Heard on the Hill: Warner’s Roving Eye

Posted September 30, 2008 at 7:02pm

Sen. John Warner, you old dog you! The Virginia Republican — who was once married to film star Elizabeth Taylor — is quite the connoisseur of the fairer sex, and on Tuesday he confessed to letting his “wandering eye” roam the scenic Senate.

[IMGCAP(1)]Warner was responding on the Senate floor to a tribute from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who lavishly praised the retiring Virginia gentleman. Warner reciprocated with a mash note of a speech to Collins, calling her a “fighting lady.” Then he went on to marvel at the number of women now serving in the Senate, recalling how when he first took office (back in 1978) there weren’t any ladies in the chamber. Then along came Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (also in 1978), followed by a veritable flood of Senators of the female persuasion.

“From that beginning … commenced the transformation of the Senate in many ways, from one lady to where today we have many,” he announced. “As a matter of fact, we don’t count them, because they have gotten into the full fabric of the Senate.”

Warner added that although others might not notice the now fully assimilated womenfolk in the chamber, he still does. “Everybody is totally unconscious, except people like myself with a wandering eye,” Warner said.

And more from what turned into a bit of an impromptu roast of Warner on the Senate floor: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) revealed a few little-known facts about Warner, namely that Warner’s son once dated the late Paul Newman’s daughter, and that the Majority Leader has long coveted Warner’s thick mane of (all natural!) white hair.

“I’m so envious of your hair,” Reid confessed. Warner replied that over the years, many women have called his office on behalf of their husbands to inquire where he gets his wigs.

Cafeteria Crisis. Saving the U.S. economy is tough work, but just try doing it on an empty stomach.

HOH has heard the gripes from exhausted Capitol Hill staffers who worked over the weekend on the now-defeated bailout bill. Not only did many of them have to show up on Saturday and Sunday, but the office-building cafeterias weren’t even open, causing further stress for hungry Hill aides, who were too busy trying to salvage the economy to venture out — in the rain, no less!

HOH has gotten to the bottom of Cafeteriagate, and it seems that, coincidentally, the struggling economy was to blame.

A spokesman for Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard, who oversees cafeteria operations, explained to HOH that although officials knew closing the cafeterias would be an inconvenience to staffers, the cost of keeping them open was too high.

So Beard’s staffers and officials at Restaurant Associates — the outside vendor that runs the cafeterias — decided to keep open the Members’ Dining Room, Capitol Carryout and Capitol Market but close everything else, CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura said.

“At the end of the day, Restaurant Associates is still a business, and they need to have the guarantee that the demand will be there,” Ventura said. “We can’t expect a company like that to incur a loss when we know that the demand for food isn’t there.”

Not all staffers were convinced, arguing that at least one office building cafeteria remained open in past weekend sessions. (The Longworth House Office Building food court remained open during a July 2006 weekend session, for example.)

But Ventura defended the decision, saying CAO officials hoped that staffers had interns available to grab lunch or were able to order food.

“People were extremely busy. It was tough, and we understand the frustration that people had,” Ventura said. “But that’s why there’s pizza delivery — and people did that.”

Still, try telling that to those burned-out staffers.

“Instead of arranging to keep House food services open for Members and staff … the new CAO snidely suggests we order pizza? Somehow I don’t think they understand,” one House staffer complained.

For the Pregnant Teen Who Has Everything. Wondering what to get your favorite offspring of a vice presidential candidate in honor of her shotgun wedding?

A wedding-gift wish list — which includes kitschy American-flag-printed platters, camouflage-patterned bed linens and maternity-sized lingerie — on retailer J.C. Penney’s Web site labeled “Bristol and Levi’s Registry” is making the e-mail rounds among snickering Capitol Hill types. Of course, it refers to Bristol Palin, the pregnant high-school-aged daughter of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and her boyfriend/classmate/father-of-baby Levi Johnson.

The registry is doubtless a fake, since the wedding date is listed as Election Day, (um, the mother of the bride is going to be kind of busy) and the items on the list are just too over-the-top to be believed (Precious Moments figurines, really?). And the campaign of Palin’s running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has been staying mum about the details of the expected (and expectant) teen wedding.

Still, that doesn’t stop us from pondering whether the happy couple would prefer the red, white and blue deviled-egg holder or the shooting-range game.

Decisions, decisions …

New Eatery Gets Pelosi Stamp. Art and Soul, the swanky new restaurant in the Liaison Capitol Hill hotel, opened its doors just last week — but already it has attracted a celeb clientele.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is among the Members who have stopped by the restaurant, Executive Chef Ryan Morgan tells HOH. Pelosi came to the hotel for a daytime Democratic event last week and then returned in the evening to dine, Morgan said.

Also making an appearance: former “Bachelor” Andrew Firestone, a good friend of chef Art Smith, the restaurant’s namesake who served as a personal chef to Oprah Winfrey and former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.).

“It was a D.C.-Hollywood moment,” Morgan recalled. “Chef Art was helping someone carry something to their car, and ran into [Firestone] on the street.”

Celeb sightings might help Art and Soul cultivate its desired image as Capitol Hill’s hippest dining destination. With a modern décor, plenty of fancy cocktails and a prime location (it sits a few blocks north of the Capitol on New Jersey Avenue Northwest), the place is hoping to become a happy hour hot spot.

But at heart, Art and Soul is a restaurant, offering up Southern-influenced dishes like “hoe cakes,” which are essentially cornmeal pancakes covered with topping combos such as blue crab, braised beef and brie.

“We really kind of found the niche that a lot of folks aren’t doing,” Morgan said. “We’re surrounded with Bistro Bis and Charlie Palmer Steak. We’re really kind of out there in terms of what we’re doing.”

Popcorn With Your Free-Market Policy? He’s not a terrorist, he just plays one in the movies. Actor-director Robert Davi plays a terrorist hell-bent on bombing filthy Americans in the conservative comedy “An American Carol,” which is screening at the right-leaning American Film Renaissance Festival in Washington this week.

But playing bad guys isn’t his only gig. Davi, whose own political leanings are conservative, will be in town to promote “An American Carol” and his film “The Dukes,” which also is part of the festival, in which he makes his directorial debut — and plays a much more sympathetic character. Davi is the only star of the “American Carol” cast set to appear at the festival, unlike during the film’s screening at the Republican National Convention, when director David Zucker, comedian Kevin Farley (brother of the late “Saturday Night Live” funnyman Chris), and actor Jon Voight mingled with political types. This time, the rest of the “talent” is in LA for the premier, HOH hears.

That film lampoons lefty Hollywood types, with a plot that follows a Michael Moore-based character as he tries to abolish the Fourth of July holiday, only to be visited by three ghosts who persuade him to give up his U.S.-bashing ways.

“The Dukes,” which tells the story of washed-up doo-wop musicians, screens on Wednesday night, and “An American Carol” shows on Friday.

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