Beltway Beat: No longer bipartisan

Posted: Jul 22, 2002 12:00 AM
Because of Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, who last year abandoned the GOP to become an independent, a new political term has surfaced in the halls of the Senate: "tripartisanship." Our ears thought twice upon hearing this week that a "tripartisan" coalition of five senators, who serve on the Senate Committee on Finance, had developed legislation to modernize Medicare and provide a prescription-drug benefit for older Americans. The senators include Republicans Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Democrat John B. Breaux of Louisiana, and the body's lone independent, Jeffords. LAW AND LAW A U.S. congressman is blasting a Florida attorney who, on behalf of quadriplegic Edward Law, is suing two West Palm Beach strip clubs because their lap-dance rooms don't have wheelchair access. The ADA Notification Act, introduced by Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley, would limit such frivolous lawsuits by allowing businesses 90 days to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. "These lawyers are making a mockery of the law," says Foley, referring to lawyer Anthony Brady Jr. "The disabled community should be outraged over the hijacking of a law meant to protect their interests, not lawyers' assets." Law, of Orlando, is suing the Landing Strip and the Wildside Adult Sports Cabaret. At the latter club, he says, the lap-dance room is accessible only by a short flight of stairs (Bret Rudowsky, the Wildside's general manager, is quoted as saying that Law could have received a lap dance elsewhere in the club, if only he'd asked.) Furthermore, Law says the stage for the strippers is far too high, preventing him an unobstructed view. PIZZA AND PORK Just days after Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd called White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels a "little Caesar" during a spending dispute, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott tried to soothe Daniels' hurt feelings. The Mississippi Republican sent the OMB chief four pizzas from Little Caesar's, with bacon topping. As for Byrd, known for securing federal projects in his home state of West Virginia, he happened to be named Porker of the Month Tuesday by the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. PRESERVING THE LEGACY Remember a few months ago when we reported on some "magic" that occurred at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington? To recap, while visiting the Wall on May 10, St. Louis businessman Michael F. Shananan by chance met its founder, Jan Scruggs, who was overseeing a group of electricians refurbishing the memorial's 68 floodlights. Inquiring about the project, Shananan, an Army veteran, on the spot wrote Scruggs a check for $5,000 to defray the cost. Now, this column has learned that Shananan, chairman and chief executive officer of Engineered Support Systems, has just presented the memorial with a subsequent charitable gift of $50,000. SECRETARY OF SEWAGE Officially, he's secretary of state, not stench. Still, the recognizable face of the Honorable Colin L. Powell is being employed on large environmental billboards in the Midwest. "It's a serious issue, but I wanted to dramatize the problem in a visually humorous way," explains billboard artist Mark Heckman, who painted Powell with a toilet seat around his neck and clothespin on his nose. He's also presented the Cabinet secretary with a new name. "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Beaches" is the message from "Colon Bowel," visible on highway billboards throughout Michigan. The aim is to curtail sewage overflow, a particularly nasty and odorous problem that occurs when storms force water-treatment systems to dump sewage into public rivers and streams. WON ONE FOR THE GIPPER Hollywood legend Lew Wasserman was remembered as a staunch Democrat during a memorial service this week attended by Bill Clinton, Al Gore, California Gov. Gray Davis and Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn. "He helped me become president, he helped me stay president, and he helped me become a better president," Clinton went so far as to tell mourners gathered in Los Angeles. "Just think what Lew would have done if turned loose into the Middle East," Clinton added of Wasserman's negotiating skills. "His genius enabled him to take away shadows and turn dreams into realities." No doubt Wasserman was a master of the movie business; he transformed the Music Corporation of America (MCA) and Universal Studios from a small talent agency and modest studio into a glittering entertainment conglomerate. However, the forgotten history that so far has gone unreported in stories in the wake of Wasserman's death is that the genesis of his reputation came in a 1941 deal he negotiated for his first movie star client to win a contract worth more than $1 million: Ronald Reagan. "When word about the deal hit the street, it helped propel Wasserman, who had been assigned to run MCA's Hollywood office and was only 29 years old, into a industry player," recalls Washington-based editor and author John Meroney, who is working on a book chronicling Reagan's career as a movie star and labor leader. "Wasserman had caught Reagan on his ascension: the former radio sports announcer, who'd arrived in Hollywood in 1937 and had already made more than a dozen pictures, was finally landing meaningful parts - away from the likes of John Wayne and William Holden - showing he had the potential to be a genuine movie star." Even in the early '40s, Meroney tells this column, Hollywood was obsessed with the art of making money deals. "News of them could make or break reputations," he explains. "Wasserman counted on this, and as Reagan himself once wrote: 'Lew grinned like a kid with a hand in the cooky jar.'" World War II would short-circuit the start of Reagan's impressive million-dollar deal, but word was already on the street. And the one-time theater usher from Cleveland named Lew Wasserman was well on his way to becoming a Hollywood mogul.