- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2009

While Washington socialites and music-loving politicos packed the Kennedy Center in their best black tie Saturday night for the Washington National Opera’s performance of Gioacchino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” opening the 54th season, thousands of average Joes in jeans and sweatshirts filed into Nationals Park for a free simulcast of the show, thanks to a special partnership between the WNO and the Washington Nationals.

“None of you at the stadium ever get to see me in a tux, and the people here at the Kennedy Center never see me at all,” quipped Nationals President Stan Kasten in his opening remarks before the curtain opened in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Among the 19,000 in the stadium, noshing on corn dogs and greasy fries, were about 5,000 military personnel and their families, who had been invited by the WNO.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who was on the event’s host committee, told G2 he was delighted to help bring one of his favorite performing arts to people who serve the country.

“Military people aren’t just interested in country music,” he explained, adding that he became an opera lover in his 20s after seeing Georges Bizet’s “Carmen.” “I like the lighter operas. I don’t really like Wagner or those operas of an interminable length.”

Mr. Chertoff and his wife, Meryl, attended the performance and dinner gala with Mr. Chertoff’s longtime buddy from New Jersey, Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., also a well-known arts supporter.

We bumped into yet another “Supreme” at the Kennedy Center when we spotted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who came with her hubby, Martin.

Justice Ginsburg, with her signature slicked-back chignon, wore tiny black wrist-length gloves and explained, “I normally go to the dress rehearsals” but had to settle for the real thing this time.

Evidently she and her new gal pal on the high court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, are getting along famously. They would have made it a ladies’ night out at the opera, but Justice Sotomayor “had a wedding in New York,” Justice Ginsburg said.

Since arriving at her new gig, Justice Sotomayor has been leaning on her fellow female Supreme for fashion advice.

Justice Ginsburg gave Justice Sotomayor a white collar, traditionally worn by female members of the Supreme Court, as a token of friendship for her recent swearing in but told us the newcomer will have trouble finding black robes. “The robes we wear are not made for women, and you can’t find them in the United States, so Sonia asked me where I got mine. I told her I had mine made in Paris, and she could also find one in London.”

Hmmm. No “made in the U.S.A.” robes for the ladies? What are the labor leaders going to think about this?

Also spotted at the Kennedy Center: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, former Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson and the chief of protocol during the Reagan administration, Lucky Roosevelt.

Protest with style

While the cultured set took in the melodies of Rossini, thousands of angry demonstrators took to Pennsylvania Avenue earlier Saturday to voice their opposition to government-run health care and federal spending.

Controversial celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, known for his liberal leanings, weighed in on the protest while in town Saturday night for his new tour, “Perez Hilton Presents,” featuring rock and dance acts at the 9:30 Club.

Our source at the club filled us in from the dance floor. “He told the crowd that he loves being in D.C. - and was happy to see people express themselves at yesterday’s rally, even if he didn’t agree with them. He went on to say that he thinks all legal Americans should have access to health care, and no one should have to go bankrupt paying for medical care.”

As G2 reported last month, some conservative groups were considering a boycott of retailer the Gap for its sponsorship of Mr. Hilton’s new fashion Web site, cocoperez.com, but Mr. Hilton did not seem to be quivering in his boots.

“I hope they come see the talented artists I’ve put together when ‘Perez Hilton Presents’ comes to a town near them,” he said.

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

• Stephanie Green and Elizabeth Glover can be reached at undercover@washingtontimes.com.

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