All Men Are Created Equal -- Except the VIPs
A new democratic era? Not at inaugural parties this week, where our era's great manifestation of class divisions reigned: The VIP room.
At the Root Ball, Oprah Winfrey's much-anticipated presence was lost on the 1,300 guests -- she spent her brief visit in a special lounge, out of mingling range, even out of sight. At the Hip-Hop Inaugural, guests who bought $500 or $1,000 tickets only glimpsed Young Jeezy, LL Cool J and Russell Simmons coming or going, or during their performances; otherwise, they were tucked away in a hidden suite. At the official President Obama Home States Ball, the stars were literally put on a pedestal -- or really more of a platform.
If you made it past the velvet rope, you might have been amused. At BET co-founder Bob Johnson's late-night party at Posh, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Marisa Tomei, Denzel Washington and Sir Richard Branson crammed into the tiny second-floor back lounge. Star Jones (trailed by an overeager bodyguard) pushed up to Forest Whitaker: "My brother, I have not kissed you tonight." Sharon Stone, in a low-cut black gown, told the host, "If there were more white people on black television, it would solve everything"; also, that she'd like to star in a Spike Lee movie.
Johnson himself was baffled by the setup. "I never understand why they pack in here," he told us. "They never want to be out there" -- waving toward the rest of the club -- "with the people who made them famous and pay their bills."
Truth be told, there's often nothing special about The VIP. At the Google/YouTube party, it was simply a set of couches set off by gauzy white curtains. As Joaquin Phoenix, Ben Affleck, Sarah Silverman and several others mingled there, a faint whiff of marijuana wafted from the space -- until John Kerry walked in, and it suddenly disappeared.
Otherwise, it's the same booze, the same food -- just a different class of guest. At the Artists and Athletes Alliance party, we were whisked from a crowded main room at Cafe Milano to a smaller, slightly less crowded one with David Arquette, Luke Russert, Hunter Biden, Jake Tapper, David Keith. But the real VIP room? Over there, a tiny glass enclosure: J-Lo, Marc Anthony, another woman.
They were, well, talking. At least we got to watch.
See also in Style:
Epilogue To a Night Of Soirees
By Monica Hesse
(A wrapup of Tuesday's balls -- including what went wrong at the Youth Ball and some oversold events.)
For a Day, Visitors Delight In Obamas' Open-Door Policy
By DeNeen L. Brown
(The one-day-only White House open house.)
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