Why Lisa Ling Isn't on HGTV

Lisa Ling has been racing all over the world lately for her job as host of "National Geographic Explorer," but frankly we might do the same if we had her real estate nightmare back here.

A Columbia Heights rowhouse she owns has fallen into such disrepair that District officials are moving to condemn it.

According to neighbors and city officials, problems started shortly after Ling bought the four-bedroom Victorian fixer-upper on a gentrifying block of Florida Avenue NW in early 2003 -- around the time she ended her stint as a morning yakker on ABC's "The View." A crew began gutting it and excavating the back yard to make it level with the basement, but the city said it lacked permits and shut down the work.

Now the half-excavated areas fill with water that spills into a neighbor's basement. Neighbors' retaining walls and fences have crumbled. Neighbors say an unsecured front door has enabled vagrants to camp out there, and missing front windows allow the elements in.

"That place is a [expletive]," said Jeff Jennings, a staffer for City Council member Jim Graham. "The front of it could do damage to someone walking by if there's a strong wind," he said, noting a gash in the frame of the large bay window.

Since he began mediating complaints more than a year ago, Jennings said he has received little response from Ling or her representatives. "Her office has this what-can-you-do attitude," he said.

The matter is set to go before the Board of Condemnation on Nov. 9. A condemnation order would prevent Ling from doing any other work until the property's made safe. Eventually, Jennings said, the Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs could opt to board up the home, contract the work itself and place a lien on the property for the cost.

We called Ling's point person with city officials, identified as Nathan Ackerman on e-mails to officials obtained by our colleague Eric Weiss, but our connection was severed and he never returned our follow-up message.

Ling did return our call yesterday. However, she declined to comment in detail and only alluded to her deep frustrations with the project. "It's become so much bigger than me," she said.

Love, Etc.

* Not a mom? Janet Jackson says she's not the mother of a "secret" daughter. Yes, she was secretly married to James DeBarge for three months in 1984, but she released a short statement yesterday denying that they have a child together. Young DeBarge told a New York radio station last week that Jackson and his brother are parents of a daughter named Renee who lives with Rebbie Jackson, Janet's oldest sister. "James and the Jackson family kept everything real close, real tight," he said. This is the least weird thing we've heard about the family Jackson in the past decade, but either the secret daughter is, in fact, nonexistent, 21, or a post-divorce love child. Extra points for anyone who could name Rebbie in Jackson Trivial Pursuit.

* Not a couple? Actress Nicole Kidman and country singer Keith Urban dined together Tuesday night at the romantic 1789 restaurant in Georgetown. We promised ourselves No More Nicole for the rest of the week, but we had to share that the couple -- who keep denying a romance -- spent two hours together. She wore a long black dress and heels, he was unshaven and casual. They were, according to one witness, "well behaved."

The Reporter's 'No Comment'

As Indictment Fever raged Inside the Beltway yesterday, the only person more nervous than Karl Rove or Scooter Libby was Time magazine White House correspondent Matt Cooper, a key player in the Plame Game who missed going to the slammer by thismuch. Cooper was the guest at Nathan's restaurant's weekly speaker series, where he cleverly tiptoed through questions about fallout from the CIA leak.

"It's a good time to remember that rumors are not the same as indictments, and indictments are not the same as convictions," he said. "So we should all just take a deep breath."

So we took a deep breath and then pressed for double super-secret background details. But Cooper invoked his First Amendment right to shut up. "I'm like the blind man and the elephant. I know my little part, but that's all." He did share, however, who should play him in the movie version. "Clooney's obvious. I get that all the time."