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Oprah's D.C. Inaugural Debut: The Root Ball


Oprah hobnobbed in The Root Ball's VIP room. (Courtesy of The Root)

Turns out that being at a party with Oprah isn't really like being at a party with Oprah.

Which isn't to say that it wasn't a pretty good party. The most anticipated VIP visitor to Barack Obama's inauguration festivities -- next to Barack Obama -- made her first official appearance last night at the The Root Inaugural Ball at the National Museum of American History.

By many accounts, it was the hot-ticket gala of the night. TheRoot.com, an online magazine in the mold of Slate focused on an African-American audience and owned by The Washington Post Co., was celebrating its first anniversary, and it pulled both the local and visiting A-lists: Samuel L. Jackson in Kangol cap, swarmed by women; "Meet the Press" host David Gregory busting a move to the sounds of Biz Markie; comedian Chris Tucker chatting up host (and The Root co-founder) Henry Louis Gates. Also Eric Holder, Diane Von Furstenberg, Spike Lee, John Singleton, Natalie Portman.

And 1,300 guests, most in formalwear, nibbling on Asian and Caribbean hors d'oeuvres and enjoying an open bar. (How's the Post paying for this, btw? Later there are shout-outs to "sponsors" HBO, UPS, Estee Lauder, Clinique.) Men more fashion-forward than the women. Men in hats. Men in intricate eyeware. One man in a skirt. A new day in Washington!

"I haven't seen this many black people since I was in Africa," exulted Gates from the stage. He expressed his wonder over Obama's election with a brilliant one-two namedrop. "Michael Eric Dyson told me at Oprah Winfrey's house it was possible. . . Oprah, who is probably responsible for two million votes - give it up for Oprah!"

Who was... where exactly? A friend's husband swore he saw her headed into an elevator. Need confirmation. We asked our hosts. "Oprah's here, or I heard Oprah's here," our boss's boss's boss's boss's boss's boss Don Graham told us. He told us to ask Gates. "Oprah's on her way. She told me she's coming," the scholar said.

Later, Biz Markie shouts from the turntable, "Are y'all ready to party for Obama?" and adds, "Oprah's in the house!" Is that confirmation?

Finally, a former boss sees her, briefly. Turns out there is a third floor VIP lounge, in which much of the big-name talent is "sequestered," as actor Isaiah Washington puts it, and into which Winfrey and best pal Gayle King presumbly disappeared. (Politico reports they earlier dined with the Obamas and a couple dozen other close friends at Blair House.) But yes, she was there, and so were we.

By The Reliable Source  |  January 19, 2009; 11:53 AM ET
Categories:  Parties  
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