By Roxanne Roberts

A 'Do About Something

We can't call the coat that director John Waters wore Wednesday night the Ugliest Jacket in the World, because it's the handiwork of a fancy Japanese designer and what do we know from fashion, anyway?

But the baby-blue check, covered with pink and red kidney bean shapes, was amazing, eye-catching, wildly bad in that fabulous way that a retro-hipster like Waters can totally pull off. "It's Comme des Garcons," said the filmmaker, who accessorized with the design house's white pointy-toed tennis shoes. "I did model for them in Paris once. It was like Don Knotts meets 'Mahogany.' "

The Baltimore native was at the Kennedy Center for a preview party of "Hairspray," his 1988 movie-turned-Tony-winning musical. Waters and producer Margo Lion turned the opening into a benefit for the Partnership for Public Service, an organization dedicated to bringing bright young things into the federal workforce. "It makes sense in a weird way," he told the crowd, explaining the connection between the musical characters and federal employees: "They have to wear bad outfits, and they're outsiders who don't get respect."

More than 350 guests, including Interior Secretary Gale Norton and journalist Judy Woodruff, gathered in the atrium before the performance, where they were greeted with wait staff wearing tuxedos and pink, purple, blue and green neon wigs. "This is not a look you associate with public service," said Partnership President Max Stier. "But the fun is there."

The party raised $100,000 for the nonprofit, and the goody bags included -- all together now -- hair spray!

Politicians Listen as Someone Else Toots His Own Horn

You want excitement? Honey, we got excitement.

Mayor Tony Williams, president of the National League of Cities, led a group of NLC board members on a tour of our fair city Friday night. "We're impressed with his skills as a tour director," said NLC First Vice President Jim Hunt, a city council member in Clarksburg, W.Va. "He knows the origins of every building we passed so far, and he has a pretty good understanding of the size of the pipes of the sewers."

Good thing Williams was smart enough to end the night at Blues Alley in Georgetown. The famed jazz club was celebrating its 40th birthday, and Williams marked the occasion with an official proclamation naming July as Blues Alley Month. "I'd like to claim credit for starting you all, but I can't," said Williams. So he proclaimed instead, and quickly turned the stage over to renowned jazz trumpeter Nicholas Payton, who opened with "Milestones" by Miles Davis.

Owner Harry Schnipper wisely skirted the political complexities of the league's 18,000 cities: "As long as they all agree on jazz, that's all that counts."

Art and Sole? Try the Madison Hotel

Would you like an etching with your entree? Palette, the restaurant at the Madison Hotel that's designed to blend art and dining, celebrated the opening of its first "art menu," dubbed "American Spirit." The idea is to feast your eyes while filling your stomach.

Marsha Ralls, owner of the Ralls Collection in Georgetown, lent paintings by American artists Dennis Ashbaugh, Suzanne Caporael, Caio Fonseca and Mira Hecht for the restaurant's first show (the art will change every three months).

"It's amazing how it blends -- it accents the restaurant perfectly," said Debbie Sigmund, who joined investors Dave Pollin and Greg Miller, publisher Linda Haan, and Gwen Russell Thursday for crab cakes and mini bison burgers with a side of aquatints and oils on linen. "I adore Caio Fonseca's work. He is very lyrical," said Haan, while chill-out electronica and small talk provided soothing contrasts to the rainstorm pounding outside the glass walls.

Critical reviews? Not a chance at this party.

"It's the first time that I let someone else control the exhibition, and it was fabulous -- a perfect job," said Ralls, who is heading to Dubai in September to launch a new branch of her gallery.

With Laura Thomas