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Posted at 6:45 PM ET, 01/17/2009

Living the 'American Dream'

By Fritz Hahn

1350 Okie St. NE -- At Jay-Z's "American Dream Inaugural Gala" at Love on Friday, the only question was whether the host would make an appearance and if she would be with him.

The four-level nightspot was packed to the gills with people in a celebratory mood. There were guys in suits with elaborate pocket squares by the pool table, groups of women in little black dresses gyrating to Beyonce songs on the dance floors, long lines in front of staircases and VIP ropes and men in sportswear wandering through the crowd, fists clenched around half-empty bottles of Moet. (The party was billed as "black tie optional," but I spotted a grand total of one tuxedo in about three hours, and plenty of men in jeans or Hobo and Madness sweatsuits were sprinkled through the crowd.)

The DJs had stoked the fires all night, playing classics like "Hard Knock Life" and "Can I Get A ..." and asking "Y'all ready for Jay-Z?" in between the usual "Pop Champagne" party jams and celebrity updates ("Antawn Jamison's in the building!").

Then, just after 1:30, Jigga -- black T-shirt, dazzling chain, huge watch -- appeared on the low stage and made his way to a table at the front overlooking the dance floor.

The crowd surged forward, hundreds of arms and cellphone cameras in the air. He didn't even give the crowd a quick "What's up, D.C." -- he just settled in with his entourage, shaking hands and soaking in the scene. Everything came to a stop as people craned their necks and stared at the stage. Strangely, the guest of honor's arrival seemed to suck all the energy out of the room for at least half an hour.

At the less-harried first-floor bar, Rutgers students Krista Collman and Mariah Henderson relaxed, cocktails in hand, completely nonplussed about the madness upstairs.

"Like, you'd see his pinky finger or his face -- you might see his fist up in the air for a second -- but you're not going to see Jay-Z," Henderson said and laughed.

"I knew I wouldn't see him," Collman said, "but we just wanted to come for the party."

Meanwhile, the first night of D.C.'s extended drinking hours turned out to be anticlimactic. A quick tour of the K Street and Dupont Circle lounges around 3 a.m. found most of them to be, well, dead. Bouncers at Lotus, Tattoo and Fly, instead of blocking the doors as they usually do in the early hours of Saturday, ushered guests in with only cursory ID checks. About 10 people were dancing as the Tattoo VJ spun "Eye of the Tiger." Lotus's crowd was about as heavy as you'd expect on a slow weeknight, and most of the VIP tables lining the wall at Fly sat empty, though DJ Dirty Hands' hip-hop set inspired a few people to get up and groove.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | January 17, 2009; 6:45 PM ET
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