National Press Club

Owls Honor Helen Thomas; Everyone has a Hoot

May 1, 2009

Helen Thomas and Don Larrabee

Helen Thomas and Don Larrabee

Photo/Image: Terry Hill

Helen Thomas, dean of the White House press corps, was inducted into the Order of the Owls Thursday night during the Spring Hoot of the Club's Silver Owls.

The night was heavy on nostalgia, in words and music. Newer Club members (Owlets) shared thoughts with the 25-years-plus members about the past and the future.

The ceremonial award bestowed on Thomas recognizes "birds of a unique species, weathered and wise, who have nested at the National Press Club and demonstrated that they give a hoot for Washington journalism."

In her response, Thomas lamented that the newspaper business isn't what it used to be and said: "I wish I could say, the more things change, the more they remain the same..but I can't."

She was serened by two Owls (and former NPC presidents) Don Larrabee and Art Wiese to the tune of "Lullaby of Broadway."

They sang: "Come on along and listen to, the tale of Helen Thomas," after which Thomas agreed to a reprise of a song she did for the Gridiron Club about Donald and Ivana Trump and their divorce settlement. She said the parody by Allan Cromley, a former Press Club and Gridiron president, was her favorite.

Larrabee filled the role of Donald Trump as they sang about "Manhattan," and she shuffled him off to Perth Amboy. It brought down the house.

Head Hoot John Cosgrove called Thomas "The First Lady of the Press" and she was surrounded throughout the evening with old and new friends.

Mae Scanlan, wife of Golden Owl Tom Scanlan, produced a batch of parodies for both the Silver Owls and the Owlets quartets. The young members responded with "We'll be Loving You, Owl-ways."

NPC Vice President Alan Bjerga performed a solo to the tune of "Paper Doll": "I want to be a Silver Owl, Just Like the Ones Right Here." Larrabee and Austin Kiplinger sang "Don't Count Us Out" to the tune of "Makin' Whoopie."The camaraderie as the evening went on had everybody singing, "Thanks for the Memories."

Abeer Abdalla, chairwoman of the Young Members Committee, and Marc Wojno, who heads the NPC History Committee, organized a panel to ask Thomas, Cosgrove, Cromley and Bill Hickman about bygone days. Wojno said their remarks brought tears of appreciation for the Club from younger members.

Ten new Golden Owls (members of 50 years) were recognized, along with 40 Silvers (memebrs for 25 years). Cosgrove said the Wise Owl Council plans to form a new 10-year category of recognition, giving those members "ten-ure." During the reception, attendees ogled a myriad collection of owlish art assembled by NPC member Valentine Peggy Wilber.