For sale: Kennedy manse with good views, bad vibes

The nation’s housing market may be slowing down, but you wouldn’t know it if you were thinking of buying one of the Washington area’s premier trophy residences.

The nation’s housing market may be slowing down, but you wouldn’t know it if you were thinking of buying one of the Washington area’s premier trophy residences.

That’s because the palatial home that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) built in 1968 on a six-acre site overlooking the Potomac River in McLean, Va., and sold for just under $6 million in 1997, is back on the market.

You better have a big bankroll and not be worried about bad karma if you want to buy it.

Eric Hotung, the eccentric Hong Kong billionaire businessman and philanthropist who bought the house from Kennedy but later complained that the home had bad “feng shui,” wants to sell it for a cool $16.5 million, according to William Moody of Washington Fine Properties. Feng shui is a Chinese practice that seeks to harmonize a structure or site with the spiritual forces that inhabit it.

Hotung, a British citizen and graduate of Georgetown University, planned to use the 11,000-square-foot home with a tennis court and outdoor swimming pool as a base for an institute to foster better U.S.-China relations. But he has spent little time living in it and even considered tearing it down after a caretaker reported he had been pinned to the wall by an unseen force, as first reported by The Hill in September 1999.

Moody, who sold the Kennedy house to Hotung, said he’s already had one prospective buyer who has paid five visits to the Chain Bridge Road property. Moody said, however, that homes costing more than $7 million or $8 million usually take at least a year to sell.

The house was originally listed at $4.95 million but two other people, including then-Saudi Arabian Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who lived next door, were also interested in buying it. Prince Bandar bid $5.5 million, but Hotung submitted the winning bid of $5,888,888.88.

The unusual number stems from the fact that eight is considered an auspicious number because it sounds the same as “prosperous” or “fa” in Cantonese. In fact, three-digit numbers like 888 are popular with the Chinese because they sound the same as “business will easily prosper” and “thrice prosperous.”

Moody, who also sold the Merrywood estate just down the road (where Jacqueline Bouvier lived as a girl) for $15 million in 1999, may have to convince Hotung to come down a bit on his price, even for those who don’t believe in bad feng shui: the famed Hickory Hill estate of Kennedy’s late brother Robert, also in McLean, was put on the market for $25 million by Ethel Kennedy three years ago, but has since been reduced to a veritable steal at only $15.5 million.

Glossy fashion mag needs a civics lesson

To fashionable New Yorkers, we’re sure all of DC’s frumpy, suit-clad commuters look alike. But our buildings? C’mon, those are national icons!

Alas, the caption-writers at glossy mag InStyle must have missed that day in civics class—or they haven’t been studying the backs of their dollar bills.

The September edition of the magazine (which we only flipped through after finishing this week’s Economist, natch) features a fashion-spread shot amid miniature versions of famous buildings constructed out of Lego pieces. If you weren’t completely distracted by the expanse of leg that actress Marley Shelton is flashing on page 326—and if you’re up on your Washington architecture—you’ll see she’s posed in front of a model of the venerable Capitol building. The caption, though, says Shelton is “presiding over a tiny version of the White House.”

An InStyle rep did not return calls for comment.

And while we’re fact-checking the InStyle folks: that leather mini Shelton’s sporting in the photo would never fly on the Hill. Now pass us our frumpy suits, thank you very much.

Sweeney buys cigars, takes more strip club dough

Voters don’t go to the polls until November, but it looks like Rep. John Sweeney is getting ready for a victory party. According to the New York Republican’s pre-primary campaign filings, his campaign spent $660 on those most essential of celebratory party favors—cigars.

Neither a spokeswoman in Sweeney’s DC office nor a campaign spokeswoman returned calls by press time.

And the filings also revealed that one of Sweeney’s most noteworthy campaign donors (isn’t that spelled with a double-D?) is anteing up again: Salvatore DiCarlo, the owner of Albany strip joint DiCarlo’s Gentlemen’s Club, gave another $500 during the last filing period. Apparently, Dicarlo’s cups are running over: The donation brings his total for the cycle to $2,250.

What’s next, penmanship grades?
As every elementary school kid knows, good attendance is important. Now members of Congress have the equivalent of the dreaded manila-envelope report card to show their constituents., the website aimed at informing the public about Congress, last week began posting voting-attendance records for all 435 members of the House, making it easier for voters to know just what their man (or woman) in Washington is up to. Plenty of members—make that 26 apple-polishers in all—have a perfect record this year.
Bringing up the rear with 403 votes missed, for a wholly understandable reason, is Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.), who has been battling Parkinson’s disease since 1995.

Other notable truants cracking the triple-digit mark are Reps. Jim Davis (R-Fla.) (148 missed), Harold Ford (D-Tenn.) (112), Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) (104) and Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) (102).

 Members may miss votes for all kinds of legitimate reasons, notes Brad Fitch, the CEO of Knowlegis, the company that provides the data for

 “There are a lot of factors citizens can look at when evaluating their members’ performance,” he says, “Attendance is another piece of information they can integrate into their decision-making.”

Al Eisele and Jonathan Kaplan contributed to this page.