- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oui! Oui!

The guests at the Choral Arts Society’s annual Holiday Concert and Benefit got an unexpected lesson in French Monday night at the Kennedy Center, thanks to the French Embassy’s cultural attache, Roland Celette.

Every year, the society selects a different ambassador to be its honorary patron, and this time the honor fell on French Ambassador and man about town Pierre Vimont, who apparently sent Mr. Celette out to do the dirty work.

When it came time for the choir to perform the Franz Gruber mainstay “Silent Night,” Mr. Celette appeared onstage, sheet music in hand, to instruct the attendees, including former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and a group of wounded soldiers to whom the concert was dedicated, on how to sing the first verse of the song in French, bien sur!

His sternest admonition was to look out for those tricky words ending in a “t,” like “Vimont” - the “t” is silent.

He gave his new pupils at the concert a grade of “very good” on their first day of school.

Mr. Celette, who was joined at the concert’s dinner gala by his colleague Vyacheslav Moshkalo from the Russian embassy, explained to us over the phone that the key to learning French is “to start slow with a good teacher. If you pick up bad habits early, you will have them forever.”

While Mr. Celette put partyers in a Continental mood, good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll brought everyone down to earth with help from Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. Mr. Baxter, a former guitarist for Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, was the entertainment for the after-party.

Colbert bailout

Tuesday, we reported that model Hilary Rhoda has no qualms posing for Sports Illustrated. Well, it seems television personality Stephen Colbert, known for his satirical expostulations on politics, does not mind being objectified, either, because he’s the cover boy for the athletic glossy in a speed-skating skin suit.

According to a press release put out by SI, Mr. Colbert, born in Washington and the 2006 entertainment at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, is gracing the magazine’s Year in Sports Media issue, which “recaps all the highlights and lowlights of 2009, a year in which the host of the eponymous ‘Colbert Report’ takes the cake for simultaneously rescuing U.S. Speedskating and injecting it with an unprecedented level of national interest.”

The mag credits Mr. Colbert with saving the U.S. Winter Olympics program “from a $300,000 budgetary shortfall on the eve of the 2010 Winter Games” and in the process showing “how sublimely funny the sports-entertainment crossover can be.”

But Mr. C maintains that his love of speed skating is no laughing matter. “There’s nothing comedic about speed skating,” he says. “These are incredible athletes. And right now, we’re here for speed skating.”

The issue is on newstands today.

Spied

D.C. society magazine Capitol File celebrated the release of its holiday issue with a party at the majestic Mayflower Hotel on Monday night. In addition to cover girl Hilary Rhoda and Rep. Kendrick Meek, Florida Democrat, NBC correspondent Luke Russert and CNN’s Jessica Yellin also were spotted at the bash.

Spell check

We don’t envy the poor soul at the White House who’s responsible for a mistake in the spelling of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s last name in a press release issued by the Office of the Press Secretary on Monday. In a statement providing background on President Obama’s meeting with financial services industry members, Mr. Emanuel’s name was erroneously spelled with a double “m.”

Contacted for comment on the error, White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton pleaded, “Please just don’t tell Rahm.”

Soon after, Mr. Burton helpfully followed up to point out that yours truly, G2, had made the same spelling error in a column earlier this year.

Ouch.

For good measure, “here’s a quick dozen examples of your paper doing it,” he added, followed by a list of, um, 10 examples.

So - what? - they can’t count over there either?

Seriously, we are duly chagrined to be caught out throwing stones from our own glass house and promise to do better in the future.

But Bill, as you surely know - two Rahms don’t make a right.

To contact Stephanie Green or Elizabeth Glover, e-mail undercover@ washingtontimes.com.

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