George Got Game

Posted September 15, 2003 at 6:47pm

George Clooney was dressed to the nines and rubbing elbows with the likes of NBC’s Tim Russert and former White House flack Ari Fleischer on Friday at that premier power spot The Palm, where he celebrated the premiere of “K Street.”

But a far more dressed-down Clooney spent much of the rest of the weekend

decompressing from all of the hoopla surrounding his HBO docudrama by playing a stream of pickup basketball games as if he were an average guy (at least one who can afford high-end hotels and fitness centers).

Clooney, who is said to have a deadly outside shot, was spotted sweating it out with Capitol Hill staffers and other members of the tony Sports Club/LA at the downtown Ritz Carlton, which sports a full basketball court among its many amenities.

On Sunday night, Clooney played a series of two-on-two and three-on-three games with a group of guys that included Andrew Kauders, communications director for House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.).

Clooney played with a group that included an aide to Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who just so happens to be the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, on Saturday night. Kohl may want to take a long look at the Hollywood star, who didn’t miss a 3-pointer.

“His outside shot has surgical precision, and he drives to the basket with the determination and urgency of an ‘ER’ doctor,” Kauders told HOH.

The buzz among the bigwigs at Friday night’s party was that the first episode of the show was not quite as smooth as Clooney’s basketball shot. With the crowd of Beltway insiders, who normally can’t get enough of politics, appearing to lose interest at various points of the premiere, people were wondering how viewers in middle America will respond.

But the first episode, which aired to the general public Sunday night, also showed some flashes of real gold — especially the presidential debate prep scene with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) getting tips from Democratic consultants James Carville and Paul Begala.

With Clooney in town for the next several weeks as producer of the show, look for plenty of pols to roll him out for various causes while he’s here. The star will be appearing with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in the Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday morning.

They are joining forces with the United Way of America on legislation to create access to an easy-to-remember nationwide phone number, 2-1-1, through which callers can connect to community services, such as unemployment assistance and emergency planning information.


Voting With Their Feet. Are you a House Member who can’t seem to find your favorite black high heels? Or a Hill staffer who misplaced those combat boots?

If so, Carla Diaz, an employee at the Cobbler’s Bench in the Cannon House Office basement, desperately wants you to call her.

Diaz said she has dozens of pairs of shoes, as well as some purses, that have never been picked up from the company’s locations in the Cannon, Ford and Rayburn buildings. She wants Hill staffers to come pick up their belongings so she’ll have room to breathe.

“I need my space to work,” she said. “I’ve left a lot of messages already and they never come to pick them up.”

Chief Administrative Officer Jay Eagen has circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter trying to get everyone’s attention. He noted that when Cobbler’s Bench recently took over the contract for shoe shine and repair services, the new company was stuck with unclaimed items from the old Kiko’s shop.

“Most items have been held for one to two years,” Eagen wrote. “All items are located at the Cannon Basement Rotunda location and customers have until October 31, 2003, to claim them.”

The list includes everything from a laced cordovan dress (ticket #4886) to a plaid purse with floral stitching (ticket #798).

There’s also a gym bag with a Ford insignia left at the shop. Come on, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Mr. Ford Country, we know this must be you.

Some staffers, meanwhile, found humor in the letter. “I have a pair of pumps I can’t find,” joked one male aide.


Nip and Tucker. Various Members of Congress take it on the chin in CNN pundit Tucker Carlson’s new book, “Politicians, Partisans and Parasites.”

The co-host of “Crossfire” all but charges that Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) is a phony. “Chris Shays doesn’t give off shifty vibes,” he writes, but “never judge a Congressman by his cover.”

Carlson issues his indictment based on an appearance on the show in which Shays was asked about his campaign finance reform bill. If soft money is so heinous, Carlson queried, why not ban it immediately, instead of after the 2002 elections?

The author recounts that Shays dodged the question by pretending there was a problem with the audio feed. He removed his earpiece and commenced a filibuster, while the Congressman next to him “looked confused” because his own earpiece was working fine.

“Pretty crafty. And doubly so, given Shays’s reputation,” Carlson writes, noting that a check of the equipment later showed there was no technical problem. “You’d never suspect him of doing something like that. He’s the shop-lifting nun.”

Carlson also takes after Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) for allegedly haranguing a young female producer who tried to fix the Congressman’s blazer before a live shot. Frank almost brought the woman to tears with his “viciousness,” according to Carlson, by growling: “I’m not here to look good. I’m here to talk about substance. Or is that against the rules now?”

“During the next break I did my best to torment him,” recalled Carlson. “For a guy who doesn’t care what he looks like, I said, you sure have on a lot of makeup. Frank glared at me, then went back to chewing his fingernails, one of which was already bloody.”

And then there’s the anecdote about the unnamed “Southern Senator” who got drunk with Carlson at a big dinner party. With the lawmaker’s wife on the other side of the table, the Senator proceeded to spill the beans to the journalist about a “hot little girl from Texas” who had just become his scheduler and mistress.

In this case, Carlson doesn’t name any names, though there are plenty of other spots where he doesn’t hold back in his fly-on-the-wall manner. For more on his new tome, check out Roll Call’s new Tuesday feature, Around the Hill Bookshelf, on page 25.


A Chairman of Im-port. Taking great pride in the fact that he has Portuguese roots on both sides of his family, House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) held his annual port tasting event in the Capitol last week.

The party featured ports by Cockburn’s, including the well-known 10-year-old tawny and 20-year-old tawny. The event drew nearly 100 people, including Senate GOP Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) and freshman Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.).

Noting that port is fairly potent, however, Pombo spokesman Doug Heye joked to HOH that it was important to keep the attendees on their best behavior.

“Since Port is a fortified wine,” he said, “we made sure that no one was double-fisting.”