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It Was Just the Night to Stage a Comeback

President Obama gets a laugh out of Katie Couric as he greets David Selby, an actor portraying Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi greets actor Sidney Poitier. (Aude Guerrucci/Pool via Getty Images)Enlarge This Image

The best way to bounce back from a failed Cabinet nomination? Surround yourself with friends, like the 600 black-tie guests at the Ford's Theatre reopening Wednesday. An upbeat Tom Daschle, making his first high-profile outing since his HHS bid was scuttled by tax problems, was surrounded by well-wishers, back-patters and huggers all night.

Then again, this was a big car-and-driver crowd: Black limos delivered the president and first lady, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. And we're guessing that New York billionaire Ron Perelman, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, Sidney Poitier, Katie Couric and all the other VIPs didn't circle the block looking for a parking space.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Michelle Fenty on the Ford's Theatre red carpet. (Abby Brack/Getty Images)Enlarge This Image

Recession? Not inside the 19th-century theater or the elegant thank-you dinner at the National Portrait Gallery following the performance. Abe Lincoln turned out to be a one-man stimulus package for the Ford's renovation: $5 million from Exxon Mobil; $2.5 million from Perelman, BP America and Qatar; $1 million each from locals Sheila Johnson, Catherine and Wayne Reynolds and David and Alice Rubenstein.

"We had an amazing fundraising year," said Wayne Reynolds, who chaired the $50 million campaign that added a museum, education center and upgraded Web site to the theater's artistic mission. Timing the reopening to Lincoln's 200th birthday was entirely calculated: "We tapped into a national phenomenon," Reynolds said. "We could raise $100 million because there's so much emotion about ensuring the legacy of Lincoln for young people."

Ford's Director Paul Tetreault couldn't resist making a last-minute pitch: The wall of donor names in the lobby was a stand-in. The real one, he told the crowd, will be carved later this spring so last-minute gifts can make the granite cut.

By The Reliable Source  |  February 13, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
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In the picture of Tom Daschle and his wife appearing in the RS of 2/13, he appears to be wearing his cumberbund upside down.

Posted by: VTboy-NowDC | February 13, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

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