Come Together

Posted February 11, 2004 at 6:43pm

With the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ invasion of America falling just before Valentine’s Day, it’s only natural that two Capitol Hill staffers devoted to the band recently enjoyed a John Lennon-inspired engagement.

The seeds of the romance date back to early one morning in August 2002, when Tara Zimmerman got locked out of

her offices at the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Ryan Fisher, legislative director for Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), kindly invited her to wait in his nearby office. They chatted and found they had several common interests, including a love of the Beatles.

They bumped into each other a few more times, including once on the Metro, but nothing came of it. After nearly a year, Fisher finally got up enough courage to act.

Remembering Zimmerman’s musical tastes and the time she had spent in the British Isles, Fisher dropped by with a book on the Beatles and sought advice on what to check out during an upcoming trip to Ireland.

“Fortunately a couple of my girlfriends happened to be there,” recalled Zimmerman, otherwise she might have spaced on the fact that he was looking for more than just travel tips.

Then he made the move. “The point there is, we met, but then it took him nine months to ask me out,” she said with a laugh.

One thing led to another and Fisher decided to seek her hand in marriage, but wanted to find a creative way to ask. He recalled that Lennon met Yoko Ono at one of her art exhibits that consisted of an all-white room with a ladder in the middle. Participants climbed the ladder to find a magnifying glass they could use to discern one word on the ceiling: “Yes.”

So Fisher decorated the first floor of Zimmerman’s house like an art exhibit, and then laid out 300 red hearts leading to her second-floor bedroom, where a ladder was waiting in the center. She climbed up to find a magnifying glass to help illuminate one sentence: “Will you marry me?”

It all sounds maddeningly sweet, except for the fact that Ono has long been accused of breaking up the Beatles — so what kind of omen is that?

“My friends are definitely concerned,” said Fisher. “But I think we’ll be OK.”

Rose Not So Sweet. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle must hate being the bearer of bad news, but he has issued a memo stressing that Valentine’s Day gifts cannot be delivered to the Capitol or the Senate office buildings.

Pickle issued a memo on Tuesday reminding everyone that in the wake of the ricin scare, mail to Capitol and Senate offices has been suspended.

“Therefore, consistent with these temporary measures, staff may not accept commercial delivery of Valentine’s Day flowers, plants, balloons, and related gifts at the Capitol or the Senate Office Buildings,” Pickle wrote.

He apologized for “any inconvenience that these temporary measures may cause” you and your valentine.

Walking the Walk? There’s some grumbling within the Senate Democratic Caucus over the fact that they are going to be shown up by the GOP at this weekend’s bipartisan civil rights pilgrimage to Alabama and Tennessee.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was hoping to draw four Senators from each party to join him on the trip he’s leading with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the Rosa Parks Museum, among other places, on Friday and Saturday.

Frist has landed nine GOP Senators for at least part of the weekend, including Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.).

The minority party, however, could only draw three of their own: Sens. Jon Corzine (N.J.), Mark Dayton (Minn.) and Paul Sarbanes (Md.).

“The Democratic Party was the party of civil rights,” griped one Democratic aide.

And now Democrats have only one person going after Sarbanes and Dayton had to pull out, though Dayton certainly has a good excuse: He has to go to a funeral on Friday for a Minnesota soldier who died in Iraq.

Dayton spokeswoman Chris Lisi stressed to HOH that the boss explored the option of heading to Alabama after the funeral, but he felt it would have been “rude to come in for a couple of hours on Saturday” and then head back to Minnesota for a full day of meetings he’s slated to attend on Sunday.

Full Nelson. Sen. Ben Nelson (D) is teasing his Nebraska colleague, Rep. Lee Terry (R), for mixing up the phone number for a Medicare hot line and directing constituents to a phone sex line instead.

Nelson brought down the house at the weekly closed-door Nebraska delegation breakfast with constituents visiting D.C. on Wednesday when he unveiled the top five comments uttered by senior citizens who accidentally dialed the “Intimate Connections” number instead of 1-800-MEDICARE.

No. 5: “Wrong number? I thought the heavy breathing was her attempt to empathize with my respiratory problems.”

No. 4: “I haven’t had this much excitement since the ‘Lawrence Welk Show’ stopped airing.”

No. 3: “I know the Medicare program is in fiscal trouble, but why are they asking for my credit card?”

No. 2: “I didn’t know Lee was one of those Congressmen.”

And No. 1: “I wanted to start a relationship with my Congressman — but this is too much.”

Sleep, Taking Out Trash on the Agenda. Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) officially returned from the presidential trail to the Democratic Caucus Wednesday and received a couple of standing ovations from grateful colleagues.

Gephardt, who was joined by former staffers such as Steve Elmendorf, received a series of bear hugs from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.).

The possible vice presidential candidate revealed the best part of being unburdened of leadership duties and presidential ambitions. “I get to sleep in until 8 a.m.,” Gephardt cracked.

The former Minority Leader added that he is looking forward to helping the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in any way he can until the end of his term.

“I can empty the trash if that’s what it takes,” he joked.

Orrin Not Borin’. Who would have ever thought that Paris Hilton and the normally straight-laced Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) would party down at the same post-Grammy bash in Los Angeles?

But HOH perused the New York Times Arts & Leisure section and noticed a few rather provocative Janet Jackson-like photos of Hilton, Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love falling out of their dresses at EMI Music Publishing’s rooftop bash.

And the accompanying story led with an anecdote about Hatch who was “not on Capitol Hill worrying about judicial nominations, but rather glad-handing with the likes of Sting and Geri Halliwell of the Spice Girls” at said bash.

The story went on to report that Love “engineered her own wardrobe malfunction, pulling down the top of her silk dress and flashing her right breast.”

There was also mention of a “trio of women dressed in nothing more than skimpy panties and matching bras” dancing around.

“Senator Hatch attended the Grammys and did enjoy a little mingling afterward, but doesn’t recollect anything about a Hilton,” spokesman Adam Elggren stressed to HOH. “He says he prefers Marriott.”

Leahy Switching Positions? Hatch’s decision to hit the town in L.A. may explain why he was in a joking mood with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) at Wednesday’s Judiciary hearing on cable competition.

Leahy opened with off-the-cuff remarks critical of Kid Rock’s gambit during the Super Bowl halftime show, in which he punched a hole in an American flag to make it a poncho and then tossed it aside.

The ranking member of the Judiciary panel revealed that he rose out of his chair at home in disgust and shouted at the TV set when he watched it happening and has wondered since why there’s been far less media focus on that display than the Janet Jackson fiasco.

Hatch mischievously noted that if Leahy felt that strongly about the matter, maybe the Democrat would switch positions and sign onto the constitutional amendment banning desecration of the flag. Alas, Leahy didn’t buy it.

“These are tense times on the Judiciary Committee, but so far, so good,” Leahy spokesman David Carle told HOH. “ A little humor, and no decorum malfunctions.”

Senate Apprentice. Donald Trump and freshman Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) were the star attractions on Friday night’s edition of ABC’s “20/20,” which focused on nepotism.

While the segment on Trump’s children featured ABC co-anchor Barbara Walters fawning over the Donald’s ability to raise relatively normal kids in a tabloid environment, Murkowski got roughed up a bit.

Jonathan Turley, the George Washington University law professor who’s willing to be an expert on just about anything the media will quote him on — one wag joked to HOH that the guy’s classroom is really just a TV green room — trashed the fact that Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) appointed his own daughter to replace him in the Senate.

“The appointment of Senator Murkowski really took the gold medal of nepotism,” declared Turley. “It was sort of a perverse ‘bring your daughter to work’ day.”

Then the camera pans to co-anchor John “Give Me a Break!” Stossel grilling the freshman Senator with all the outrage he’s known to muster, leading one to wonder why Murkowski’s staff would agree to put her through such an interview.

“An appointment gets me to the end of my father’s term and that’s it,” responded Murkowski. “After that, it’s up to me to demonstrate that I can be the best Senator that they would ever want.”

Murkowski spokeswoman Kristin Pugh told HOH that the Senator wasn’t concerned about Turley’s comments and felt this was a terrific opportunity to “tell the entire nation” why she accepted the appointment.

“This is not an issue Senator Murkowski shies away from,” she said. “Senator Murkowski doesn’t have anything to hide.”

No Surrender. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was surprised to run into House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) on a Capitol elevator last Thursday since the minority party was supposed to be at its legislative retreat in rural Virginia.

“Hey, I thought you guys were retreating today,” DeLay said.

Immediately jumping on message, Menendez (who headed to the Homestead Resort later in the day) corrected DeLay.

“Democrats don’t retreat — we caucus!” Menendez declared.

DeLay patted his colleague on the back and cracked, “That’s a good line.”

No Doubting Thomas Aide. Timmons & Co. has landed John Kelliher, chief counsel to House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), to serve as a vice president of the lobbying firm.

This is a major coup for Timmons based on the fact that Kelliher has been responsible for managing the legislative activity of the powerful committee — including taxes, international trade, Medicare, Social Security and welfare.

Kelliher, who served in the Army, is still an officer in the Army Reserve.