Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) stayed up late Monday night at a Kennedy Center gala in honor of former President George H.W. Bush, but she said her aching feet and a late bedtime were well worth it for “a real Mainer.”

ITK spotted Collins talking to friend
Margi Arquit (shown here) at an after-party, where the senator seemed unaware that raunchy rapper T-Pain’s anthem “Shorty Got Low” was blaring on the speakers. Collins later admitted that Garth Brooks is more her style.

“I’m a Garth Brooks fan,” she said of the iconic country crooner, “and his finale tonight was musically a highpoint of the evening. What he sang just summed up why we are all here so well,” she gushed. Brooks sang “Lean on Me” and “America the Beautiful” to close the two-hour star-studded tribute to Bush and volunteerism.

As much as she liked Garth, however, Collins saved her highest praise for former President Bill Clinton.

“I thought president Clinton’s tribute was very moving, and a wonderful symbol of how the country can reach across party lines and work together.” Collins has been known to reach across party lines herself, most recently in a successful bid to repeal Clinton’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Clinton spoke of how close he had grown to his predecessor and former rival since leaving office, joking that he’d virtually become an honorary member of the Bush family. “Barbara Bush calls me the family’s black sheep,” he said with a grin.

But perhaps Bush’s son, Neil Bush, put it best. “[Bill Clinton] is our brother from another mother,” he said to raucous laughter.  “That was my favorite line of the night,” Collins chuckled.

The senator said she had made the trip from Maine for the event, and she was heading back early in the morning.

But who could leave a party without posing for a photo with legendary basketball star Dikembe Mutombo? Certainly not Collins. In what may have been the best visual of the night, the petite senator and the 7’2” Mutombo chatted, took a photo, and exchanged business cards. “He’s very nice,” Collins said.