- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2005

Tupac’s records

“I have to think you can do something with this,” says one senior aide on Capitol Hill, handing Inside the Beltway a copy of H.R. 4210 titled “To provide for the expeditious disclosure of records relevant to the life and death of Tupac Amaru Shakur,” and sponsored by Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, Georgia Democrat.

The congresswoman introduced the measure this week, without co-sponsors. It’s since been referred to the Committee on Government Reform and Committee on Rules, for a period to be subsequently determined by the House speaker.

Mr. Shakur was a leading figure of “gangsta rap,” making references to cop killing and sexual violence. He had a brief movie career, co-starring with Janet Jackson in “Poetic Justice” in 1993.

But as one biography points out, law confrontations “were soon to come; a 15-day jail term in 1994 for assault and battery, and in 1995 a conviction for sexual assault of a female fan. He was released after serving eight months pending an appeal.”

In 1996, he was hit by four bullets while riding in a car in Las Vegas driven by Death Row Records Chief Executive Marion “Suge” Knight. He died after six days in a medical coma at the age of 25.

Farewell, ‘Phryne’

Remember “Phryne,” the shapely courtesan who hung in the National Press Club (NPC) for more than 50 years?

We wrote before that “Silver Owls,” as aging newspapermen of the club are affectionately called, had been feasting their eyes on “Phryne” — a classic nude painting — for decades. But then a politically correct breed of “journalist” arrived in the nation’s capital, and it wasn’t long before they declared “Phryne” “inappropriate” for viewing.

“In many ways, she has become the Confederate flag of the National Press Club,” former club President Richard Sammon had told Inside the Beltway. “The older members of the club … find that the painting is a connection to the past, an identity marker for the club through the years. The painting harks back to a time at the press club when the only woman in the club was a naked one hanging on a wall.” (Women were first allowed to join the NPC in 1971.)

For 15 years, complaints about “Phryne” persisted, finally coming to boil in 1998 during a raucous meeting of the club’s board. In a 9-1 decision, the club’s board of governors voted to expel “Phryne” from the club, even though she’d been a member longer than anybody in the room.

“I pointed out that no matter how you flush it, it’s censorship,” said David K. Martin, the lone board member who voted to save the elegant lady. “No one agreed with me.”

Next came the question of disposition. First, the Silver Owls had their grand dame appraised, and were they ever surprised at her value: easily six figures on the auction block. The Brazilian ambassador let it be known that he was eager to get his hands on the stunning nude, with hopes of hanging her in his official Washington residence. The famous Brazilian artist Antonio Parreiras, he knew, painted “Phryne.”

Don Larrabee, a Silver Owl and club president in 1973, was fearful that once “Phryne” was out of sight, she might be taken from the country, never to return. So instead of losing their lady, he helped to find “Phryne” temporary sanctuary at the prestigious Metropolitan Club of Washington, where for the past five years members have provided her safe haven, full insurance and numerous toasts.

Now, Mr. Larrabee, a retired newspaperman from Maine, told us yesterday that “Phryne” is going on the auction block — sold to the highest bidder at an auction at 5 p.m. Sunday at Sloans and Kenyon in Bethesda.

“We’re shooting for $100,000 and up,” he says, adding that a large sum of the proceeds will go toward the creation of an archive at the press club. “It desperately needs one. There’s nothing there that resembles a real archive. Despite the fact that they rejected our painting, we’ll give it back to them.”

As for having to say goodbye to “Phryne” after such a long courtship?

“Well, what I really want is a reproduction of ‘Phryne’ in the archive,” Mr. Larrabee says.

Alpha Beta

If we run out of names for a squall

And we cannot accommodate all

Of the hurricanes heeded

When the season’s completed,

Then the alphabet’s clearly too small.

— F.R. Duplantier

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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