Come Sail Away

Posted July 13, 2005 at 6:42pm

The “Duke-Stir” has left the Capitol Yacht Club. Sources around the marina saw the infamous vessel — the one that Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) lived on for more than a year — leaving port at the crack of dawn Wednesday.

“It went down the river on its own bottom,” one source told HOH. Translation for land lubbers: The boat set sail; it was not lifted out of the water. The question is: Who was sailing it?[IMGCAP(1)]

“It was a funny-looking captain,” the source said, describing the captain as a “chubby” male in his 40s with a “really extreme” flat top — shaved around the sides of his head, with a spikey mound of hair two inches tall on top. “And he was wearing a wife-beater,” the source said, invoking the popular handle for a ribbed tank undershirt.

Cunningham has not been seen at the marina in weeks, what with the federal corruption investigation into his financial arrangements with defense contractor Mitchell Wade.

Rerun. Remember that goofy old game show “Password, where a celebrity teams up with a regular contestant to guess the answer from one-word clues? Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) sure remembers, though he missed himself Wednesday when the Game Show Network re-ran a show, circa 1979, in which the surfer dude-turned-Congressman won $10,000.

“I get cable with about a hundred channels and I’ve never even heard of the Game Show Network,” Cox told HOH. But hearing that his post-collegiate appearance had re-aired Wednesday, Cox immediately saw dollar signs. “I wonder if I get some residuals?” he asked.

No such luck, Congressman. But a little retro fame can’t hurt. Cox was the regular guy on “Password,” paired over the course of a few days with Susan St. James from “Eight is Enough,” actress Peggy Cass, who occasionally appeared on “Love Boat” and other cheesy shows beloved by children of the ’80s, and Charles Nelson Reilly, a Tony award-nominee for the musical “Hello, Dolly.”

But wait, there’s more! Cox’s appearance on “Password” wasn’t his first foray into the game-show circuit! In 1973, as a shaggy-haired student at the University of Southern California, Cox won an audition to appear on the show “Baffle.” His partner was the late Michael Landon, aka “Pa” from “Little House on the Prairie” and the two of them set the “Baffle” winnings record. (Cox won $3,000.)

Cox is certain of the date he appeared on “Baffle,” because, as he recalls, “I had to skip my college graduation to go to it.”

Plain Brown Wrapper. Nina Totenberg, the legendary legal affairs reporter for National Public Radio, will kick off a new guest speaker series on Friday for the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Part of Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter’s (R-Pa.) to improve relations on the panel, speakers such as Totenberg will talk to Republican and Democratic committee staff in a private, off-the-record setting, according to a committee aide who saw a staff-wide e-mail announcing the lecture series.

What timing, too, just as the first Supreme Court nomination in 11 years is heating up!

Totenberg, of course, was the reporter who broke the story about sexual harassment allegations by law professor Anita Hill against Justice Clarence Thomas during his seminal 1991 confirmation hearings, basing her reporting on what was supposed to be a secret FBI background report. Those FBI reports have now been put off-limits to everyone but members of the committee and nine designated staffers, six from the majority and three from the minority, something that came after Totenberg was hauled before the committee to try to get at who her source or sources were. (Paging Judith Miller.)

In a sign that Specter expects these confabs to be weighty matters — despite its rather dull sounding official title of “Senate Judiciary Committee Occasional Speaker Series” — the committee has also snared a commitment from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to speak to staff at an undetermined Friday in the near future.

Like Totenberg, it’ll be old hat for Breyer, who was chief counsel for Judiciary Democrats in the 1970s.

Say Cheese. Karl Rove has been taking a lot of heat from this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, but was showered with attention from one notable Senator at the White House the other day when GOP and Democratic leaders met with President Bush. And it wasn’t Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). In fact, it wasn’t a Republican at all.

It was Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), that inveterate shutterbug. Rove stopped by the reception room where Frist, Leahy, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) were gathered.

As one source in the room recalled, Rove made the obligatory joke about Leahy’s camera, asking if the Senator had it on him. Oh yes, he did. And thereupon Leahy asked various wide-eyed staffers in the room if they’d like a picture taken with the President’s right-hand man, an old political adversary. (Rove once worked for a GOP candidate in Vermont who ran against Leahy.)

Leahy snapped a few pictures of his old “buddy” with a couple of unidentified aides in the room all smiles. Asked about the moment of levity, Leahy spokesman David Carle offered, “He carries a camera almost as often as he packs a Blackberry.”

No word on what Leahy plans to do with the pictures.

Rove if You Want To. Speaking of Rove, despite all the “leaky” controversy, fundraising planners for Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) say they will not cancel an event for the Congressman next Tuesday with the Man Under the Microscope as the headline attraction. In fact, they say, the event will be bigger and better because of the scrutiny of Rove’s potential involvement in the CIA leak story.

“We’ve actually gotten more RSVPs in the last couple of days because of Rove being in the paper,” says Michael Gula of Keelen Communications, the firm handling the fundraiser for Gerlach. “We’re getting a lot of free press.”

Gula said Wednesday there is “a 110 percent” chance that the event will go off as planned, with Rove as the main attraction. Gula then paused and added, “There could be circumstances. But as of this morning, it was not going to be cancelled.”

He seemed to have regained his confidence in a follow-up e-mail. “We will not be canceling or postponing the Gerlach fundraiser on Tuesday night with Karl Rove. As Ronald Reagan once said, ‘you dance with the one that brung ya.’” (OK, it wasn’t really Reagan, but we’ll give it to him.)

The July 19 fundraiser features Rove leading a “VIP roundtable discussion” on the rooftop at Valis Associates on Pennsylvania Ave for $2,500 a pop. A thousand bucks gets you general admission. Look, even more free press!

Bachelor No More. Women of Washington, get out your waterproof mascara. There are going to be a lot of wet eyes over this one: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is getting married.

The Congressman’s spokesman says his boss will marry Elizabeth Harper, a Brit who works at a “monetary policy think tank” in Chicago, late this summer in the Cleveland area. Kucinich, a 58-year-old two-time divorcee, and his spokesman Doug Gordon were tighter-lipped than Scott McClellan when it came to talking about the engagement. Gordon said, “I can tell you that he is very happy and really looking forward to the big day. Don’t worry, HOH’s invitation is in the mail.”

Until then, HOH wishes the Congressman all the best for a happy marriage.

Jared Allen and Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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

Correction: An item in the July 14 Heard on the Hill (“Plain Brown Wrapper”) incorrectly characterized the source of reporter Nina Totenberg’s stories about Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. According to Totenberg, those stories were based on interviews with Hill (parts of which were broadcast), interviews with people Hill had spoken to contemporaneously and the affidavit Hill filed with the committee. She did not have access to a secret FBI background report.