Heard on the Hill: Star-Struck

Posted September 16, 2009 at 6:58pm

Actress Jennifer Lopez didn’t do much to quash that whole diva image (at least among the Congressional press corps) when she and her also-famous husband came to Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

[IMGCAP(1)]The singer-actress and her singer husband, Marc Anthony, showed up roughly an hour and a half late to a photo-op with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday afternoon, much to the dismay of the grumpy group of reporters and photographers who had camped out in the Speaker’s Lobby for a glimpse of the star.

But despite the journos’ frustration over the couple’s tardiness, they actually wound up paying tribute to Anthony — through song — when he and Lopez finally arrived.

Lopez and Anthony posed for pictures with Pelosi and CHC members Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), who were preparing to honor Anthony with the caucus’s Lifetime Achievement Award at a banquet later that evening. Anthony thanked Pelosi for the invitation to visit, and he noted it was his birthday — leading the assembled pool of journalists to burst awkwardly into an off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.—

Guess even jaded journalists get star-struck at times.

So do Senators, apparently. An HOH spy spotted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) entering the nearby room where caucus members had gathered just before the photo-op, to cheers our spy described as “we know why you actually showed up— from his fellow Members.

Even Pelosi showed off her pop culture savvy during the presser. “When I welcomed Jennifer and Marc to my office, I showed them a picture of some of my grandchildren and I told them since they were 3 years old, they’ve been walking around singing, ‘Tell me baby girl ’cuz I need to know,’— Pelosi said, referring to the lyrics of one of Anthony’s songs.

Working Through an Injury. While J. Lo kept everyone waiting, not even a broken ankle was going to stop singer-songwriter Carole King from meeting with Members on Capitol Hill this week.

King on Wednesday used an electric scooter and crutches to move through the Congressional hallways to lobby for the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, which would designate 24 million acres of land as protected wilderness. King has been pushing for passage of the legislation for years, and she told HOH that Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) has promised a markup on the bill, the furthest it has ever moved.

“As you see, I’m here on crutches. I broke my ankle and I’ve got a scooter, but nothing will stop us,— she joked.

King met with several Members, including Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), she told HOH. And she noted that Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who introduced the bill, has been especially helpful.

[IMGCAP(2)]King wasn’t the only singer-songwriter on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Crooner Paul Simon joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on the West Front of the Capitol to push for health care reform.

Simon didn’t belt out any hits but did urge Members of Congress to vote for changes to the health care system. “Cut out the political stuff and pass this legislation. It is very much needed,— he said.

Simon told HOH that he didn’t plan to stick around Washington — he flew into D.C. in the morning for the presser and planned to leave by the afternoon. “No sightseeing today, but other days I’ve been here and visited the sights with my family when I got the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress,— he recalled.

Rock the House. If Rep. Joe Crowley ever wants to give up his day job, he might have a big future in show business.

The New York Democrat took the stage Tuesday night to perform at the launch party for “The Beatles: Rock Band— electronic game at the Gibson Guitar Showroom in Chinatown. Crowley belted out hits “I’m Looking Through You— and “I Saw Her Standing There,— HOH hears.

“I heard he was triumphant,— spokeswoman Angela Barranco told HOH on Wednesday morning, adding that she’s not sure if Crowley is “a McCartney or Lennon fan.—

“Joe Crowley’s really just doing this gig, you know, the Congressional thing, until his band takes off,— Barranco joked.

But Crowley wasn’t the only Member to hit the stage — Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) also performed, singing the Beatles classic “Come Together.— Other Members spotted at the event, sponsored by the Entertainment Software Association, included Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Dennis Moore (D-Kan.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.). Actress Laura Breckenridge from “Gossip Girl— also was on hand.

In Tribute. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) took to the House floor Tuesday to honor actor Patrick Swayze, calling the late star, who died Monday after a lengthy cancer battle, “a shining example of hard work, determination and the spirit of Texas.—

Swayze was born and raised in the Lone Star State, Poe noted, and even lived in the Congressman’s district while attending college. And while Poe recalled Swayze’s long film career, he mainly focused on how the actor used his battle against pancreatic cancer to lobby for further research into the disease.

“Despite his own illness, Swayze’s unwavering dedication to bring awareness and fight cancer remained clear until his final days,— Poe said.

Working on His Fitness. An HOH tipster spied Sen. Sam Brownback on Tuesday night getting in a workout on an elliptical machine at Capitol Hill’s Washington Sports Club. A spokesman for the Kansas Republican told HOH that the Senator’s daughter recently moved to town and is a member at the health club, and he decided to check out the facility as her guest.

Byron C. Tau and Christie Williams contributed to this report.

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