- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

Newt’s campaign

The Gingrich Foundation has just made a monetary gift to establish the Newt and Callista Gingrich Scholarship at Luther College in Iowa.

The endowment of $25,000 will provide annual scholarships at the college, which is the alma mater of Mrs. Gingrich, who is chief clerk of the House Agriculture Committee.

Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, reportedly has his eyes on the White House in 2008 — reachable after first passing through Iowa.

Hard to beat

Restaurateurs in Washington enjoy boasting about VIPs whoshow up at their establishments — Bill Clinton, Bob Dole or Jack Valenti, for instance.

Mel Oursinsiri, proprietor of Bangkok Joe’s Dumpling Bar & Cafe, thinks he has everybody beat. He says “the most beautiful woman in the universe — literally” dined at his Georgetown restaurant the other night.

Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova, 23, of Toronto, dropped into the popular Thai cafe with four friends she was visiting here. (For those who care, they sipped mango margaritas and ate crab shumai.)

Miss Glebova was crowned Miss Universe during a May pageant in Bangkok.

And yes, first daughter Jenna Bush also has dined at Bangkok Joe’s this year, but where hasn’t she shown up?

Woman who cooks

After decades of men doing the baking in the White House, first lady Laura Bush has named Cristeta “Cris” Comerford as the new White House executive chef — the first woman to serve in the position.

Trained in French classical techniques and specializing in ethnic and American cuisine, Chef Comerford has worked as an assistant chef at the White House since President Clinton’s days. She’s now responsible for executing menus for state dinners, official luncheons and receptions hosted by President Bush and his wife.

“Her passion for cooking can be tasted in every bite of her delicious creations,” Mrs. Bush states.

The chef, who received a bachelor’s degree in food technology from the University of the Philippines, previously was found behind stoves at two Washington hotels — Le Grande Bistro at the Westin and the Colonnade at the former ANA Hotel.

Works for Winnie

That was James Roosevelt Jr., grandson of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, showing up at the Roosevelt Memorial over the weekend to read from the speech his grandfather gave when he signed the Social Security Act into law 70 years ago yesterday.

Also paying respects were Bill Halter, former acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration under President Clinton, and 97-year-old Winnie Pineo of Vermont, an activist in the 1930s who fought to pass the act. Today, Winnie still lives on a farm in Vermont, surviving almost solely on Social Security.

Frank’s busboy

There was much response to our Lake Tahoe “Cal Neva Lodge” item from last week and rumors that John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy — in the company of Frank Sinatra and crime boss Sam Giancana — carried on trysts with Marilyn Monroe, as she suggested in tape recordings made public last week.

John Jekabson, of Oakland, Calif., tells Inside the Beltway that he worked at the Cal Neva during the summer of 1962, the year in question.

“There are a lot of myths and tall stories about that time and place,” he writes. “At that time, I was a 21-year-old college student making money during the summer as a busboy. I worked the graveyard shift — 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.”

As we’d written after our visit beneath the lodge last week, Mr. Jekabson recalls “extensive tunnels under the club,” but he says they were mainly used to carry food and supplies — not to shuffle VIP guests of Sinatra and Giancana undetected between the club and its cabins.

“They were old and dank, and certainly not the least bit romantic. I never encountered any ‘unauthorized person’ down there,” Mr. Jekabson said.

As for Giancana, a silent partner of Sinatra’s at the lodge, “I remember him as dressed in a golf outfit, with white loafers and a pink shirt, always walking with a group, and seeming oblivious to the people that worked there,” he says. “We were distinctly told never to talk to him or approach him without first being asked.

“Sinatra was there and would sometimes saunter through the kitchen area, but always in a group. The other people that I remember were Lena Horne, Eddie Fisher, Joey Bishop, Joe E. Brown (who had just been in Marilyn’s film ‘Some Like It Hot’), a comic by the name of Soupy Sales, whose schtick was to throw pies in people’s faces … .

“No mention, or glimpse, was ever made of … the Kennedy brothers. I think someone on the staff would have leaked to the rest of us if the president of the United States, the attorney general of the United States and Hollywood’s top glamour star were there,” Mr. Jekabson says.

As for any hanky-panky, one early morning at 3 a.m. the busboy answered a “room service” call from Sinatra, placed from one of the showgirl’s cabins.

“But none of this was through any secret tunnel,” he insists. “And I didn’t even get a tip, as all he said was ‘leave it outside the door.’”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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