By Betsy Rothstein - 12/05/08 05:38 PM EST
Even members of Congress get star-struck.
Unlike Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who hung up on President-elect Obama last week before being told it really was him, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) needed only 11 minutes from the time he received a message from Obama to return the call.
On Tuesday afternoon, Obama called the Homeland Security Committee’s ranking Republican on his cell phone at 4:53 p.m. King assumed it was his old roommate from Notre Dame.
“He actually pronounced ‘Barack Obama’ very slowly,” King said, marveling over the message that he jokes he will save “to show that I have some posterity in Washington.”
The message? “He said he was just touching base, that he wanted to work closely with me and wanted to discuss homeland security. ‘No rush to get back to me, but if you could … ,’ ” King said, recalling Obama’s message.
King was in the Lord & Taylor’s toy department in Manhattan. The congressman and his wife traditionally take their grandson to see holiday window displays, but wound up in the toy department because the Incredible Hulk was stopping by.
“I can’t be calling from the toy department at Lord & Taylor while the Incredible Hulk is running around,” said King.
So the congressman stepped outside and noticed a police car and thought it the optimal place to return the call. The cops eyed him, he said, like, “This guy is a lunatic. Oh yeah — Barack Obama.”
After King showed his “unimpressive” congressional ID, they let him use the car. Obama didn’t pick up.
The pair arranged to talk the following day at 3 p.m. Obama, known for being early, phoned King at noon.
This time, the congressman was at a funeral.
“Are you available for the president-elect?” a male voice asked.
Thankfully, the service hadn’t begun. King raced outside to the car and happily took the call, from a man he had spoken to just once in 2004 for two minutes while Obama walked down a Capitol Hill hallway with Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.).
“I am one of these people who thinks it’s a great honor to talk to the president of the United States,” he said. “You’ll never find me saying, ‘I’m tired of going to the White House.’ ”
King has received other memorable calls from presidents.
President Bush once phoned from the site of Hurricane Katrina. “King, I got some of your firefighters down here,” Bush said. And President Clinton called from Jerusalem, shortly before the House impeachment of Clinton.
For now, King has just one call on his mind: “I would say the excitement level came when I got the voice message. I really give him credit for reaching out. He certainly didn’t have to reach out to me.”
During the call, King told Obama, “I’m sure what differences you and I have will be differences of degree.”
Obama replied, “I appreciate that, and we all have children and we all want to live in a peaceful world.”
King gushed, semi-jokingly, “This is it [for me] for the next four or eight years.”
Sighting: Sen.-elect Warner spotted at Zabar’s E.A.T. in Manhattan
Sen.-elect Mark Warner (D-Va.) was spotted last Saturday with his family at the trendy, somewhat overpriced gourmet lunch spot E.A.T. on Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The fare is not cheap — a turkey club costs $24 and a grilled cheese sandwich goes for $14.50.
No one recognized him, an ITK spy informed, and no fellow diners approached. He was holding court with doting family members, who were “hanging on his every word.” The ITK source on the scene pointed the newly elected senator (and former Virginia governor) out to two friends from New Jersey who “were not the least bit interested.”
Kevin Hall, Warner’s spokesman, said Warner family tradition is to go to Manhattan the weekend after Thanksgiving to take in a few plays and museum visits. “It was a family trip. All three of his daughters were there and his wife, Lisa Collis,” he said.
As for Warner’s apparently low profile on the Upper East Side, Hall remarked, “I don’t think he thinks about things like that.”
Tim Gunn horrified by female pages being made to dress like men
“Project Runway” mentor Tim Gunn is aghast. At aspects of Washington, D.C., fashion, yes — but also at the state of civil rights for America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens.
Gunn is scheduled to host a holiday party fundraiser Friday in Washington for Out for Work, a nonprofit that helps LGBT college students transition to the workplace. Though Gunn heaped praise on the Obama family’s fashion style and called the president-elect’s victory “thrilling,” he sees molasses-slow progress on gay rights issues.
The country’s inaction on protecting LGBT employees from work discrimination, coupled with California’s recent victory on the ballot proposition to overturn gay marriage, “sounds like you’re talking about a different century,” he told ITK from his Liz Claiborne office in New York. Gunn is the clothing company’s chief creative officer.
“I try not to think of it, not to be an ostrich about it … because the repugnancy of it makes me want to throw myself in front of a taxi,” he said.
Gunn finds something else repugnant: the blue blazers and gray slacks congressional pages are forced to wear.
Gunn recalled his last visit to Capitol Hill a year ago, when he lobbied for design piracy prohibition legislation.
One of the female congressional pages approached him and asked if he liked what she was wearing. She then led him down a corridor where several other female pages had gathered.
“I just looked at them, and I said with incredulity, because I was incredulous, ‘You’re wearing men’s clothes!’ ” he said.
Apart from that congressional fashion horror, Gunn said he’s seen way too many people on Capitol Hill wearing clothes that are too big for them, shirts that are too long and prints that don’t flatter body shapes.
People on the Hill need to pay more attention to the silhouette, proportion and fit of their clothes, he said.
One Hill denizen who gets a pass is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been known to wear Chanel.
“I love her look,” Gunn said. “She is certainly the Speaker of the House. She has that leadership mantle, and she has femininity. I mean, she wears skirts, she wears dresses.”
Gunn also loves incoming first lady Michelle Obama’s style, though he lamented the red-and-black Narciso Rodriguez dress she wore on election night.
Gunn said he originally tried to take a positive spin on the sunburst patterned frock she wore, justifying it as “a metaphor; it was meant to be like fireworks.”
But really, he said, “She’s looked better — let me just put it that way.”
Gunn has high hopes for the new style the Obamas will usher into Washington and what they can do about the official uniforms on Capitol Hill. “Those poor pages are emblematic of the fashion problem in Washington,” he said, “and the Obamas need to fix that.”
For more information on the holiday party-fundraiser Gunn will attend at the Northwest Washington bar Halo, visit www.outforwork.com .