- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

“Step into my office,” said NBA great Shaquille O’Neal, whose long arms draped a sofa backstage at the Verizon Center, where the gentle giant — clad in a black shirt with monogrammed cuffs, black trousers and oxford shoes - greeted reporters before his gig as celebrity host of World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Monday Night Raw.”

Usually upbeat, the superstar athlete was rather melancholy because he had done something over the weekend in Washington that he doesn’t relish — losing.

He told us he bet a friend “1,000 push-ups” that he could find his way into the White House to see President Obama in the Oval Office. The conditions were that he could not show his identification or use any inside connections.

“I have a couple of friends who work for the Secret Service,” Mr. O’Neal intimated.

But no dice. The 7-footer galloped up to the White House gates, but the security guards would not Open Sesame.

“They would not let me in,” he told us with puppy-dog eyes.

So, Mr. O’Neal is serving his penance by doing a few hundred push-ups here and there.

Things are looking up, though. Last night he indulged in one of his passions “since I was a young boy,” he notes: wrestling.

In fact, Mr. O’Neal tells us he can’t think of a single sport in which he isn’t prolific.

Including the game of love.

Mr. O’Neal has been married to Shaunie since 2002, and they have four children together.

Mrs. O’Neal, however, was recently in a minor car accident in Florida.

“She’s doing fine,” Mr. O’Neal said with eyes beaming as he showed off his stunning size 15 wedding band, replete with huge glistening diamonds.

Mr. O further explained that he’s also an ace at the game of politics.

When asked how he trends politically, he told us he has supported both parties but added, “I always vote for the winner.”

Love on the rocks

They say travel takes its toll on a relationship.

That seems to be the case for Fox News hottie Ainsley Earhardt, best known for jetting around finding stories for her segment “Ainsley Across America” on “Hannity’s America” on Fox News.

The 30-something blue-eyed blonde joined Fox News in 2007 shortly after marrying Kevin McKinney in 2005. A source tells us the couple has decided to separate in part because of the demands of her rapidly rising career.

“We don’t comment on the personal lives of our talent,” a Fox rep told G2.

Our e-mail to Ms. Earhardt to get her side of the story was not returned.

The Real world

Here’s some dirt to kick around. Green & Glover has learned that the Sofitel in downtown Washington will be the official hotel for the Real Madrid world tour when it stops in the city for an Aug. 9 game against D.C. United at FedEx Field in Landover.

Real Madrid is considered one of the world’s greatest soccer teams. This year, it has bolstered its roster by paying big bucks to sign Cristiano Renaldo and Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, also known by his nickname, Kaka. Mr. Renaldo reportedly is receiving $18.5 million per year during his six-year contract. Kaka is under contract to play for six years for more than $90 million.

By participating in friendly matches around the world, Real Madrid hopes to connect with its international fan base. Because those games are not part of the regular season, players often are able to be more social than they otherwise might be.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see Mr. Renaldo, who is considered a playboy and has been linked to celebrity heiress Paris Hilton, out on the town during his visit.

To contact Stephanie Green or Elizabeth Glover, e-mail [email protected]

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