Video: Western States Ball
Inauguration Watch checked out one of Obama's 10 official inaugural balls last night to get a first-hand view of what these galas are all about. We prepared by listening to inaugural ball veteran Roxanne Roberts give advice (and warnings about what snooze-fests these things usually are). And we had gotten a behind-the-scenes tour of the Washington Convention Center ballrooms and an interview with the executive chef last week, so we had some idea how crowded it would be and what the food would be like.
So how'd it go? Frankly, Roxanne nailed it. The ballroom was cavernous, sucking the life out of what might have been a nice intimate evening in a cozier venue. Sure, Marc Anthony put on a fine set, and his wife J. Lo. made a non-so-surprising guest appearance. And celeb sightings included Tyra Banks, Tom Hanks, Kal Penn, Nancy Pelosi and more. But the food tasted like what it was--mass-produced--cocktails cost $9 and took a while to get in the lines, and the ballroom was so big -- at least a football field in length--that the party seemed dispersed and antiseptic, despite thousands of people being there.
And the worst part? The madhouse at coat check after the event was over. Obama showed up around 11:30 p.m. to address the Western States Ball crowd and have a brief dance with wife Michelle, and when he left, so did pretty much every person in the room--massing around the elevators, then piling into the coat check area -- thousands of people with little ticket stubs trying to find identical looking overcoats. It took most people more than half and hour, easy, just to get out of that area.
Final verdict: We're glad we went once, but pretty sure we wouldn't do it again. If we got tickets to the Neighborhood Ball, though, that might be a different story.
Christopher Dean Hopkins
January 21, 2009; 2:08 PM ET
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