Heard on the Hill: Hello, Dolly!

Posted February 10, 2009 at 6:37pm

Country singer extraordinaire Dolly Parton on Tuesday was a welcome departure from the typical lineup of speakers at the National Press Club — after all, we’re guessing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the club’s next luncheon guest, won’t wear four-inch heels and lead the audience in a singalong.

[IMGCAP(1)]Parton, who came to the press club to tout her new role as an ambassador for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, had the usually sedate crowd cracking up with her self-deprecating humor and one-liners, including a few on politics.

On Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s failed run for president: “It would be great to have a woman in the White House — every 28 days, those terrorists better run deeper.”

On whether she’d ever consider running for high office: “I think we’ve had enough boobs in the White House.”

But Parton did prove she’s got at least one skill that would serve her well in politics: She has perfected the art of faking it — and not just when it comes to her famous cleavage. After making some opening remarks, Parton invited the audience to ask questions. “And if I don’t know the answer I’m going to make it up and you’ll never know the difference,” she said.

Small Screen, Big Dreams. There’s a casting call out for a new television show set in Washington, D.C. — and unlike the typical stuffy, buttoned-up depictions of our fair city, this one is comedic — and it’s set in a local health club.

“The Gym” is an improvisation-based sitcom centered on 13 Washingtonians who work out at a dysfunctional exercise facility near the Capitol. While half the characters could be from “Anywhere, USA,” the others are unique personalities found only in Washington, creator and executive producer Erika Grace Allen told HOH.

And “it’s not going to be like ‘The West Wing,’ where everyone is portrayed as intelligent,” Allen said.

Take Travis, a 20-something Capitol Hill intern from the Midwest who works at the gym. While his top motivation is to make extra money (Hill interns don’t usually get paid, after all), he also wants to get in shape, meet cute girls and establish political connections.

“That doesn’t mean that Senators are going to work out there, but he thinks that,” Allen said. “You know, he’s new. He’s from the Midwest.”

The rest of the cast also has its quirks. For example, there’s Sienna, a girl-next-door type (and the subject of Travis’ crush) who is into New Age health remedies; Max, a nerdy-but-wealthy guy who is trying (and failing) to get in tip-top shape; and “the boss,” who owns the gym but appears to use it to fund outside activities (the mafia, perhaps?).

Allen, who has no prior experience producing a TV show, told HOH that she got the idea for the show from more than two decades working as an exercise psychologist in local gyms. Washingtonians are gym-goers, she said, although their primary motivation is overall health, not looks.

“You’re not going to see L.A.-type bodies at the gym,” Allen said. “You’re going to see Washingtonian bodies.”

Casting takes place at the end of the month, and the pilot episode is set to be filmed soon after. Allen will then submit the show to film competitions and network officials.

And she isn’t sure how Washingtonians will respond to the show should it get picked up — “I’m curious to see if D.C. has relaxed enough now to embrace this sort of thing,” Allen said — but is hopeful the city will treat it much as the City of Brotherly Love has embraced the dysfunctional “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

“I love D.C. I’ve been to the majority of other American cities, and while they’re wonderful, there’s no place like D.C.,” she said. “We’ve got our own little thing going on.”

Shining Up the Shoe Shine. The move to make the Capitol a greener place is soon to extend even to the tips of Members’ toes.

HOH recently brought you the news that House officials are looking to give the chamber’s barber shop and hair salon a full-fledged makeover. Now we hear that Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard is seeking a new environmentally friendly vendor to run the chamber’s four shoe-shine stands.

The House of Representatives: the legislative body that handles all your grooming needs!

CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura told HOH that the chamber actually has provided shoe shining since 1996, and the service has been a hit with Members, staffers and visitors. But with the current vendor’s contract expiring this summer, the House now is seeking applicants — including the incumbent shoe-shiner — who can provide shoe-shine services using only products in line with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) Green the Capitol Initiative.

“It’s not that we’re giving the current vendor the boot, we just want to give others the opportunity to shine,” Ventura punned.

Overheard on the Hill. “You are going to find that [banks] are too big to fail, so the Fed is going to be in and other federal agencies are going to be in to bail them out. Just expect that.”

— An eerily clairvoyant Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), predicting the current bailout mess during the 1999 debate over deregulation of the financial services industry. The quote is included in H.Res. 140, which honors Dingell for becoming the longest-ever serving House Member.

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