Bush Party Poopers

Posted August 6, 2004 at 6:06pm

The manager and employees of Helix Lounge are steaming mad about a Bush-Cheney re-election party held at the swanky downtown D.C. locale July 15.

This particular “Party for the President” — a grassroots initiative of the Bush-Cheney ’04 team to raise money and rally supporters — was held simultaneously with thousands of other events at homes and restaurants in cities across the country.

[IMGCAP(1)] About 45 Bush supporters flocked to the front bar at Helix to sip Bushtinis (for $7) and swill Stella Artois before joining a live conference call in another room with first lady Laura Bush, which all the other “Party for the President” partygoers linked to from their respective parties. No let-down there, as the invitation had promised an opportunity to hear from “our nation’s Comforter-in-Chief.”

The lounge, as well as the entrance to the club, was full of Bush-Cheney signs, a very different vibe than is generally put out by Helix’s usual crowd of liberal artists and professionals.

Lounge manager Kobie Ali, himself a progressive artist — he’s the lead singer in local rock band Papa Shake — said the organizers of the Bush party, Tom Duschney and his partner, Armando Cortinez, walked out on a $205 tab for the room they rented for the comforter-in-chief’s conference call.

“I was floored. I couldn’t believe it,” Ali said, claiming that Duschney and Cortinez told him they would like to pay with a check but disappeared when they went to get a checkbook. “Then, when I tried to run the credit card they had used for deposit, it was declined.”

He said he was particularly incensed since he had gone out of his way to accommodate Duschney and Cortinez, even helping to put up the Bush-Cheney signs (which apparently made Ali cringe) and serve up their Bushtinis — not in martini glasses, but in the plastic Bush-Cheney ’04 cups provided by the Bush campaign.

“We even agreed to let them hold the party on Disco Ding Dong night,” Ali said of the lounge’s most popular night.

But what Ali calls stiffing the lounge — and his waiters — Duschney calls a dispute over the bill.

Duschney, a contractor with the National Institutes of Health, said there was “some dispute” over “what the final amount was going to be.” He said Cortinez paid the bar tab but “the rental of the room was in dispute” and apparently there was a changing of shifts and some confusion, he said, over how and when that bill would be paid.

Ali says he left at least six phone messages for both Duschney and Cortinez over the course of the week and, at press time, had yet to receive a return call — or $205 for the room.

Duschney said he suspects he and Cortinez are being maligned for what some view as an odd combination of sexual orientations and political beliefs. “Both Armando and I were written up in several papers because we’re gay and for Bush,” Duschney said.

Cortinez, the sender of the e-vites for the Bush party, did not return calls seeking comment.

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said he was unaware of any problems arising from the party at Helix. “That’s disappointing to hear,” he said. “I’d welcome a call from the manager of the restaurant.”

Cooter vs. Miller. Former Georgia Democratic Rep. Ben “Cooter” Jones is ready to take the gloves off again. Not for another round of politics, he says. Just to duke it out with his least favorite Senate Democrat: Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia.

In a letter to Miller last week, Jones challenged Miller to a televised debate over “the problems the Democratic Party has in our beloved Southern region and the reasons for your recent concerns regarding our party’s direction.”

Jones, who still likes to be called Cooter, his stage name from the “Dukes of Hazzard,” said Friday that he wants to cure Miller of his obsessive-compulsive habit of trashing his own party.

“I think that the devil has got into Zell Miller and he needs an exorcist,” Jones said, laughing as zanily as if he’d just driven donuts around Bo and Luke Duke.

Jones, who was crushed in his long-shot comeback bid against Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in 2002, said he has had it up to his ears with Miller’s outspoken criticism of Democrats.

“I know an awful lot of people who busted their rear ends to get Zell Miller where he is. And I think he owes them a better explanation than just calling them a ‘bunch of out-of-touch loony liberals,’” he told HOH.

So that’s why Cooter is challenging Miller to debate “anytime, anywhere, anyhow” to settle the score on the party’s lack of resonance in Dixie. Miller’s office did not provide a response by press time to Jones’ invitation to debate.

Jones said he, too, has problems with the Democratic Party but that “it’s quite something else — and very disingenuous, too — for Zell Miller to be an attack dog for George W. Bush, toe the total right-wing line and still claim he’s a Democrat.”

Cooter’s Place, the “Dukes of Hazzard” museum and memorabilia store, is “still going strong” in Gatlinburg, Tenn., Jones said. Running the store, touring around the South with Cooter’s Garage Band and writing commentary, he said, is keeping him plenty busy and is “a lot more fun than politics.”

And Jones claims there will be no more Congressman Cooter comeback attempts. “Absolutely not. And if I ever start to thinking about running again, I hope somebody will hit me upside the head with a crowbar and knock some sense into me!”

Miller on Kid Rock. While Republicans are touting the shockingly vulgar rap lyricist Kid Rock as one of the big talents at their convention later this month, Democratic aides and operatives are quietly hyping the hypocrisy of it all.

Some are questioning how exactly Kid Rock — whose song titles include “Balls in Your Mouth,” “Cadillac Pussy,” “Fuck Off” and “Fuck U Blind” — fits into the pro-family Republican agenda.

Sen. Zell Miller, in his famous post-Super Bowl speech on the Senate floor in February, bashed what he called the “culture of far-left America” for embracing artists such as Kid Rock. He said then that he couldn’t stand watching “that ignoramus with his pointed head stuck” through a hole he had cut in an American flag during the halftime Super Bowl show.

“This is the flag that is draped over coffins of dead young uniformed warriors killed while protecting Kid Crock’s bony butt,” Miller said. “He should be tarred and feathered and ridden out of this country on a rail.”

Apparently Miller’s Republican friends don’t agree.

Snake Fight. House Republicans are hissing about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) recent comments about her efforts to recruit “reptilian, cold-blooded creatures” to run against House Republicans.

Describing her Darwinian approach to recruiting and funding Democratic candidates in her quest to take back the House this fall, Pelosi told The Washington Post: “I didn’t come into this to win any popularity contests. I came in to win the election. So I have been brutally cold-blooded. … No four-chambered creatures need come to the table. We want reptilian, cold-blooded creatures.”

Jonathan Grella, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who has his own style of ruthless political strategies, asked incredulously, “Is she running for Cobra Commander?”

“We knew that the Democrats had no agenda or accomplishments to speak of and that they are running a desperate and ruthless long-shot campaign, but that’s just weird,” Grella said.

Correction. An item in the Aug. 2 “Heard on the Hill” column mistakenly reported that David Mixner got into a heated argument with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during a gay caucus session at the Democratic National Convention. Mixner did not attend the meeting. And other sources say the exchange was not as testy as HOH reported.

Participants did express unhappiness with Pelosi for being unable to stop passage of an anti-gay marriage bill last month. Democratic donor Jeff Soref, who attended the meeting, told HOH that he and others had a “frank discussion” with Pelosi about the vote that occurred a week before in the House in which 27 Democrats joined Republicans in passing a measure to keep gay marriage challenges out of federal courts. “We expressed our frustration and disappointment that a number of Democrats joined the Republicans,” Soref said.

Soref and other gay donors also expressed concern about giving money to candidates who might not be gay friendly. Soref said he and others sought assurances that money contributed to House races “wouldn’t end up in the hands of Members in the House who couldn’t support our equal status and civil liberties.”

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.