Not Quiet on the Western Front

Posted March 28, 2007 at 6:53pm

Hollywood folks were filming a big-budget action flick just steps away from the Capitol on Wednesday. But there was plenty of real-life drama, too, as visiting tourists were treated to a three-act performance on the building’s West Front. [IMGCAP(1)]

Just as Members of Congress were filtering onto the steps for a press conference to encourage prayer, the area was the scene of a dramatic takedown of a woman who was lunging for a Capitol Police officer’s gun. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said a woman, who was on medication but hadn’t taken her prescribed doses, walked up to a police officer as if she were about to start a conversation. When she reached the officer, “she put her hands on his gun and tried to take it from him,” Schneider said.

A scuffle ensued, other officers were called to the scene, and the woman, who was identified as Thelma Robinson of London, Ky., was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and assault on a police officer.

Robinson later was sent to a local hospital for observation.

Undaunted by the commotion, the Members proceeded to assemble for their prayerful presser. But then, Capitol Police announced they were clearing the area after finding suspicious bags nearby.

Apparently, a tourist temporarily abandoned three bags on the West Front and another left a camera case in the area. Police came upon them, determined that they were suspicious, and cleared the area. The poor clueless tourists eventually came back to claim the bags. Cut!

Who needs a Nicolas Cage action movie when there’s so much real-life excitement afoot? Pass the popcorn.

Moonlighting Member. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) had a celeb sous chef, Cybill Shepherd, on hand at Tuesday night’s March of Dimes Gourmet Gala, and HOH hears the two make … quite a tasty dish, if you catch the drift.

The couple looked cozy and comfortable together, a spy tells HOH. Actress/singer Shepherd, best known for her role opposite Bruce Willis on the TV series “Moonlighting,” helped the Congressman with his culinary entry in the charity competition. The pair served up some hot, steamy “Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District Grits and Cornmeal Barbecue Tasties.”

The Congressman is single and Shepherd has been divorced twice.

A Cohen spokeswoman said only that the two were “close friends, and they have been for years.” “They sometimes attend social functions together,” she added. Which sounds an awful lot like dating to HOH.

Shepherd, a Memphis, Tenn., native who still has a home there, joined the band that performed during dinner, belting out a rendition of “Tennessee Waltz.”

But although the Shepherd-Cohen chemistry was enough to draw attention, it wasn’t, sadly, enough to produce a winning dish.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and his wife, Linda, took top honors at the contest, which pits Members of Congress and other boldfaced chefs against one another in an hors d’oeuvre battle royale. The Bonds also knocked out reigning champs, the Sensenbrenners (as in Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin), with their Ozark smoked trout.

Hide Your Daughters. Wryly acknowledging his reputation as a playboy, former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) assured Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) that he has no designs on O’Malley’s teenage daughter.

O’Malley introduced Ford, who was giving a speech Wednesday at the Phoenix Park Hotel, by noting his 16-year-old daughter’s crush on the hunky-for-Congress Ford. The mayor (who, for the record, is no slouch in the looks department himself) said that morning, his daughter was looking at his schedule for the day, and seemed impressed by his plans. “You know Harold Ford?” she asked him, O’Malley recalled. Then O’Malley invited Ford to come to the governor’s house for dinner.

After taking the podium, Ford accepted the invite. “With all that has been said about me over the last years … let me just say thank you,” he said. “I look forward to dinner with the entire family.”

The emphasis was on “entire.”

The Boxer Box. And here HOH always thought that Sen. Barbara Boxer didn’t need any help being heard. The California Democrat has no problem firing off blistering attacks on the Bush administration and the Iraq War.

But when it comes to actually reaching the microphone, Boxer comes up a little short.

The diminutive (in physical stature only) Senator — she’s only 4 feet, 11 inches tall sans heels — requires the use of a booster step to be seen and heard at some podiums around the Capitol. On Wednesday, a Roll Call reporter witnessed Boxer hustling through the Capitol building. She was accompanied by an aide carrying what her staff jokingly refers to as the “Boxer box,” a wooden platform that gives the boss a needed leg up.

It was partly carpeted (better traction?) and identified by the word “Boxer” in big letters. Good thing it’s labeled — similarly petite Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) have their own booster boxes.

Everybody, even Senators, needs a little lift sometimes.

Starry Day. Wednesday was a good day for celeb-spotting, D.C.-style. Conservative FOX tawker Bill O’Reilly was spotted taking lunch at Johnny’s Half Shell. Rocker/breast cancer survivor Sheryl Crow was seen tooling around the halls of the Capitol (looking glamorously understated in a subdued pinstriped pantsuit) shuttling between lawmaker meetings. And Nicolas Cage and Harvey Keitel were shooting a scene from “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” near the Reflecting Pool.

John McArdle and Jamie Weinstein contributed to this report.

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