Political junkies turn to Roll Call at 50

  • The Washington Examiner
  • |
  • June 14, 2005

by Karen Feld

Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, celebrated its first half-century at a rooftop reception overlooking the Capitol. Sid Yudain, who founded the paper while working as an aide to a Connecticut congressman and initially operated it out of the congressional office, remembers the day his boss was waiting for a call from President Eisenhower, and the phone kept ringing – they were calls for classified ads. “Roll Call has not only grown in age but matured,” reflected Yudain at the celebration. “Its purpose now should be not only to disseminate news, but to bring back civility to Capitol Hill.” Yudain, the retired editor and publisher, was there with his vivacious wife, Lael, and their son and daughter.

Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper once owned by former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, above, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a rooftop party for political junkies.

Jim Glassman, who later edited the publication under owner Arthur Levitt, called it “the best job I ever had.” Accompanying Glassman was his fiance, Beth Rocks of D.C., who works in her family’s commercial real estate business. They plan to tie the knot Sept. 24.

Spotted in the crowd of mostly Hill staffers munching on diner food – including burgers, mini-grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese – were several of us who got our start in journalism as Roll Call reporters, including yours truly, Celeste McCall, Connie Lawn and Tim Burger, who is now with Time. Others attending: retired House GOP leader Bob Michel of Illinois, who was in Congress when Roll Call began, and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who is the only sitting member of Congress who has been in the House since Roll Call’s inception – he says he plans to run for re-election and “with two more terms I’ll pass Jamie Whitten’s [D-Miss.] record” – House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein. A slide show of photos from 50 years was a hit for those with an institutional memory.

Fenty’s faux pas

Community activist Peter Rosenstein, shouting into a bullhorn while he marched down 17th Street this weekend, could be heard above the crowd with his announcement that Washington’s next mayor was on his way. Any Fenty fans drive a convertible? Councilman Adrian Fenty, mayoral hopeful, wasn’t able to find one with D.C. tags. Fenty marched with an unusually large crowd in the Pride Parade on Saturday evening – but the red convertible transporting his entourage had Virginia plates instead of D.C. plates! Where is he running for mayor, or does he know something we don’t?

A softer side of Eisner

Most of us know Michael Eisner as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, but his fellow summer campers at Camp Keewaydin in Lake Dunmore, Vt., know he held an even higher honor: “best canoeist.” He talked passionately about his new book, “Camp,” at a Smithsonian Associates program at the Hirshhorn Museum the other evening and then later at the National Museum of American History, where he shared in the celebration of Disneyland’s 50th birthday.

“Camp allows kids to succeed,” explains Eisner. “You don’t fail at camp; you fit.” He calls the experience “a very American phenomenon.” He does concede that he went to camp at a time “that was less cynical.” He said, “We talk a lot at the Disney company about: Are kids still kids?” He thinks they are: “Kids today have the same fears and anxieties as kids 300 years ago.”

We might add that Eisner’s book is published by Warner, not Hyperion, the Disney-owned company. When I asked Eisner why, he replied, “That would be vanity. As a journalist, you’d murder me if I had my own house publish this.” By the way, Random House published his prior book.

Camp bonding lasts a lifetime

Brent Glass, director of the Smithsonian’s American History Museum, said Eisner’s book triggered many of his own camp memories. Detroit Pistons coach and Olympic athlete Larry Brown was his counselor for several summers at Camp Keeyumah in the Poconos and they have remained friends to this day – 45 years later. “Camp was a bonding experience,” Glass said. “It was more than athletics; it was an extended family.”

… And the wit of Mickey

The Smithsonian reception looked like a combination of camp and Disney. When I asked one bartender how he felt wearing Mickey Mouse ears, he was quick to reply, “It’s better than punching a computer.”

Dittus nabs Squitieri

Short takes: The award-winning reporter who resigned from USA Today under pressure, Tom Squitieri, has turned his talents to public affairs, where he’ll be a tremendous asset to Dittus Communications. … Ivan Selin – he’s the founding chairman of the American Art Museum and founder of American Management Systems – and his wife, Nina, were back in town from Miami to celebrate their 48th anniversary last week and are looking forward to an adventure in Libya in the fall. … Publishers Bill and Renay Regardie celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with friends at Teatro Goldoni Saturday evening.

A new kind of “reality” TV

Call it showbiz! Hollywood rebel Sean Penn went to Iran playing the role of a photojournalist covering the elections for his pal, Phil Bronstein, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle (and executive editor of the San Francisco Examiner under its former owners), but perhaps best known as Sharon Stone’s ex, when his camera was confiscated on Sunday.

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