Nobody Says 'No,'Not Even Sinatra
It was the hardest interview to get in TV, and when Frank Sinatra's flack told Larry King Live producer Tammy Haddad back in 1989 that Ol' Blue Eyes would appear, the aide found herself in uncharted waters. "She actually said to me," says Haddad, "'You know, I've actually never said yes to anyone. What do we do now?'" Which may explain why MSNBC just elevated Haddad, producer of Hardball With Chris Matthews, to Washington bureau vice president for political coverage: She's without peer in getting "gets." "Tammy's the queen of Washington," says a cable exec. "She knows everyone, worked everywhere, really gives MSNBC a presence in D.C."
Haddad is probably the most influential woman behind the TV news camera in Washington, a product of persistence and an E-mail list of 1,646 contacts. "Oh," she assures Whispers, "they're all real." Besides bringing Larry King Live to cable, she's been a show boss at a variety of networks, becoming something of an inside-the-beltway celeb herself who hosts the biggest (400 guests) pre-White House Correspondents Association dinner cocktail party. One trademark: A shock of white in her black bangs. "It's kind of in vogue," she purrs, though when blogging at this year's Miss America pageant, "none of the contestants were asking me for advice." Since politics is her game, we naturally asked for her 2008 presidential picks. "I like," she deadpans, "whoever comes on our shows."
Paying the Tab for Freedom Flights
Getting all those stranded Americans out of war-torn Lebanon will top $67 million, but it's not the Pentagon that's whining. We hear that the State Department will cover the military's evacuation costs. So where's the cash coming from? Administration insiders say money tucked away to deal with the pending flu pandemic will be tapped.
The Top Dem Finally Dumps Dial-Up
He was heralded in 2004 as the king of Internet politics and fundraising, but get this: Up until just a few weeks ago, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean had only snail-slow dial-up service wired to his home computer in Burlington. "We finally got him to buy DSL," says a relieved aide. It wasn't the technology that kept the Democratic Party chairman from the light-speed service. Friends say he's just frugal and didn't want to spend more. And he won't expense it to the party. Another old-school sign: Dean doesn't carry a BlackBerry, choosing to phone aides instead.
Mmm, Nice, Warm Bottled Water!
If you ever have a chance to snag President Bush as a featured speaker, here are two little quirks on his list of wants. First, provide a box of Altoids. Yes, he's a fan of those "curiously strong" semisweet breath mints. "He doesn't," says a Bushie, "like sweets much, so these work good as mints." Second: warm water. Actually, room temperature. Preferably bottled. "He doesn't like it cold," adds the insider. "It's kind of weird."
A Look at Life After the White House
Brad Meltzer, a New York Times bestselling author, had this idea for his latest Washington thriller: Mix a sensational murder, a snooping gossip columnist, and the secretive Freemasons. But then former President Bush wrote him in 2002, raving about Meltzer's book The Millionaires while asking for an autographed bookplate. At that point, the whole plot changed. With a look-see at how former presidents live, thanks to help from Bush and former President Clinton, Meltzer spun in a former prez for an even wilder plot for his sixth novel, The Book of Fate, out September 5. Talk about an odds-on bestseller: Meltzer has hit on two hot topics, the Masons and former presidents. Recalling the February day Bush's letter arrived, Meltzer says he first thought it was a joke. "Presidents don't write me letters." Equally amazing: When he offered to deliver a signed copy to Bush's collection if the ex-prez showed him what life was like after the White House, Bush was eager to play ball. "One day you're the most powerful man in the world, and the next day you're just a regular guy stopping at red lights," says Meltzer. "It's fascinating."