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Dressed Up With Nowhere to Dance

Tiffany Shannon, right, with her cousin Joya Holley, center, and friend Sindy Edward, shortly before they headed out to the American Music Inaugural Ball, which, unbeknown to them, had been canceled. (Courtesy Tiffany Shannon)

Ah, the humanity! Of all the inaugural party letdowns (oversold events, AWOL stars), the worst may be the Dionne Warwick and Ludacris-headlined American Music ball.

It didn't just flop. It was abruptly scrapped -- the morning of -- leaving countless party hopefuls in the cold.

Maybe not that many: Out-of-town organizers sold thousands fewer tickets than they needed to operate. But the Marriott Wardman Park staff had the sad task of breaking the news to several fancily dressed folks who had no idea the party was off until they got there.

Tiffany Shannon, a D.C. graphic designer, dipped into savings to buy six $450 tickets for family and friends. She bought a $600 dress; her dad got a new tux. They skipped the swearing-in to make sure they'd get to the ball on time.

"Imagine all the people that paid to fly in," she said. "It's not even about the money. It's about the stolen moment." Tony Reddick paid $713.75 for a VIP pass; he may sue. "They pretty much stole our history, our time to be down there celebrating."

Dionne Warwick on the red carpet at the Inaugural Purple Ball. (Joe Kohen/Getty Images)

What happened? Warwick, who announced the gala last fall, offered few answers. "We had no sponsors, and the expense was horrendously high," the singer told us. (She ended up at the Purple Ball as an "Entertainment Tonight" correspondent.)

Who was in charge? "I couldn't begin to tell you," she said. Both the hotel and a PR agency ID'd the promoter as Guy Draper. That's the same name as Warwick's partner in earlier charitable ventures that raised questions about fiscal management, according to reports by ABC in 1993 and Entertainment Weekly last year. Draper is a former D.C resident and was a city official during Marion Barry's first mayoral term. Draper's voice mail was full yesterday; he did not reply to e-mail.

One winner: D.C. Central Kitchen. The financially-hit Marriott donated its prepared feast -- including 360 pork ribs, 780 servings of chicken parmesans, nine dozen biscuits, and four cases of bananas.

** Updates to this story appeared in the print editions of Monday, January 26, and Tuesday, January 27, and can be seen online here and here. **

By The Reliable Source  |  January 23, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
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Props to Tiffany: that style of dress is really hard on the figure and she looks fantastic in it. Her cousins look sweet, too, but she knows what she's doing.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | January 23, 2009 6:17 AM | Report abuse

Is it just me or do those food quantities listed seem WAY too small for a crowd that was originally anticipated to be in the thousands?? Alas, poor planning could have been the culprit here....

Posted by: AISuch | January 23, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Do these people get their money back if the ball is canceled? Probably a dumb question, but that is a serious loss of cash.

Posted by: Laura118 | January 23, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Warwick has often been involved in shady charitable events, no surprise here.

Posted by: PatrickNYC1 | January 23, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

The ball was cancelled, but the stars were there.

Posted by: coeeb | January 23, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

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