Frederick Ryan Jr. swears he was only thirsty for a pint of Guinness when, accompanied by his wife, Genny, and the couple's three daughters, he ducked into the Ronald Reagan Pub during a visit to Ballyporeen, Ireland.
By the time the president and chief operating officer of Allbritton Communications in Washington left the pub, he owned it.
"I hadn't even been drinking," said Ryan, a top aide to President Reagan who is chairman of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum in California. "The funny thing, I called Nancy Reagan and told her I just bought the Irish pub named after her husband, and she paused and said, 'Have you been drinking?'"
When the Ryans arrived at the pub named for the late Irish-American president after he sipped a pint there more than 20 years ago, they found the door locked.
However, they found the owners, John and Mary O'Farrell, upstairs, and the couple soon explained that their family was expanding, and to gain the needed space, they were auctioning off everything in the pub.
The O'Farrells, at the same time, were more than happy to give the American visitors a tour of the pub, where Ryan was surprised to find "everything still in its place - tables were set, glasses were on shelves, taps behind the bar. And all the Reagan memorabilia was still there."
"Right then and there, I asked Mary how much she would want to sell the pub for. She said she would have to consult with her husband. The next thing you know, they came back with a price, and I said: 'OK, I'd like to buy the pub from you.' And I bought it.
"My wife came back in and said what's going on, and she said, 'Your husband just bought the pub.'" (Yes, the Ryans still are happily married.)
Here's the kicker: the one-time Reagan aide hired a company to disassemble the pub completely - bar, stools, beer taps, pint glasses, a cabinet, tables, chairs, signs, pictures on the wall, even the wallpaper - "they took everything out, shipped it to California, and reassembled the pub, which I have donated to the Reagan Library," Ryan said.
Most fittingly, the O'Farrells have agreed to travel to the California library next month and be behind the bar to pour the first pint of Guinness when the Ronald Reagan Pub reopens during a reunion of Reagan alumni.
"What's the greatest thing for me is that this pub was to have been auctioned two weeks later," Ryan said. "I was there at just the right time, as if it was meant to be."
This past weekend, tens of thousands of protesters against the war in Iraq - some chanting that President Bush was a liar, a criminal and a killer - marched through the streets of Washington past the White House.
Talk about raining on their parade.
Marching 50 yards ahead of the demonstrators - holding up a sign that read "Freedom is Not Free" - was Ryan Ponder, 25, a former sergeant in the 4th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army who until last year was fighting in Iraq.
"At one point, the anti-war protesters got so upset that he was marching ahead of them - and was the first person that onlookers saw - that they stopped the whole 150,000-person march so that he would get farther ahead of them," said one onlooker, a Capitol Hill staffer who asked not to be identified.
"But he stopped, too," he added. "He truly is like the man who stood in front of the tanks in (China's) Tiananmen Square in 1989, unafraid to stare down a much more powerful force."
We reached Ponder on Monday at the Capitol Hill office of Rep. Chris Cannon, Utah Republican, where he is an intern hoping to climb the ladder.
Ponder said he was proud to have marched, calling it his "patriotic duty."
Asked whether he had any close calls with a far deadlier enemy - the Islamic insurgents in Iraq - he said: "Of course I did. That's what happens when you're fighting a war."
LETTER OF THE WEEK
Dear Beltway Beat: Just a thought. Since Sen. John Kerry has announced that he will be voting against Judge John Roberts as chief justice, perhaps the Senate could find some way to let Mr. Kerry first vote 'for' Judge Roberts before he votes 'against' him. - Regards, Jack Moran, Poquoson, Va.
In the tranquil absence of former outspoken Democratic Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Ohio (reportedly he has been transferred from a federal prison in New York to a federal medical center near Rochester, Minn.), Republican Rep. Tom Price of Georgia has been crowned "Gold Minuteman" for his ability to deliver the party's message of the day "in 60 seconds or less" on the House floor.
Price, who, before arriving on Capitol Hill in 2004, was the first Republican majority leader in the history of Georgia, has given more than 70 minute-long addresses.
As for the imprisoned Traficant, he warns on the "Free Traficant" Web site (www.freetraficant.com): "When I get out I will grab a sword like Maximus Meridius Demidius and as a gladiator I will stab people in the crotch."
PASS THE SPUDS
General managers of three Washington-area Morton's were kept busy this past week satisfying the appetites of three visiting sports celebrities, each in town for different reasons.
With a group that included his agent, David Falk, basketball star Michael Jordan took over the private boardroom of the Morton's in Tysons Corner, GM Margaret Elkins says.
Meanwhile, at the Morton's in Crystal City, GM Matt Haley reveals that San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, when not pounding home runs against our beloved Washington Nationals, dropped by the steakhouse for needed nourishment.
Finally, Danny Festa tells us that boxing promoter Don King had a "35-minute" lunch at the downtown Morton's and still managed to consume every potato course on the menu - four of them - plus the bone-in rib-eye.
A registered Democrat, King rocked the political world last year when he threw his support behind the re-election of President Bush. Not only did King actively support Bush's campaign, he showed up at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and mobster Carlo Gambino we can understand. But The Beltway Beat is intrigued to be reminded that the FBI kept a muckracking file on the Beach Boys at its Washington headquarters.
I recall a hot summer day in 1986 when I was one of the few outsiders invited by FBI Director William H. Webster into the heavily secured courtyard of the bureau's headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, where I soon found myself singing along with necktied G-men - "Well East Coast girls are hip, I really dig those styles they wear" - at a private outdoor concert starring, you guessed it, the Beach Boys.
This particular FBI file came to light this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Associated Press for every FBI "High Visibility Memorandum" filed from 1974 to 2005. The FBI kept an eye on the Beach Boys, the wire service explains, because of the group members' "penchant for psychedelic drugs."
"How long before Al Gore blames global warming on Mars on American industry and the U.S. refusal to adopt the Kyoto treaty?" wonders Keith Appell, a conservative publicist with Creative Response Concepts.
He points to a NASA press release about the surprising discovery that "for three Mars summers in a row, deposits of frozen carbon dioxide near Mars' south pole have shrunk from the previous year's size, suggesting a climate change in progress."
One of the most widely read publications in this law capital of the world is the Corporate Legal Times, a monthly magazine for general counsel and in-house legal executives.
Now, we've learned, the magazine will be relaunched - and completely redesigned - under the name Inside Counsel, starting with the January issue.
"The role of in-house counsel has evolved significantly since we first started publishing the magazine," explains publisher Nat Slavin. "Fifteen years ago our readers were viewed as just corporate lawyers. Today they are much more than lawyers. They are among the most important members of the CEO's executive team. They are corporate insiders. The new name recognizes that evolution."