Washington can be celebrity crazy.
It depends on the celebrity, however. I was in a restaurant last night when Rudy Giuliani walked in, and nobody gave him a second glance.
Put fitness guru Richard Simmons on Capitol Hill, however, and you attract a crowd. Simmons testified at a hearing earlier this morning, urging Congress to support greater resources for physical education in government schools. The hearing was held in a huge room in the Rayburn Building, but it filled up quickly. An overflow room one floor up also filled to capacity -- and the people there could only watch the hearing on TV monitors.
After the hearing ended, Simmons ripped off his business suit to reveal a red tank top (with sparkles, of course) and jogged a few blocks over to the Cannon Building terrace, where he headlined a rally for physical education in the shadow of the Capitol dome. (Simmons was joined by several Members of Congress in his effort.)
It was a mob scene. Hundreds of people packed the terrace and participated in a quick round of calisthenics to the tunes of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Dancing in the Streets."
When he was finished, Simmons offered to pose for photos and sign autographs for fans. And most people there took him up on the offer. College boys were jumping over banisters to hug their idol. (Yes, really!) Congressional staff members, interns, tourists -- all wanted to shake hands, share a laugh, or grab a piece of Richard Simmons.
I've posted some of the photographs from the rally on Facebook. And here, in two parts, is a video record of one of the oddest political rallies one might ever expect to encounter on Capitol Hill.
I know that blog readers can be similarly celebrity-obsessed to Washingtonians. Whether Richard Simmons fans will flock here in the same disproportionate numbers as fans of a shirtless Hunter Parrish is another question entirely. I guess we'll see.
Updates: The New Republic has a report on Richard Simmons' alighting on Washington, here. And Dana Milbank has an amusing take on the day's events in the Washington Post. Lavender Newswire includes video of the testimony before the House Education and Labor Committee.