- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2009

“I’m verklempt,” the usually unflappable Tim Gunn, co-host of Bravo’s “Project Runway” and fashion advice author, admitted to the graduating class of the Corcoran School of Art and Design during Saturday’s spring commencement at DAR Constitution Hall.

Lauded as a “great teacher” and “cultural icon” by Corcoran faculty, Mr. Gunn, a District native and Corcoran graduate with a bachelor of fine arts degree in sculpture, was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater. However, he explained to the crowd that he was too “pompous and bratty” to attend his graduation ceremony in 1976.

Mr. Gunn, the chief creative officer of fashion house Liz Claiborne, eschewed giving out style advice for a change. Instead, he admonished the graduates to have self-confidence, integrity and be “creative problem solvers” — key virtues he said he learned as a Corcoran student before leaving to have a long career as a dean at the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Before the ceremony, Green and Glover talked history with Mr. Gunn, nattily attired in a classic dark suit, silver tie, cuff links, and his ubiquitous eyeglasses. We learned he grew up in Washington (Cleveland Park, to be exact) as the son of George William Gunn, an FBI agent who worked under J. Edgar Hoover.

“Oh, I have a great Hoover story for you,” Mr. Gunn said, leaving us on the edge of our seats.

He explained that his father would often bring young Tim and his sister to the FBI for tours. One day, the family learned that Mr. Hoover was hosting Vivian Vance — who played Ethel Mertz on the iconic television sitcom “I Love Lucy” — in his private office,” and the Gunn clan was invited in to meet them.

“There was Vivian, but no Hoover. I later thought it would have been so funny if it turned out that it had been Hoover in drag, ” Mr. Gunn recounted with a laugh. (British journalist Anthony Summers, in his 1993 biography “Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover,” quoted society matron Susan Rosenstiel as saying she’s seen Mr. Hoover engaged in cross dressing on two occasions in the 1950s.)

Mr. Gunn then turned his attention to Isaac Mizrahi, his Liz Claiborne colleague who stepped in as the fashion designer for the company last year. Mr. Gunn says he has not seen Mr. Mizrahi’s new Bravo program, “The Fashion Show” — which some have suggested is a knockoff of “Project Runway.”

“I have been traveling, and they don’t have Bravo in my hotel rooms, but I give Isaac all the credit for the success at Liz Claiborne.”

Later, we caught up with Mr. Gunn’s equally stylish sister Kim, who was on hand to see her big bro get his degree. She told us she couldn’t remember the Hoover story. But not being able to resist a good-hearted jab at her sibling, said, “He remembers things much better than I do. He is three years older than me — and you can quote me on that.”

Date night

Spotted at the Saturday-night showing of “State of Play,” the District-based thriller about a journalist’s friendship with a congressman and the mysterious death of the congressman’s mistress, was none other that journo Andrea Mitchell, NBC News correspondent, and her hubby Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve.

The couple was holding hands and cuddling like high school sweethearts. Afterward, Ms. Mitchell told us she thought the film was fantastic. She also added a hearty “hooray for newspapers,” referring to the fact that the journalists in the film — portrayed by Oscar winner Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams — work in print, not broadcast journalism.

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

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