The line for Sen. John McCain's lunch-time book signing on Capitol Hill Monday snaked around the block by the time I arrived on the scene. Shorts-wearing college students mingled with blue-suited Hill workers, and a colorful smattering of military folk added a piquant contrast.
"You get your voucher yet?" the tie-wearing guy in front of me asked.
"Yeah," he said, holding up a bright-blue ticket. "You gotta buy the book to get in."
So much for democracy. But mercenary motives aside, the GOP presidential contender may be onto something. His aide Keith Nahigian briefly boasted to me about his boss' literary pull.
Not only had these D.C. types started lining up more than an hour ahead of McCain's scheduled appearance for their chance to plunk down 25 clams for "Faith of My Fathers," but the book has sold out at every scheduled signing. Readers in New York snapped up 350 signed copies; New Hampshire, 400. So when Trovers of Capitol Hill ordered a mere 200 tomes -- "as if he were just any senator," snorts Nahigian -- McCain's staff members recommended the small neighborhood bookshop up the order. "Trust us," they said.
The 1,000 copies the Trovers had on hand were going fast, but the line was orderly. "I've never been to a book signing before," confessed one Hill worker a little nervously. "But I figured since I planned to read his book, I might as well get a signed copy."
"I came down from the Pentagon," said a Navy commander who asked not to be named, since he was "playing hooky" from his job. "I'm buying two. One for me, and one for my mother for Christmas."
"Look at all the different kinds of people on line," Nahigian said proudly, noting the book's strong sales on Amazon.com. "I think the pull is that it's not your typical political book. It's more personal."
According to Nahigian, George W. Bush may have a lead in the polls, but on the literary trail, it's McCain who's looking over his shoulder and laughing. "George W. has a book coming out soon. What's he going to say?" chortled the aide. "Maybe the first 40 pages will just be blank."
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Matt Drudge's middle finger: Read all about it
"I see the book as a middle finger to the establishment."
-- Matt Drudge on his highbrow hopes for "Let the Future Begin," his upcoming book on his career as the Web's rumormonger-in-chief.
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Don't put your puppy on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
This stuff goes way beyond "I want tuna. I want liver." And neither finicky ol' Morris (didn't he die from eating Pop Rocks and Coke?) nor that blasted Taco Bell Chihuahua have anything on Ernesta, a 5-year-old miniature dachshund from Oakland, Calif., who can belt out "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" with a verve that would make Soul queen Aretha Franklin herself put an extra helping of R-E-S-P-E-C-T in her dog bowl.
But Ernie will face stiff competition from L.A., a yellow lab from Chicago who croons Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" in a voice said to resemble that of a pubescent boy; Vixen, the Jazz Diva, an American Eskimo pooch from Los Angeles who can sing to Yma Sumac, Siouxsie and the Banshees or Whitney Houston with equal vocal prowess; and a Jack Russell terrier named Kelsey who some say can deliver Alanis Morissette's "Uninvited" better than Alanis herself. (They ought to know.)
"These are the best of the best," says Melanie Strah, spokeswoman for Advantage Flea Control, which is sponsoring the Best Singing Pet contest, to be held Wednesday in New York. "They all have their own unique talents. It's hard to predict who will win." Strah will allow, however, that she finds a "steamboat-sounding" rendition of "Happy Birthday" by a 3-year-old beagle named Winnie to be "really cute."
The winner will get cash, a recording session and a chance to star in a TV commercial, as well as make the requisite talk-show rounds.
So, I had to ask, has scandal ever singed the 3-year-old contest? Any cats appearing au naturel in the pages of Cat Fancy? And puppies caught sniffing around the wrong patch o' lawn?
"Well," admits Strah, "there is a love triangle going on with some of the finalists. Winnie has a crush on Chuck, and Chuck has a crush on Kelsey. But Kelsey likes Winnie, and it's a whole big triangle." Arf.
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He said; she said
Admitted: A big-time boneheaded maneuver by Sopranos scribe James Manos, who missed accepting his Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series ... because he was out tossing back vino and gabbing with a buddy outside. "I'm feeling a little f---ing stupid," he confessed to reporters after the TV award show. "[My mother] called me up after I won and said, 'Where the hell were you, you stupid bastard?'" Nothing like a mother's love, eh?
Denied: Rumors of a little facial renovation for a certain smooth-operating first lady with senatorial inclinations. "It's not true," said Hillary spokeswoman Marsha Berry of a report in Sunday's New York Post that La Clinton had been spotted consulting a plastic surgeon in New York. The Post's headline read "Hill's Nip & Tuck." Maybe tomorrow it'll read "Hill's Duck & Cover."