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T.O., Out to Tackle Alzheimer's

Terrell Owens chats with actress Lea Thompson at the Alzheimer's Gala Wednesday night. (Marissa Newhall/The Washington Post)

Many of the venerable faces from so many other Washington events turned out for the National Alzheimer's Gala last night -- Maria Shriver, Frank Lautenberg, Mark Warner, Chris Matthews, Debbie Stabenow, French Ambassador Pierre Vimont, Phyllis George.

And a new one: Terrell Owens.

The superstar wide receiver, now with the Buffalo Bills, has been better known over the years for his end-zone antics and controversial comments than for philanthropic work or charity-gala hobnobbing. Was this a new direction for him? T.O., after all, is set to star in a VH1 reality show that will follow him as he reevaluates his personal life.

No, he told us, he's long helped out with his teammates' charities and other good works. "They just don't write about it," he said with a sly smile. "Nine times out of 10, if it's something positive and I'm involved, it's not going to get picked up."

Owens was being honored last night for his support of the charity, which he said is inspired by his grandmother's diagnosis with the disease. Afflicted for more than a decade, she's now in an assisted-living home in Alabama, unable to recognize loved ones.

"She'd been very, very instrumental in my upbringing. This is definitely a tribute to her," he said. How is she doing? Owens reminded us that there's never a good answer for that when it comes to Alzheimer's: "You don't get better."

That sentiment hung over much of the gala dinner at the National Building Museum. Sharon Rockefeller took the stage to divulge publicly for the first time, that her father, the former senator Chuck Percy (R-Ill.), has been suffering from the illness for many years.

"Our nation is not paying any attention to this disease," event co-chair George Vradenburg told the crowd at the VIP reception, adding that "one in four of you have this disease" in latent form.

By The Reliable Source  |  March 26, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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