Wait Till Tian Tian Gets a Look at This!
Washington soon will be overrun with panda sculptures -- a cute and utterly predictable public-art follow-up to those whimsical elephant and donkey "party animals" that populated the city in 2002. But before the panda idea was etched in epoxy by the D.C. arts commission, Chairman Dorothy McSweeny proposed an edgier idea for the nation's capital: fat cats.
Imagine sculptures lampooning lobbyists, politicians, pundits and other powerbrokers. Nah, too controversial. "I decided to call them 'city cats.' We put it to a vote to the commission and to staff members," McSweeny told us. But the chorus kept coming back for pandas. Why? "Because they are not controversial or political, and they are lovable."
After commissioning 150 panda designs out of 1,200 entries, the city launched "PandaMania" last week. The tourist-friendly sculptures should all be in place by June 1.
Maggie O'Neill, 26, was determined to give the town an eyeful with her spoof on sexpot Pamela Anderson, called "Pandela Anderson." The Adams Morgan artist pronounced herself "shocked" that the piece -- "a juxtaposition of a sexual image on a nonsexual image" -- was approved.
"I'm really happy with the way she turned out. My biggest challenge was sanding down those boobs and getting them smooth and symmetrical," O'Neill told us Friday.
"I think it's important to have a sense of humor about this, particularly in this city. I'm a native Washingtonian, and all my friends are either on the Hill or lawyers."
Pandela's home for the summer will be outside Georgetown's swanky Cafe Milano, where mating rituals are known to occur.
"She is certainly voluptuous," McSweeny confirmed. Do the other pandas measure up? "Not chest-wise!"
Wakefield, Finding Fame in 'New York Minute'
* The critics have not been kind to "New York Minute," the teen flick starring those darling Olsen twins, but expect an attendance spike in parts of Maryland. The members of Wakefield, a Mechanicsville-based rock band, appear in the movie and got to attend the splashy red-carpet premiere earlier this month at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. ("Actually, it was a green carpet," Ryan Escolopio, Wakefield's 20-year-old lead singer, guitarist and curly-haired hottie, helpfully pointed out.)
In the movie, Escolopio, bassist Mike Schoolden, 22, and guitarist J.D. Tennyson, 20, serve as Zen Riot, the band formed by Mary-Kate Olsen, who, according to the film's press materials, is "a punk rock rebel" (pause here to allow Joe Strummer to pogo in his grave). Aaron Escolopio, 23, Ryan's brother and Wakefield's drummer -- and former sticksman for Waldorf pop-punkers Good Charlotte -- is not in the on-screen band but gets a quick line of dialogue as a studio engineer in the recording scene, during which the lads perform a cover of David Bowie's "Suffragette City." And, yes, Mary-Kate, though faking on drums, really did record the backup vocals. "She's a pretty decent singer," Ryan told our special correspondent Marianne Meyer.
Wakefield, which has a CD out on Arista, was first asked to contribute a song to the film, then was invited to play. The band spent three days filming its fleeting moment of cinematic glory. "But it's not really work," Ryan Escolopio says. "You wait around until it's your turn. We played a lot of dice, a lot of GameBoy." Just like high school!
The Innises: Family Men
* Amid a sea of white faces at the American Conservative Union's 40th anniversary gala Thursday night, Niger Innis sipped his drink and observed wryly: "You can't say it's an all-white party." True: Innis, national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, was one of a handful of black conservatives -- among them his father, CORE Chairman Roy Innis -- who came to dine on beef fillet and shrimp and hear President Bush flay his Democratic opponent before a rock-ribbed crowd of 670.
"Black America is not just Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. It's not a monolith," the elder Innis told us. His once-influential civil rights group splintered amid controversy over his leadership in the 1970s. But now it's fighting gay marriage and hoping to connect again to black voters.
"The breakdown of marriage has caused devastation in the black community," Niger Innis said. "If I were Karl Rove, I'd say, 'Embrace this issue.' It's catching on -- naturally within the church community but also with social workers who deal with the breakdown of marriage in the inner city."
So, are you married? "Not yet," the 36-year-old said with a grin. "I came close to the threshold a couple of times, but the Lord rescued me." He hastily added: "I plan to get married. And I certainly don't plan to raise a family outside of marriage."
* By June 2, President Bush will have delivered three commencement addresses, but not at either of his daughters' universities. The prez and his wife also won't attend Jenna's graduation at the University of Texas at Austin on Saturday, or Barbara's at Yale on May 24, because, as a spokesman for Laura Bush put it, they "felt the focus should be on the students and not how long the lines are to go through the metal detectors." But the twins need not feel slighted. Mom and Dad are giving them separate parties. Private "family and friends" dinners will be held next weekend in Austin and New Haven, Conn., the White House said Friday.
* Forget the boardroom -- it's time for reality show strivers to duke it out in the courtroom. Fox Television is auditioning newly minted area attorneys to compete in a series called "The Partner." Open casting is being held Sundays through June 6 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Third Edition bar and restaurant in Georgetown. Producers promise the winner "a major career opportunity." Entertaining litigators also may file a photo and resume at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With Anne Schroeder