- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

Viagra jokes, chocolate cigars, the Nanny and Miss America came together to feast and celebrate Wednesday night when the Washington Press Club Foundation hosted its 62nd annual Congressional Dinner.

It was the same night as the Grammys, so naturally we wanted to know who would win Best New Performer in Washington.

“John McCan,” television tlk-show host John McLaughlin

said. “He’s been reborn.”

“I love Arle Specter,” squeaked actress and comedian Fran Drescher, looking svelte and gorgeous in black.

For Best Duet? “rack Obama and McCain,” offered “Sopranos” star Joe Pantoliano, who showed up at the Ritz-Carlton to support the Creative Coalition, which co-hosted a chichiW “after party” with Congressional Quarterly in a private room.

For Best Record? “That’s easy,” the actor said. “Jack Abramoff. “He’s the criminal record of the year.”

The night began with cocktails and buzz, with male reporters and their sources trying to meet tiny strapless dress. The beauty queen gamely posed with men of all ages: a one-woman photo booth. Her smile was perfect, helped along by smearing a little Vaseline over the teeth so the lip gloss didn’t stick.? this trick is yesterday’s news, but did Berry specifically verify this?cw

Miss Berry said she would have watched the Samuel A. Alito Jr. confirmation hearings except that she was too busy with the pageant.

Guests included Sens. Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham and George Allen; Rep. Charles Rangel; Interior Secretary Gale Norton; Democratic Party doyenne Esther Coopersmith; “Hardball” producer Tammy Haddad; former Public Broadcasting Service President and CEO Pat Mitchell; actor Ron Silver; and NBC’s Andrea Mitchelle now that her husband Alan Greenspan has retired as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, she said, “I don’t know. I haven’t seen him at all for the past week.”

Spotted at The Washington Times’ table were Rep. Tom Davishis preference per his congressional Web site and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Longtime Washington Post reporter Helen Dewar received the group’s Lifetime Achievement Award but was unable to attend because of illness. There also was a moment of silence in honor of New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum, who was killed last month during a robbery.

Over beef short ribs and pan-seared sea bass, guests toasted 2005 Worth Bingham Prize winners Susan Schmidt, James V. Grimaldi and R. Jeffrey Smith for their Washington Post series on the Abramoff scandal.

There also was much talk of the anti-Muslim cartoons that have sparked international violence.

“I believe in freedom of the press,” Mr. Hatch observed, “but we ought to be a little more tolerant.”

“The ones I’ve seen have been in poor taste,” added Mr. Specter, who nevertheless went on to include a few tasteless Viagra jokes in his remarks. (Oh, well, he can always blame his speechwriter.)

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