Horse Country Hitching Post

She's goin' country! BET co-founder Sheila Johnson will have a "very country" theme for her Saturday nuptials, says her wedding designer, Preston Bailey.

So country, in fact, that Johnson, 55, will wed Arlington Circuit Judge William T. Newman Jr. in front of 700 guests in a "transformed" horse stable at her Middleburg property, Salamander Farms.

"The color theme is very, very fall," said Bailey. "There will be lots of roses, beautiful orchids." The designer also revealed that a "special performer" will appear at the "sophisticated" reception. He's tight-lipped on the details, but Bailey said the female singer is "one of Dr. Johnson's favorites."

A spokesman for Bailey's office wouldn't reveal the cost of the wedding, but said, "I think she would be comfortable with us saying that it's in the six figures." Does that include the cost of her Bob Mackie dress?

While Bailey's celebrity clientele includes Donald Trump, Oprah and Liza Minnelli, he says Johnson has been "amazing" to work with. "She has amazing taste," he said. "I think this wedding is one of the most special ones we've done."

Literary Laurels

Controversial author Norman Mailer will receive a medal of honor for lifetime achievement by the National Book Foundation, the organization said yesterday.

"Mailer has long been considered a major figure in postwar American literature whose innovative works of fiction and nonfiction have changed the landscape of American writing," the foundation said.

The 82-year-old author of "The Naked and the Dead," the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Armies of the Night" and "Of a Fire on the Moon" will be awarded the 2005 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters on Nov. 16.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti will also be honored. The 86-year-old poet will receive the first Literarian Award, which recognizes "individuals whose life's work has enhanced the literary world as a whole." Foundation director Harold Augenbraum said: "He has always pushed the edges of the literary envelope and has been unwavering in his commitment to literature."

The National Book Awards will be hosted by Garrison Keillor in New York.

Filet Boosters

Washington's hip Penn Quarter restaurant Oya morphed into bipartisan party central Monday night. And for the record, no food-throwing was involved.

According to an Oya rep, 50 Senate chiefs of staff dined on sauteed trout, lobster ravioli and warm banana bread pudding. They didn't all share a table, but were seated in the same area. Baby steps, right?

After the friendly feast, Tom Ingram, chief of staff for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), gave a toast, attracting "pretty much the attention of the entire restaurant."

Alex Vogel's government affairs firm, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, sponsored the bash. "I think it's incredibly important for folks to sit down as people," he said. "There's no set agenda."

Time magazine's Sept. 19 issue featured an article about the group, which "meets regularly, but has no name." One attendee told the mag the gatherings are held to set "a haven of bipartisanship in a bitterly divided legislative body." Oh, and the tab is picked up by lobbyists. Nothing like a free meal to break the ice.

How can we get an invite?

-- Compiled by Korin Miller

from staff and wire reports

Author Norman Mailer, above, and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti will be honored at the National Book Awards in November.For Sheila Johnson, a country wedding.