Heard on the Hill: Welcome to the Boys’ Club

Posted January 20, 2009 at 6:45pm

The newest Senators are getting settled into their gigs, but two female Members in the freshman class are finding that life in the boys’ club chamber takes a bit of getting used to.

At the EMILY’s List luncheon on Sunday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) told the crowd that she was enjoying her job. “Except that I got lost in the basement of the Capitol,” she said. “It’s easy to do — it was clearly laid out by a number of men.”

[IMGCAP(1)]And Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) told the women gathered at the Washington Hilton that she might try to level the playing field. “I tried to use the Senate Member’s gym,” she said. “And there is a pool — but it’s for the men.”

The women in the hotel ballroom burst into a chorus of boos.

“So what do you think one of my first bills should be?” she asked.

Don King Fights for a Bargain. Boxing impresario Don King arranged and promoted some of the biggest fights of the last century, and the guy clearly hasn’t lost his penchant for wheeling and dealing. HOH spotted the wild-haired King just moments after the inauguration on Tuesday (he was in the audience, along with other luminaries such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., Oprah Winfrey and Denzel Washington).

King was haggling with one of the many T-shirt vendors hawking inauguration and Obama-themed gear near the Capitol on New Jersey Avenue Northwest.

The vendor had already reduced the price of the shirts to $5 apiece, but the wily King was trying to score a shirt for the even bigger bargain of $2.50. Kudos to the vendor, who held firm on his price and got King to cough up $20 for four shirts.

Schroder Still Hearts Bush. Former President George W. Bush isn’t getting much love these days. That goodbye tour last week went pretty much ignored, and the newest member of the ex-president’s club even got booed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Bush, though, still has one famous fan: “Silver Spoons” star Ricky Schroder.

Schroder — sorry, he goes by “Rick” now — told HOH before Sunday’s “Declare Yourself” bash at the Renaissance Washington hotel that despite Bush’s unpopularity, he supported the 43rd president throughout his two terms.

“I was a fan of President Bush. I believe after Sept. 11, he kept us safe,” said Schroder, who also starred on “NYPD Blue.” “I have high hopes for President Obama — even though I didn’t vote for him.”

Schroder might have been the only celebrity in town this weekend willing to admit some affection for Dubya. But HOH also was curious as to whether some other famous folks in town could name any other politician besides Obama whom they admire.

And there were a few.

David Hernandez, the stripper-turned-American-Idol-finalist, was among those who could not. “I’m not really a political guy, to be honest. As stupid as it sounds, I actually voted for the first time this year,” he said.

But Damien and Tourie Escobar, who make up the violin-playing hip-hop group “Nuttin’ But Stringz,” named rank-and-file Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) as an inspiration, along with “any politician that’s here, trying to make change, push the envelope,” Tourie Escobar told HOH.

Put a Lid on It. Sure, most fashion-conscious eyes were on the Obama ladies during Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony. But Senators gathered on the chilly West Front of the Capitol managed to make some fashion statements of their own.

Here’s your official (and probably never-to-be-repeated) Senatorial Headgear Report:

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was channeling Sherlock Holmes in a grey herringbone tweed cap with ear flaps (the tweed jacket aided the impression).

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) wore a tan cowboy-style hat (for riding the open range in downtown Philly, no doubt).

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) wore a University of Connecticut baseball hat.

Also going the casual, home-state-school route was Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who wore a black University of New Hampshire beanie.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) sported a dark gray tam.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) looked Indiana Jones-esque in a black wide-brim.

Despite the variety of Senatorial chapeaux, Senators were overshadowed by a few other prominent crowns: House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) wore a giant fur hat (accessorized with a bold American-flag scarf) that bore a remarkable similarity to the enormous one worn by rapper Jay Z, who was in the crowd with his wife, singer Beyoncé.

Hi Ho, Baucus! And speaking of fashion, Sen. Max Baucus stood out among the suits and ties during the post-inaugural luncheon in the Capitol.

The Montana Democrat was in full-on cowboy regalia, including Wrangler jeans, boots with spurs, a blue bandanna wrapped around his neck, a cowboy hat and a vest. He apparently found a novel way to avoid traffic gridlock that has plagued Washington — Baucus told HOH he rode a horse to the Capitol all the way from Maryland. He planned to mount the steed during the inaugural parade, along with the rest of the Montana delegation, later in the day.

Baucus, who is usually more at home in casual duds such as loafers and corduroys, attracted plenty of stares in his Howdy Doody getup.

Ride ’em, Senator!

Tips for Fashion-Challenged Members. Female Members of Congress might earn descriptions such as “hardworking” or “passionate.” But fashionable? Um, not with those bright, oversized suits they’re wont to wear.

As designer Nick Verreos put it: “They look too much like mothers at a PTA meeting.”

So HOH asked Verreos, best known for his appearance on season two of the reality television show “Project Runway,” how he would give female Members a more chic look. And the designer, who designed gowns inspired by past first ladies that were shown at Sunday’s California State Society Inaugural Luncheon and Fashion Show, says it wouldn’t take too much to give the ladies of Congress a proper makeover.

“I think I would probably go behind them and pull just like three inches,” he said of the tailoring job he’d like to give their suits. “Make it more fitted.”

The main problem is that the suits, which often sport huge shoulder pads, look as if they were created in 1989 rather than 2009, Verreos said. Perhaps many Members fear showing off their figures, or worry that looking good would hurt their credibility, he added.

But being fashionable doesn’t mean looking fussy, Verreos said.

“They haven’t looked and seen there are new suits. Just take a half inch off the shoulder pads,” Verreos said. “I want to see some of the woman in there … You can still pay homage to your body.”

There is one bright light among the sea of tacky suits, Verreos says: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who not only sets the tone for the House, but also serves as a fashionable role model for her colleagues. “She looks modern, fitted,” he said.

Laughing With Us — or at Us? HOH’s job is to poke fun at Members of Congress, so it seems only fitting that occasionally, one of them gets the chance to turn the tables on us.

HOH was headed to the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown from Chinatown on Saturday night. But catching a cab proved impossible, so HOH decided to brave the cold and hop on a DC Pedicab, one of those bicycle-driven rickshaw-style transports.

When HOH arrived at the Four Seasons — wrapped in a fleece blanket provided by the gracious Pedicab driver, no less — Sen. Chris Dodd stood waiting on the corner just outside. The Connecticut Democrat took one look at the Pedicab, motioned toward it and started chuckling.

Glad HOH could provide a moment of levity, Senator.

Overheard on the Hill. “Ew, the mac and cheese has bacon in it, so watch where you bite.”

— One of the many vegetarian partygoers attending Monday night’s eco-friendly Green Ball hosted by former Vice President Al Gore.

“lay down for 4 hours and then take the 2 mile walk to the Capitol.. I might do the running man all the way!!”

— M.C. Hammer — or someone claiming to be the “Can’t Touch This” rapper—Twittering the inauguration.

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.

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