A Familiar Face at Home States
Over at the Home States Ball, a major sighting, reports Monica Hesse:
"Oh my gosh there's Barack!" Myrna Murdoch of Hawaii goes in for a closer look at the tall thin man who is sans security and with a woman who is not Michelle. "Oh, I guess not," she says once she's four feet away. "And I haven't even had a drink yet."
Easy mistake. Larry Graves is an Obama impersonator, here with his friend Leolani Hill. The secret to his sticking-out ears? "Scar gum," he confides somberly, Obama-like. He's got big wads of it behind each ear.
Elsewhere in the cavernous room, Vicky Takmine of Oahu carries a large armful of leis. She'd planned to give them to guests, "but maybe I'll just drape then around" the bland room, the hula teacher muses disapprovingly. "We Hawaiians could have decorated if they asked us. We would have brought flowers."
Carol Bailey, standing behind Takmine in a drink ticket line with her son Michael Hallock, wonders how Illinoisians could contribute to the decor. They are from Rockford. "Corn?" She suggests. "Bears paraphernalia?" Hallock offers.
Finally, the real deal appears. The lights on stage go up and everyone gasps in anticipation. The curtains rustle and everyone whispers, hoisting cameras above heads in preparation. Then the president appears and everyone goes nuts, waves of cheers that rise with each observed detail. "White tie," one guest coos appreciatively. "Okay LOVE the dress," says another.
"Hello," the president greets the guests. "Aloha," he adds for the Hawaiians, and, "What's going on?" for the Illinoisians in the audience.
"Chicagooooo!" someone yells.
"This is a special ball for us'" Obama says. "It represents our roots. ... You're not new friends -- you're old friends."
Then he and Michelle dance to "At Last." The crowd cheers as if watching a Hollywood dance competition instead of a presidential waltz. The first couple exchange glances and private giggles; their vibe from tonight looks like the kind that will continue long after the balls are over.
After the president leaves, guests return to the business of finding other famous people. Jesse Jackson and T.D. Jakes have small crowds traipsing after them, and there are more people lining up to talk to D.L. Hughley than to C-Span.
Then organizers take away the pasta bar and replace it with potato chips. Ravenous guests seem pleased.
At 9:50 p.m., the vice president appears on stage -- and clearly people had forgotten that he would be coming because they were mainly off eating potato chips or in the drink line.
Guests rush over in time to hear him make a lame-ish joke about Lake Michigan, then a sweet joke about how the only reason he likes to dance is because it gives him an excuse to be close to Jill. Aww.
Web Politics Editor
January 20, 2009; 9:02 PM ET
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