- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2009

Renaissance men

We got a little slice of Italy Tuesday night as Italian Ambassador to the United States Giovanni Castellaneta hosted a reception for the Trust for the National Mall, a partner organization of the National Park Service that raises funds to maintain “America’s front yard,” the famous green lawn between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

Although Frenchman Pierre Charles L’Enfant is credited with the planning of the Mall and much of the District, Mr. Castellaneta was quick to point out the myriad Roman architectural influences on the Mall as he addressed the crowd on the patio of his residence, Villa Firenze, one of the District’s grandest ambassadorial homes.

We asked our host if he ever ventures out to try one of Washington’s many Italian restaurants. He replied that he has his own chef at the residence.

Probably better than Two Amy’s anyway.

Mr. Castellaneta was not the only Italian in the house. We caught up with Giuseppe Cecchi, one of the original developers of the iconic Watergate complex, who regaled us with tales about people trying to cash in on the historic site’s infamy.

Mr. Cecchi says he sold Watergate carpet to someone who wanted to cut it up in pieces and peddle it. Watergate towels were frequently lifted from the hotel by history buffs. For those who wanted to toast the complex, “Watergate Whiskey” was sold in the nearby convenience store.

We wonder if Mr. Cecchi got any of the royalties. After all, he got stiffed by the Democratic National Committee, the target of the famous break-in, because the DNC was behind in their rent at the time of the scandal, he intimated.

Singin’ for Sojourner

Grammy-nominated tunesmith Denise Rich is the co-writer of “Nothing but the Truth,” the anthem performed by gospel singer Yolanda Adams at the unveiling of the bust of Sojourner Truth at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.

Mrs. Rich, the ex-wife of former fugitive Marc Rich - the beneficiary of a controversial pardon by President Clinton in 2001 - told G2 that she and her co-writers chose a strange method for their collaboration, the conference call, because many of the participants were on opposite coasts.

She explained that, although she was not familiar with Mrs. Truth’s life and work, she tapped into her “strength of character” through the process of writing the song.

A longtime Democratic Party activist and fundraiser, Mrs. Rich says she is not quite as active in politics as before due to her hectic songwriting schedule but is “very excited” about her old friend Terry McAuliffe’s run for Virginia governor.

“He’s very charismatic,” she says.

To contact Stephanie Green and Elizabeth Glover with a tip or to request event coverage, please e-mail undercover@washingtontimes.com.

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