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Washington journalists pay annual disrespect to elite

After a pistol-packin' Madeleine Albright sang, reporters wearing saffron robes of Buddhist monks danced the Macarena as Vice President Gore shouted: "Show me the money!"

Another Washington fund-raiser?

You wish.

The Gridiron Club hosted its 112th dinner Saturday night.

It's an annual attempt to let a little air out of Washington's inflated egos with skits and spoofs featuring well-known journalists who aren't shy about clowning around.

The exclusive club comprises 60 Washington newspaper bureau chiefs, columnists, reporters, cartoonists and editors. It exists only to lampoon the high and mighty at its annual dinner.

Other reporters must have appreciated the opportunity to see the big names at their organizations thrust into the footlights, wearing only bathrobes and wiggling in a geriatric send-up of Saturday Night Fever.

President Clinton, the guest of honor, didn't attend because he underwent knee surgery Friday but videotaped his shtick from his hospital room. Vice President Gore and a host of lawmakers, ambassadors, governors and other celebrities looked on, however, as the club mined the year's headlines for comic relief.

Republicans and Democrats alike were roasted in the presentations, but the jokes and musical acts held true to the club's motto to singe, not burn.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich's ethics violations were targeted with barbs, but the most trenchant wit was reserved for the Democrats' campaign finance woes.

The Asian money connection and former fund-raiser John Huang were singled out to the tune of The Trolley Song from Meet Me in St. Louis.

"Huang, Huang, Huang raise the money. Ring Taipei and Hong Kong," sang performers clad in colorful Indonesian garb. "Checks, checks, checks in the laundry. Clean, clean, clean for your sake. GOP's in a quandary, wishin' they could get in on the take."

Another musical skit featured White House donors in silk pajamas:

"We woke at noon to find ourselves in Lincoln's fabled suite. Our Egg McMuffin breakfast was an extra special treat. It was worth the half a million that we paid for Dole's defeat. We dig that Clinton style."

Later came the monks' Macarena in front of an ATM machine.

"Quick, pass the hat, and we'll try to find a pigeon. After that, we can chat and help you get religion," a monk sang.

At the end of each verse Gore, played by a beaming David Broder of The Washington Post, sang out "SHOWWW me the money!"

The controversy over "Ebonics" provided fodder for one bit, in which a "ghetto hipster" taught a graying schoolmarm how to speak: "Dat rain in Spain be mainly in dat plain."

United Press International's Helen Thomas, dressed in a cowboy's outfit with a side arm in a holster, played the no-nonsense secretary of state in a spot set to Pistol Packin' Mama, which recounted the vote Albright cast against Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali's re-election as U.N. secretary.

"Slammed that veto down, boys, slammed that veto down," the chorus sang. "Pistol packin' Madeleine, ran him outta town."

An actor impersonating Strom Thurmond, the nonagenarian senator from South Carolina, cozied up to some ladies on the stage.

"Nothing could be finer than to win in Carolina in your 90s," the other Strom sang. "They love a frisky geezer who can tease a lass and squeeze her in his 90s."

The troupe lampooned Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., and chairwoman of the ethics committee that handled the case against Gingrich in a tune sung to My Guy.

"Nothing Newt could do could make me untrue, he's my guy," one actor sang. "Yes, I'm bootlickin', I won't be a-kickin' my guy."