For Venus and Serena, It's Child's Play

Venus Williams is taking the lead, as older siblings sometimes do.

"Serena's gonna help you put your hand in here," she tells the little girl, steering her in the direction of her sister, who hovered with a waiting pan of finger paint.

The little girl stares shyly, awed by either the double shot of international tennis celebrity or the 15 video and still cameras aimed her way. It's a "media opportunity" at the Ronald McDonald House in Northeast Washington -- beneficiary of the glitzy "Williams Sisters Tour," which stopped at MCI Center last night -- but it feels like an obstacle course or some test of character, what with all the entourage and cranky reporters filling the room.

A man in a shearling coat pushes through, muttering, "Let me just touch their hair." Seems to be his job -- the sisters calmly continue their conversations as he fusses with Serena's toffee tresses and Venus's coffee-colored bangs.

The task is to help the children make a handprint banner to hang at the game that night. Neither of them is quite dressed for finger painting -- Venus in a beaded T-shirt, Serena with a Burberry scarf wrapped around her half-bare midriff, very millionaire-casual -- but neither seems to care. "What color you want?" Venus asks.

The place feels primed for chaos. As the cameras jostle, a little girl steps firmly into the blue paint.

"Ohhhhh," sighs the room.

"Wahhh!!!" cries the girl. A burly bodyguard in a black turtleneck drops to his knees with paper towels. But the Williams sisters stay as cool as kindergarten teachers. Serena tells Venus to write the kids' names next to their prints. "The green in the middle is Zoe, that backwards one is Grant."

Later, they explain it's no big deal -- they've been doing this across the country.

Venus: "This is my favorite part of the tour . . ."

Serena: ". . . the arts and crafts."


Buyer: Dwight Schar

Price: $21 million

Details: Late last year, the NoVa developer -- a major Republican donor and part owner of the Redskins -- shelled out $70 million for the Palm Beach mansion of Revlon boss Ron Perelman. It was said at the time to be the highest price ever paid for a house in the United States. Now, apparently feeling a little crowded in the seven-bedroom, 18-bath pad, Schar has bought two additional adjacent acres from the cosmetics king, upping his investment in the beachfront "Billionaire's Row" neighborhood to $91 million, the New York Post reported this week. Whoo-hoo! Now we all have a place to crash over spring break!

The Ring of Truth

Our late-night editors just yawned Wednesday when the news came burning across the wires that Barbara Bush had been spotted wearing a ring on the third finger of her left hand. After all, the White House quickly denied that the older-by-minutes twin was engaged.

Well, can we really take this denial at its word? We would not be satisfied until we heard the truth from . . . a certified gemologist.

"It looks like a fun fashion ring," said Faith Shah of D.C.'s Shah & Shah Appraisers after studying the photos. "My feeling is, if it was an engagement ring, we'd all know it." Her pick for whenever Barbara actually gets engaged: "A beautiful antique cushion cut."

Oh, and we also tried to check in with the last-known boyfriend, fellow Yalie Jay Blount, who has not been spotted publicly with Barbara since her lengthy stint volunteering in a South African hospital. But neither our e-mail to him nor our call to his father was returned.


We wonder what it's like on one's last day at the CIA. Maybe a little something like this?

TO: Personnel, Langley HQ

FROM: Director

DATE: 12/09/05

RE: Plame farewell

Although the circumstances of her departure have been unfortunate for many of us, I hope you'll join me at 4:30 p.m. today to send off Valerie Plame. We'll have coffee and yellowcake in the conference room. Some of you still haven't pitched in for the going-away gift -- please see Debbie about that. And to the person(s) who let it slip that we got her the iPod nano, thanks a lot. Can't you guys keep a secret?