Heard on the Hill: Ring-a-Ding? Not for You, Demi

Posted May 4, 2010 at 6:43pm

Congressional visitors — even the really famous ones — can get tripped up by the strangeness of daily life on Capitol Hill.

There are all those underground tunnels that lead to weird places. Or the odd differences between the House and Senate.

And then there are the loud bells.

Actress Demi Moore came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to raise awareness about the horrors of domestic child trafficking, meeting with Members and appearing at a panel moderated by CNN reporter Suzanne Malveaux in the Capitol Visitor Center. But when the “G.I. Jane” star was in the midst of her remarks, bells for votes suddenly (and loudly) began to sound.

“Do I need to answer it?” Moore said, eliciting noes and laughter from Hill denizens on hand. “Are you sure? Because I feel like I need to answer it.”

While the bells provided a moment of levity during Moore’s speech, the discussion, sponsored by the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, was otherwise serious. Moore appeared alongside three young women who shared how they were forced into prostitution.

Capitol Hill in the Spotlight

When filmmakers Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini set out to shoot a documentary about the immigration reform effort in 2001, they thought they’d spend about a year on Capitol Hill tracking the process.

They wound up staying six years and making a dozen films (until the immigration effort ultimately fell apart). But with immigration issues again in the news, it seems fitting that the filmmakers are planning to screen eight of the movies from their series, “How Democracy Works Now,” starting May 12 at the Goethe-Institut.

Robertson and Camerini had incredible access to Capitol Hill, filming backroom negotiations, strategy sessions and casual conversations. They filmed Members, staffers, lobbyists, advocates and normal citizens. And they’d often jump between offices, sometimes knowing details the opposing sides didn’t know about each other.

“It really took conscious discipline all the time not to slip,” Robertson recalls.

Camerini says they filmed the documentaries without interviews, “trying to be a fly on the wall.” Eventually, skeptical staffers let their guard down and the pair were so clued in, the Congressional press corps looked to them to track the immigration debate.

“They told us, ‘Whenever you guys turned up, we knew something was happening,'” Robertson says. “We were just like these two moles.”

Shooting began in August 2001, when then-President George W. Bush aligned with then-Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) to tackle immigration. Then came Sept. 11, 2001. “I always say, ‘Smart filmmakers would have quit on Sept. 12,'” Camerini jokes.

But the pair kept at it, following Brownback moving away from the issue to Arizonans Rep. Jeff Flake (R), then-Rep. Jim Kolbe (R) and Sen. John McCain (R) getting involved, until the effort’s ultimate defeat.

“It’s sort of like we filmed Frodo and his band of friends as they went on their mission,” Camerini says.

Now that the project is complete, the filmmakers say they hope to use their dozen films to educate the public about the workings of Washington. They remain in touch with many of the staffers they filmed, Camerini says, noting many could take part in the next immigration debate.

It’s All Icing on the Cake Now

Here are a few ways to honor a VIP who’s celebrating a milestone: hold a bipartisan reception on Capitol Hill, host more than a dozen Senators and spell the honoree’s name correctly on his cake.

Hosts of a celebration marking Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox’s planned retirement after a 50-year tenure in professional baseball got the first two steps right, but they failed on the third, serving up a cake misspelling the sports figure’s name in a snicker-inducing way (“Cocks” instead of “Cox”). Oopsie!

Braves fans Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) hosted the fete, inviting Braves players, coaches and Senators — along with a Roll Call photographer to document the important day — but the lawmakers were red-faced when the decorated cake read, “Thanks for 50 Great Years Bobby Cocks.”

Isakson spokeswoman Sheridan Watson said that she ordered the confection from Restaurant Associates, the vendor that handles cafeteria services in the Capitol, and that Cox’s name was spelled correctly in the e-mail exchange with the company.

“Whether the mistake was accidental or intentional, I don’t know,” Watson tells HOH. “Maybe someone employed by Restaurant Associates is a big Nationals fan.”

Watson said she and a colleague recognized the error and cut the cake before guests could arrive.

The company agreed not to charge them for the order after being notified of the mistake, she says.

Hoyer’s Young Wingman

Luke Russert has such good luck with women that he’s even offering to employ his excess lady-slaying skills on behalf of a single guy who he thinks needs some help: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

The MSNBC personality was at a pen-and-pad session with the Maryland Democrat when he offered to hook up Hoyer with a date to next year’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. “I’m sure I can get you a date with Elizabeth Taylor next year or something,” Russert boasted.

Hoyer didn’t seem tempted.

“Thank you so much, Luke. I need all the help I can get,” he responded. “However, can we talk about who you’re going to get? As opposed to Elizabeth Taylor, I might have some other choices for you to work with.”

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.

Can’t get enough HOH? Get a midday dose of fun and gossip with HOH’s One-Minute Recess, delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here — because everyone deserves more recess.