Light fingers of the West Wing

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • February 18, 2005

by Karen Feld

Wednesday night’s “chicken” episode of NBC’s hit drama, “The West Wing,” was lifted nearly verbatim from political communications pro Iris Burnett’s novel, “Schlepper!” Originally published in 2002, Burnett’s Roman a clef takes a gander into the power and gimmicks of presidential campaigns.

In Chapter 32, a reticent President Bush Sr. refuses to debate his 1992 challenger, Bill Clinton. To egg on the prez, Burnett and a stealth team turn up at each of Bush 41’s campaign stops — dressed as chickens. When an inflamed Bush is finally caught on camera shouting at one of Burnett’s crew, it isn’t very long before the debates are set up (and Bush is once again compromised on camera, this time yawning into his watch). Some tactics never change in presidential campaigns, especially through germination from one Bush to another (read: Karl Rove), but neither do the rules of fair use or the need for permission to use copyrighted material. While Burnett is busy updating and preparing “Schlepper!” for trade publication, no doubt NBC will be hearing from her D.C. literary agent, Muriel Nellis.

Daddy dearest

Bill Clinton created quite a stir when he crashed Chelsea’s dinner party for six at the very hip Zaytinya the other evening. Predictably, perhaps, he and entourage strolled in just as the belly dancers were performing for a room packed with diners. After sampling a few bites of his daughter’s dinner, he graciously picked up the tab for her group — but not before ordering $200 worth of carry-out veggies, meats and seafood for the trip home. The report from Zaytania is that the former president was not only generous with his time posing for photos and greeting diners, but with his tip, as well.


Flush with pride

Yes, that really was Eliot Pfanstiehl, the president and CEO of the new Strathmore Music Center collecting tickets at a concert earlier this week. “I do what I have to do, even fix toilets,” he told me. Buzz query: Is this the beginning of a new breed of humble CEOs?

Republican Bar and Grill

Could the very theatrical Indebleu be seeing “red,” becoming the new Republican gathering spot in Penn Quarter? Five different groups of security agents were protecting diners — including Cabinet Secretaries — enjoying the trendy French/Indian cuisine on Monday evening.


Baseball and bunting

Baseball buzz scored well Wednesday evening at Café Milano. At a bash thrown by Nancy Bagley, Kevin Chaffee, Franco Nuschese and Nina Auchincloss Straight to celebrate the Martha Graham Dance Company’s return to the Kennedy Center, I caught some fly balls of confidence — Jim Kimsey (AOL’s foundation honcho) and Winston Lord (executive director of Washington Baseball Club) — on the short list of contenders for ownership of the Nationals — feel assured that their group has the mayor’s support.


And in other baseball news, Chris Murray, proprietor of Govinda Gallery in Georgetown, says that his Walter Iooss Jr. “Classic Baseball” photography show hit a home run in Cuba. “Baseball is a great way to bring people together,” Murray says. Even Castro has a copy of the book of Iooss’ photos.

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