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Lady Gaga and the curse of Washington celebrity

Lady Gaga is in D.C. this evening. Why does that excite us so much?

So many things were happening. Google had a new logo. President Obama said people were talking about him like a dog. Some folks want to burn the Koran on 9/11. But all we cared about was Gaga. She's at Verizon center! What will she wear? What will she sing? Will she bring her BIKINI MADE OF MEAT?

When Rufus Wainwright came to town earlier this summer, he put his finger on the reason for this. The rock stars here are almost all old, white men. "I'll get fat and move here!" Wainwright exclaimed.

Conventional wisdom about Washington is that we're basically a boring, button-down town. We pay bills. We pass bills. We air grievances. Sometimes we rally for significant causes, such as improving water quality or restoring things to other things. We're no L.A., where I hear the sidewalks are paved with actual living Hollywood stars and everyone goes out in the evenings in limousines to "get Botox" and "method act," both of which I assume are euphemisms for developing life-threatening substance addictions. Not D.C. The reasons people get arrested here are for things such as "the trifecta of waste, fraud, and abuse," not "having too much fun" or "having too few chins."

And the beautiful people sense this. Celebrities usually come here for only three reasons: 1. They are in a movie in which they portray the president or some member of his staff; 2. They are testifying before Congress about something humanitarian, in which they will read testimony that sounds something like "I don't live in a political world, and while this might seem like a political discussion, until you are the one in seven women diagnosed with breast cancer, you will never know how NOT political this is." (Sheryl Crow); 3. They are Barack Obama.

We know this. So we’ve weaned ourselves off star power. "Today, I ran into Henry Waxman six times!" we tweet excitedly to our friends. They roll their eyes. "Justin Bieber is my neighbor," they retort. "Who?" we say. We say that a lot. We have to keep up the façade. "And tonight I'm going to the Emmys afterparty!" our friends respond.
The Emmys?" we ask. "What are those? I bet those are like the Congressional Budget Office reports that are periodically issued to estimate the cost of government programs!"

We don’t have many friends. But that's the price we pay for influencing public policy.

We've spent the better part of our lives convincing ourselves that it's really exciting when Glenn Beck, a middle-aged white man, shows up and gives a speech. "Here comes Glenn Beck!" we say. "Afterwards, we'll go sit along the strip and watch for motorcades! Maybe we'll catch a glimpse of Harry Reid!"

Say what you will about Gaga -- and everyone does -- she's a bona fide celebrity. So when she shows up, without any testimony in hand, we can't keep up the charade any longer.
We fling down our disguises. So much for pretending that we find Peter Orszag exciting. "A real star!" we scream, ponying up $200 for tickets. "Take me to the Verizon Center! I want to see that BIKINI MADE OF MEAT!"

The usual emblem of the Washington celebrity establishment is the panda. Somehow, they're synonymous with this town -- simply go to the airport and you'll see everything festooned with stuffed pandas. This makes sense. Pandas are like Congress. They come into town for a few years, everyone makes a big fuss over them and sets up cameras to watch their every move, and then the people who put them there decide to take them away. Lady Gaga's not like that at all. She's the sun of actual fame emerging for a brief moment from the foggy clouds of typical D.C. celebrity fare -- rare and precious as an eclipse, or that 60th Senate vote.

And if we miss her this time, she'll be back in February.

By Alexandra Petri  | September 7, 2010; 7:18 PM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Why we don't talk about Barack Obama 'like a dog'
Next: Terry Jones's modern-day Crusade against Muslims


Why wait till Feb, the haters can't deny her talent

Posted by: Jersey_Boy | September 8, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Around our Christian home, she is known as "Lady GagGag" and she disappears from the screen as quickly as we can hit the channel-changer! It works for us: we suffer no heathen gladly!

Posted by: churchlionjudah | September 8, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

@churchlionjudah To each his/her own, ignorance is a disease.

GaG GaG? Recess is over, back to kindergarten

Posted by: Jersey_Boy | September 8, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

This was just a great article. Well written, well humored, well, I liked it anyway. Write on, Ms.Petri ...

Posted by: giltemp1 | September 8, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

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