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The ‘Gridiron’ grip & grin

Sarah Palin. The Salahis. The “Haddocks Squared.” Dapper Congressman Jim Moran as a song-and-dance man.

They all showed up last night at the George Washington Masonic Memorial (right) in Alexandria. Masonic temples may be suspected sites for secret rites, but the Alexandria temple gave up secrets last night when the Alexandria Bar Association put on its annual fundraiser, “The Gridiron.”

This year’s program featured over 20 performers in 10 skits scripted by a “secret” four-member writing cabal. Doug Steinberg directed and Caroline Costle served as music director.

MC Drew Hutcheson did a little stand-up and introduced skits performed by The Usual Suspects: “You just tolerate them in court, but you’ll love them on stage!”

Citing the area’s record 60 inches of snow this year, Hutcheson said, “It’s dangerous out there, and that’s just backing your Camry out of the driveway.”

Tina Fey had nothin’ on Costle, in designer specs, who took her can’t-stop-now campaign motto from Toyota. What do Sarah Palin and a Camry have in common? Neither one knows when to stop. Ba-da boom.

What’s the difference between a real estate lawyer and a large pizza? The pizza can feed a family of four. How about the difference between a real estate lawyer and a skid row bum? About five weeks.

Just how bad are things for real estate lawyers? A “recession tableau” had local dirt lawyers David Elsberg, Chris Beatley and Mark Allen in disguises ducking each other at Wal-Mart. “The GPS on my Lexus must have been confused,” said one. But at least those three were there to shop, while lawyer Carter Land was seen stocking shelves.

“Snakes in the Courtroom” featured the “Haddocks Squared,” the father-and-son judge duo in pith helmets whose snake-hunting bravado was less effective than JDR Judge Constance Frogale’s matter-of-fact banishment of the wily snake to juvenile detention.

Retired GDC Judge Robert Giamattorio heard Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s suit against Shelly Goodwife, who failed to pay for her season tickets after her husband died. Snyder (Martin Yeagger), rabidly cheered on by his second, Vinny Cerrato (Barry Diamond), explained that although there was a 323-year waiting list for season tickets, suing deadbeats would give him a double recovery when he collected contract damages and resold the tickets. But the court drafted its own counterclaim and found Snyder guilty of negligent management of a beloved local sports franchise. Evidence against Snyder included “snapping the Lions’ 19-game losing streak.”

An all-star judges’ panel – actors portraying local Judges Nolan Dawkins, Lisa Kemler, Don Haddock and Becky Moore – convened to hear candidates for the next “Alexandria Idol.” Denise Tassi had the spacy Paula Abdul role and Mike Tompkins filled in for irasible Simon Cowell, advising one contestant to “do us all a favor and rip out your own vocal chords.”

In “Beer Summit,” the “People’s Republic of Alexandria” got a “PC check-up.” Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille (Cary Greenberg) convened a summit to sort out a dispute between a wrongly arrested African-American judge and the Irish cop who hauled him to jail when he could not produce an ID. Federal Judge Gerald Bruce Lee had his own robe to play Circuit Judge Nolan Dawkins, Tom Tyler played the cop with the broad brogue. The brewfest drew a former Alexandria police chief and a former school superintendent, with DUIs in their past.

Even the Salahis made an appearance, with Tassi vamping as the striking blonde in the red sari.

Bawdy jokes about a Trojan corporate sponsorship for former presidential candidate (and trial lawyer) John Edwards and Tiger Woods’ (golf) stroke recalled the origins of the Gridiron back in the ’50s or ’60s. Then it was just a bunch of male lawyers and judges who got together to drink and sling roast-style insults.

As a finale, the cast offered a farewell tribute, Le mort de Mort, to Morton Langstaff, an “Alexandria icon” who served as the Gridiron pianist for many years.

By Deborah Elkins

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