Test Of Fame

The rich, the famous and assorted others gathered recently at Trump Tower in Manhattan for a dinner hosted by a charity for disabled children. A few of the century's celebs -- including Cosmo mastermind Helen Gurley Brown, writer Leon Uris, Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon and "This Old House" host Steve Thomas -- were present to contribute millennium predictions for a fund-raiser book.

And there was Stanley H. Kaplan, founder of Kaplan Educational Centers, which preps student to take SATs and other such tests (and is owned by The Washington Post Co.). Upon entering the star-studded dinner, Kaplan saw a familiar-looking brunette, who was wearing a red sequin dress with a camisole bodice. Rather overdressed, with most there in business suit attire. "Are you Monica Lewinsky?" he asked.

"Yes, I am," she responded. "Who are you?" "I'm Stanley Kaplan," he said. Lewinsky perked up. "I took your course to study for the GRE," she recalled. (Kaplan later learned she also took his courses to prepare for the SAT and the LSAT -- tests for admission to college and law school, respectively.)

"Wow. You're Stanley Kaplan," she gushed. "You're more famous than I am."

Perhaps in certain circles.

Fair, Balanced And Retracted

Speaking of Lewinsky, famed Internet investigative reporter Matt Drudge, who had some huge scoops during the Lewinsky era, is hurting for cash to defend himself from a $30 million libel suit filed against him by White House aide Sidney Blumenthal.

Drudge, in a recent fund-raising letter, says that just after he broke the story of former Democratic supporter Kathleen Willey's groping allegations against President Clinton, "sources revealed that Republicans were rumored to have evidence linking Blumenthal to spousal abuse. So I reported that."

What's more, Drudge says, he "prominently placed -- verbatim -- the White House response that called the allegation `pure fiction.' My story was absolutely fair and balanced."

"Then there came a call from Blumenthal's attorney," Drudge continues. "I listened and immediately felt it was appropriate to retract the story and apologize." Guess that attorney has a real way with words.

Even so, Drudge says, the White House is trying to "destroy me and my news operation."

Filipinos Float Shelby a Loaner

No effort is spared to make sure that our nation's lawmakers' trips abroad go as smoothly as possible. But sometimes things can't be helped. Take, for example, a recent journey to the Philippines by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

Shelby, searching for key intelligence, wanted to take his wife and staff on a visit to Corregidor, the strategic island-fortress at the entrance to Manila Bay, but the boat they were to take had engine trouble.

The Philippine ambassador in Washington, Ernesto M. Maceda, who happened to be back home at the time, told Philippine President Joseph E. Estrada of the delay, according to an account in the Philippine Embassy newsletter, and Estrada "promptly offered Shelby the use of the newly refurbished presidential yacht." He also instructed one of his top aides "to provide Senator Shelby's party with first-class cuisine throughout the tour along with the use of the Malacanang band to provide musical entertainment."

On the eve of Shelby's departure back to the United States, Maceda hosted a formal dinner for the Shelby group and hired the "internationally acclaimed Bayanihan Dance Troupe, [which] gave a dazzling performance, despite being given only a few hours' notice."

All this must have impressed Shelby. "During his farewell dinner," according to the newsletter, "he continually reiterated his willingness to help the Philippines in any way he can."

How about a new engine for that boat?

C the Plan 2.B Better in y2k

In the federal government's continuing effort to be more like Dilbert's company: Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater and Federal Highway Administrator Kenneth R. Wykle have signed a "Performance Agreement," which includes endless lists of "planned accomplishments" in the coming year.

Our favorites:

"G-1.3.3c FHWA Planned Accomplishment -- Develop plan to influence partners of FLHP [the Federal Lands Highways Program] to collect accident data"; "G-2.2.4f FHWA Planned Accomplishment -- Initiate a national dialogue on operations that results in an operations mission."

"M-6.6.5c FHWA Planned Accomplishment -- Establish process level performance measures for key processes . . ."

Seems a number of the "performance measures" involve the establishment of other performance measures (G-3.3.2c) and (G-4.0.1f). That should keep everyone busy well into 2001.

Tips and comments for Al Kamen's column are welcomed at: In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or by e-mail at Loop@washpost.com. Please include home and work phone numbers.