By Betsy Rothstein - 11/03/08 06:16 PM EST
To know him is to love him — and, well, sometimes fear him.
ITK shudders to imagine what life will be like without U.S. Capitol Police Officer Garland Thompson scolding staffers, journalists and tourists as they illegally cross the street from the corner of C and 1st streets SE on Capitol Hill.
Thompson, ITK has learned, is being forced into retirement at the age of 57.
In the spring of this year, the most popular policeman on the Hill told a senior GOP aide he wasn’t ready to retire. But Capitol Police guidelines say he must retire whether he’s ready or not. He has been a Capitol Police officer for the past 35 years.
Capitol Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Kimberly Schneider would confirm only that the Capitol Police Retirement Act states that the official retirement age is 57.
Just outside the Cannon House Office Building and half a block from the Capitol South Metro, Thompson, the cop with the thatch of bright white hair, has stood for years, at times startling people with his thundering bark.
He has always run a tight ship, strictly enforcing the walk/don’t walk signs — as opposed to other officers who let people slide on those rules.
Love him or fear him, many aides expressed dismay over his impending departure.
“Officer Thompson is a legend on Capitol Hill, a welcome fixture at 1st and C streets,” said Paul Teller, deputy director of the House Republican Study Committee, chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). “His respect for the rule of law and for the people on the Capitol campus are unsurpassed anywhere in town. I hope he somehow can be allowed to stay, if he wants to, but if not, I know I will personally miss him and will continue to wait for the walk signs at that corner!”
In 1998, former Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. (D-Ohio), now in prison on racketeering charges, introduced legislation to raise the mandatory retirement age for U.S. Capitol Police officers from 57 to 60. It did not pass.
Obama Girl’s big night
If Tuesday night’s election goes the way polls are predicting, not only do we have four years of President Barack Obama ahead of us, we have four more years of Obama Girl.
No wonder she’s throwing a big election night party.
Amber Lee Ettinger, who became famous writhing around in tight clothes while lip-syncing “I got a crush on Obama,” is hosting the party at Haven in New York, in case anyone is up for a road trip.
If that’s too far, but you still want to celebrate election night out of town, consider the University of Delaware. The college sent out a release touting the campus’s designation by another news organization as the “epicenter of this year’s presidential election.”
(The school is Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden’s alma mater. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt are alumni, too.) If you attend, you might end the night crushing beer cans on your head. More than 500 college students are expected to watch the returns together in the student center.
Viva Chuck Todd creator moves craze onto Viva Rachel Maddow
Paul Chamberlain, a 40-year-old public relations executive out of San Diego who runs Cerebral Itch, wants to make one thing clear: He’s not a creepy stalker of obscure political journalists, but he believes putting “Viva” before just about anything is funny.
Maybe he’s onto something. A year ago he launched Viva Chuck Todd, a fan site for Chuck Todd, NBC News political director. Much to Chamberlain’s shock, the site, which remarks on Todd TV sightings, Todd’s wardrobe, Todd’s intelligence and Todd’s amber goatee — should it stay or go — took off.
Even Todd’s 80-something grandmother wrote to say she liked the site. Once he confirmed it was really her (she sent documentation of her family tree) Chamberlain began allowing her to answer questions from fans.
Whether Todd will replace the late Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press” remains a mystery. “What I’m hoping for is whatever Chuck wants,” says Chamberlain. “This is a really sensitive subject to him. He gets really uncomfortable when people press that issue.”
Chamberlain doesn’t know Todd. He met him at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and spoke with him for five minutes. Todd was humble but asked that he keep the site “positive.” The creator explains his fixation: “Some people collect stamps. I brand things. I thought to myself, ‘If I can brand Chuck Todd, then I can brand anything.’ ”
Anything? Well, then, how about Rachel Maddow? About a month ago he launched a spin-off, Viva Rachel Maddow, which he hopes will make a similar imprint.
Chamberlain also met Maddow in Denver and handed her a “Chuckolite” pin after her colleague, Todd. “She was beyond warm and hilarious,” he said. “She gave me a big hug.”
Maddow’s new MSNBC show, “The Rachel Maddow Show,” is receiving high ratings. And Viva Rachel Maddow? While its fate is undetermined, Chamberlain says the new site is doing well.
Todd had no comment on his fan site. At a party at the Republican National Convention, he declined to comment, saying it would complicate matters at the network. The network had no comment by press time on Viva Rachel Maddow.
New local chef possible contender for Obama’s White House
Art Smith arrived in the Washington food scene two months ago, but already there’s buzz that he could land the promotion of a lifetime: Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) White House chef.
Smith, best known as the personal chef for Oprah Winfrey and former Democratic Sen. Bob Graham when he was Florida’s governor, recently opened Art and Soul, a Southern-inspired restaurant on Capitol Hill.
Smith’s 10-year stint with Winfrey allowed him to get to know another prominent Chicago figure: Obama and his family. Smith’s 2007 cookbook Back to the Family even features candid photographs of potential first lady Michelle Obama with possible first daughters Malia and Natasha.
About an appointment to the White House kitchen, Smith told New York magazine in July, “Anybody would be honored if they were asked; I’m just very happy to know that I know him.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and “The Bachelor” star Andrew Firestone have already stopped in to try Smith’s fare, which includes cornmeal “hoecake” pizzas, fried chicken and tomato pie.
Smith may have an edge since the Obamas are his neighbors. “They are my neighbors here in Kenwood-Hyde Park, a beautiful Historic Chicago neighborhood,” he said.
“The [photography for the] book was shot in my home, yard and the neighborhood. We have family neighborhood pizza parties at my house, being as I have the only outdoor wood-fire pizza oven in the area.”