Hollywood on the Potomac: The Gang’s All Here

by Editorial

Mark Russell basks in the limelight; Betsy Fischer’s fun, forty, and fabulous birthday bash; and the Canadians celebrate the Olympics.

By Janet Donovan


Irish Ambassador Michael Collins with Allison Russell celebrate after Mark Russell's opening at Ford's Theatre

Political satirist Mark Russell was billed by Ford’s Theatre as “One Man. One Piano. One Nation. Indivisible.” for his four-day February gig.

No politicians get left behind when Russell takes the stage: “What did one inmate say to another? We had better food when you were governor.”

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was in the audience yukking it up with good humor along with dozens of Russell loyalists, 16 of whom joined the comedian/pianist for a post-show dinner party across the street at Bistro d’Oc.

Conversation took a funny twist when guests were asked how they had met Mark.  Thereafter, the theme of the evening turned to the Carroll-Arms Hotel, part of a little nugget of Washington history that brings back lots of memories:

“I was young and came in from Detroit for a job and asked where a nearby hotel was and ended up there,” journalist Myra MacPherson said. “I was alone and pretty much in tears by then until I heard someone at the piano. It was Mark Russell and we have been friends ever since.”

Russell remembered the Carroll-Arms as a “flop house,” given the private Quorum Club established there by the notorious lobbyist Bobby Baker, an aide to Lyndon B. Johnson.  As Baker pointed out in his memoir, Wheeling and Dealing, “membership was comprised of senators, congressmen, lobbyists, Capitol Hill staffers, and other well-connecteds who wanted to enjoy their drinks, meals, poker games, and shared secrets in private accommodations.”

Enjoying the camaraderie: Irish Ambassador of Michael Collins, Barbara and John Cochran, The New York Times Marian Burros, and authors Molly and Jim Dickenson.

All wondered the same thing: How do you remember 90 minutes of non-stop commentary?  “I don’t recall,” quipped Mark.


Tricia Messerschmidt and Chris Plante at the Canadian Embassy Winter Olympics party.

Top administration staffers sure know how to stack up brownie points with the media; all they had to do was to show up for the “Betsy Fischer is Finally Forty!” party at the home of Susanna and Jack Quinn.

Seen mingling with Brett Baier, Wolf Blitzer, Andrea Mitchell, Ron Brownstein, Savanna Guthrie, Michael Isikoff, Mike Allen, and Evan Thomas were White House Advisor David Axelrod, communications director Dan Pfeiffer, deputy chief of staff to Rahm Emanuel Sarah Feinberg, and the First Lady’s chief of staff, Susan Sher.

Before the disco dancing and amid the schmoozing, Fischer was roasted and toasted by colleagues via video while billed as “Amy Fisher, the Long Island Lolita.” (As you can tell by the spelling of their surnames, there is no correlation between the gun-wielding Amy Fisher and Betsy Fischer.)

Hampered by the District’s crippling “Snowmageddon” meant moving the event to the Quinn’s house instead of Hilary Rosen’s.

The party was co-hosted by David Gregory and Beth Wilkinson, Jon Meacham, Greta Van Susteren and John Coale, Nicole and David Nason, Hilary Rosen, Mike Feldman, Carrie Stevenson, Tammy Haddad, and Ted Greenberg.

Fischer is, of course, executive producer of “Meet the Press with David Gregory.” Bet you didn’t know that they both are American University grads.

We’re not sure how you say “having a jolly good time” in Canadian, but Realtor Tricia Messerschmidt and radio talk show host Chris Plante were certainly having one at the party marking the opening of the Winter Olympics hosted by Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer. You didn’t have to speak French or know much about curling to party with the best of them.

Enthusiasm waned for the trampoline snowboard contest when guests noticed the over-the-top buffet with French fries smothered in cheese curd and brown gravy – Canadians call it poutine, we called it great carbs; multiple variations of pasta (some drenched in lobster); and barrels of Molson Coors beer.

Guests were treated to complimentary woolen mittens that were on sale at the Olympics for ten bucks a pair. The party crowd had to be over a thousand, so you do the math. Guests played the Wii Challenge, posed for photos and had to text each other to connect. Best take-home gift: the pedometers that Steve Clemons and Mike Mosettig used to log in the distance from the embassy to our cars. Every little bit helps.

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