the back of the theater. My wife and I sat on a bench, and Andrea and her husband sat on some steps."

Witness Jeff Moore, who was sitting in the row behind the interlopers, told us that Koppel "was very gracious. Here we were at 'The Quiet American,' and sitting right in front of us was the Ugly American."

The 'Law & Order' President

* Lincolnesque actor Sam Waterston -- who has played Honest Abe on stage and screen and these days stars in NBC's "Law & Order" -- came to town yesterday to attend an advisory committee meeting of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, formed to choreograph the national celebration of the 16th president's 200th birthday on Feb. 12, 2009.

"His speeches are so potent, and he was so plain-spoken and direct, especially for a politician," said Waterston, who also acted in last night's performance of "Lincoln Seen & Heard" at the Library of Congress.

Waterston's assessment of George W. Bush?

"The jury is still out," he replied.

He declined to say whether he was speaking as a prosecuting or defense attorney.


* The sniping has started early in this most front-loaded of Democratic presidential primary races. Yesterday a rival campaign to the juggernaut of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards pointed out that even though much of Edwards's staff is toiling inside the Beltway, you must dial 919 -- the Raleigh, N.C., area code -- to get the staffers on the phone. "You often hear of senators coming to D.C. and forgetting their roots. But actually manipulating your area code -- now that brings it to a whole new level," the Edwards enemy told us. "What's next, holding town hall meetings in Georgetown?" Edwards spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri, speaking from a 919 number in Washington, calmly explained that the campaign is using cutting-edge, cost-saving Internet phones, and that the whole headquarters will relocate to Raleigh in the spring. Meanwhile, folks in D.C., Iowa and New Hampshire can be reached via 919.

* The local television news sweeps are getting down and dirty. As Thursday night's blizzard was powering up, Channel 9 weathercaster Topper Shutt was spotted by a rival news crew in his white, vanity-plated sport utility vehicle "driving like a maniac" on Wisconsin Avenue, according to an e-mail. "This SUV was tailgating and trying to get around other drivers who were taking it easy in the snow," Shutt's detractor reported. "Topper's the one who tells us to take it easy out there and drive carefully." Yesterday Shutt told us: "I was just going around some expensive German sleds -- which have no traction control -- and I never went above the speed limit."

* "Old Europe" Strikes Back! Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's German relatives -- the Rumsfelds of Weyhe-Sudweyhe outside Bremen -- have disowned their distant cousin over his saber-rattling at Iraq. "We are embarrassed to be related to him," 59-year-old Karin Cecere (nee Rumsfeld) told Britain's Telegraph newspaper. Cecere's 85-year-old mother, Margarete Rumsfeld, said: "We don't have much to do with him anymore . . . but for God's sake, he'd better not start a war." Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke responded: "It's too bad that they feel that way. These are tough issues and difficult times. . . . Hopefully, over time, as the issues develop and become clearer, differences will recede."

* Homegrown R&B star Mya Harrison wowed local fans Sunday night by showing up unannounced at Howard Community College's "Tops in Taps" show, a fundraiser for Oseh Shalom Synagogue in Laurel, and dancing her heart out. Harrison, a founding member of the Washington area's Tappers With Attitude Youth Ensemble, stuck around afterward to sign autographs.