Convention Notebook


Same party, but different parties

They may be partners in politics, but Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele part ways when it comes to partying.

The contrasts between two parties that were held for Marylanders here this week - one for the governor, the other for his lieutenant - could not have been sharper.

Ehrlich's bash was held Tuesday night in a ballroom overlooking the Hudson River, with the lights of New Jersey twinkling from across the river.

Golf cart-style vehicles ferried guests from their cabs to the front door. Ehrlich spent much of the night on the dance floor, twirling with wife, Kendel, to music of the Stylistics, a 1960s rhythm-and-blues group that's one of the governor's favorites.

The $75,000 bash was sponsored by the Maryland Republican Party, Constellation Energy and Comcast.

On Wednesday night the Steele party was held inside the 40/40 club, an ultra-hip sports lounge owned by the rapper Jay-Z. A velvet rope kept the riffraff away. Inside, modernistic plastic chairs were suspended from the ceiling. Flat-panel screens flashed the names of sponsors: Lockheed Martin, Phillips Foods, Nextel, the Roberts Law Group, attorney Henry A. Rosenberg Jr. and others.

A huge bouncer with a scar on his cheek blocked the hall upstairs. Guests with the requisite red bracelet had access to private rooms with huge beds and dozens of pillows. The jerseys of such sports stars as Walt Frazier and Willie Mays hung from the walls.

Steele said he had never been in the club before. But his sister, Monica Turner (formerly married to Mike Tyson), clued him in.

The Steele party was billed as an "African-American outreach event." It was organized by Sandy Roberts, a lawyer who formed a company, Creating Legacy Wealth, to put it on. The company name echoes a line in Steele's speech Tuesday.

Roberts declined to say how much the party cost or how much sponsors contributed.

"Michael is a friend," Roberts said. "We believe in what he is trying to do. We saw this as an opportunity to highlight some of the things he has put forward in advancing minority business."

Fair game for jokes

There's a downside to speaking in a marquee slot at your party's convention: You're fair game for jokes. Stephen Colbert, a satirist for Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, poked fun at Steele's status as one of the Republican Party's most prominent black elected officials.

"He's the No. 2 Terp!" Colbert said. "He cuts the ribbon at the Labor Day crab cake festival!"

Another Marylander was also the butt of television jokes.

A Tonight Show crew caught up with Greg Massoni, Ehrlich's press secretary, on the convention floor Wednesday. He appeared on the show, with the interviewer feigning astonishment at Massoni's assertion that President Bush is smart.

Fair game for jokes II

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog made a brief cameo on the convention floor yesterday afternoon, cigar in mouth, in search of celebrity victims.

Accosting a reluctant George Stephanopoulos, the lewd canine puppet - carried by his creator, Robert Smigel, with a camera in tow - asked whether the ABC host and former communications director to President Bill Clinton felt out of place at the Republican lovefest.

"That's as scary as me walking into a Korean restaurant," cracked Triumph, a frequent guest on NBC's Late Night With Conan O'Brien, sporting his trademark gold bow tie.

With Triumph's furry microphone thrust in his face, Stephanopoulos, surrounded by news photographers eager to capture the moment, said to no one in particular: "What can I do? I'm trapped."

Then he muttered something about having to go on the air in a few minutes and made his escape.

"What about Donaldson? Donaldson's got nothing to do - can you get me Donaldson?" Triumph asked, referring to Sam Donaldson of ABC News. The charmingly perverted dog made an off-color remark about wanting to get romantic with Donaldson's head: "It looks like a terrier I met last year."

A glance at the rest of the convention floor convinced Smigel and writer Ray James - who was doubling as cameraman - that the pickings for humorous celebrity interviews were discouragingly slim. So Smigel packed the dog into his bag and went on his way, tucking the cigar in his breast pocket.

Excitement in Florida and New York

Last night was the moment for which Republican delegates had traveled from all corners of the country and waited all week: the president's big speech. But for some Floridians at the convention, something came up: Hurricane Frances.

Several state officials, including Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, cut short their stay at the convention to return to the state, which is girding for the huge storm.

Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, never even came to New York, instead staying home to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, which hit last week. Others, determined to see the president speak, planned to catch flights out of New York at the crack of dawn today.

"I'm not scared. I just don't want them to cancel my flight," said delegate Betty Ramey.

She and Sandra Phillips - who lives in Florida's Panhandle, far from where the hurricane is expected to hit - said their thoughts were with Floridians in its path. But yesterday afternoon the two had just one concern: snagging seats just a few feet away from the round stage where the president would appear.

"We got these seats so we could be close," Ramey said. Bush, she said, is too "exciting" to miss.

Sun staff writers Julie Hirschfeld Davis and David Nitkin contributed to this article.

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