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Poseidon Adventure Dinner

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So it was very late, at Reuters's party, pretty much the last thing happening at the Hilton Saturday night, and I was talking to a fellow named Jason from Congress Daily, and it suddenly dawned on us both that the White House Correspondents Dinner wasn't like a Fellini film after all. No: More like a 1970s disaster movie.

You know how, in a 1970s disaster movie, there's always the character-setting portion in the first 30 or 40 minutes in which we meet the various over-the-hill B-list actors? Perhaps there'll be a big scene in which everyone's in black tie, feeling full of themselves -- unaware that in a few short minutes a calamity will strike and the entire ballroom will be upside down. That's how it felt in the big room at the Hilton: Like you ought to grab hold of something for when the place flipped.

"It would be really bad if we suddenly ran into Shelley Winters," I said.

"Or Ernest Borgnine," Jason said. "Or George Kennedy. He was in all those movies. George Kennedy had the best sideburns of the 1970s."

There was definitely an end-of-days quality to the event. (Bush himself made the appropriate joke: Mitt Romney and Pam Anderson in the same room, isn't that a sign of the Apocalypse?)

My Pam Anderson encounter was a new low for me as a journalist, which is saying something. Always shameless in the presence of celebrity, I tapped Ms. Anderson on the arm, introduced myself, and asked I could take her photo. She said yes at first. But then I mentioned that it would be for my blog. "Not for your blog!" she said, and turned away from me with a dismissive wave of her hand that will be burned in my memory to my dying day. All I got was a photo of Pam Anderson's Cold Shoulder.

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Earlier I pounced on Cheryl Tiegs (shown here with Bob Nixon). She was quite lovely and laughed at my lame attempts to be amusing.

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Also I talked to Miss America.

"Can you fly?" I asked Miss America, and then, to try to impose some clarity on that question, added. "Do you have superpowers?"

This seemed, at the moment, a fair line of questioning, as the act of wearing a tiara seems just one step removed from wearing a cape. She very easily could have said, "I can make myself invisible" or "I control the weather." Instead she talked about her commitment to helping young people with eating disorders.

High moment: A strangely intense conversation with Zbigniew Brzezinski, who talked of the night he got a call that the Soviets had launched a nuclear strike on the U.S. I hope it doesn't ruin the anecdote when I reveal that it was a false alarm. I'll tell the full story down the road, but in any case it was a reminder that, during the Cold War, the ultimate disaster was potentially only minutes away [it still is, isn't it? --ed.], and it wasn't something dreamed up by Hollywood.

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By Joel Achenbach  |  April 29, 2008; 6:53 AM ET
 
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