Newly Hip? Nah, D.C.'s Always Ruled!
Have you heard? Washington is "hot" now.
At least that's what they keep telling us in other cities. "The nation's capital does seem a different place -- hipper, happier, more energized -- than it did 100 days ago," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in April. "The once-sleepy city is a happening hot spot," noted USA Today in January. "You kind of feel this energy, this current, going through D.C.," an ANC commissioner told the New York Times in January, by way of making the case that it's, yes, "a hip place to be."
The "D.C. is hip" story has been written before, notably ... hmm, whenever the balance of power shifts to the left (1993, 2007). But the slightly patronizing praise grew louder with the arrival of President Obama, implicitly or explicitly credited for the alleged zeitgeist shift. Yet our examination of the evidence suggests that his influence on the city's cool/hot metrics may be overstated.
The U Street corridor: Marvin opened during the Bush years. So did Busboys & Poets. Ben's Chili Bowl opened, uh, 50 years ago and became a hipster touchstone at least 15 years ago. Cool bars have been opening -- and closing! -- here even before the Clintons came to town.
Starlets: White House speechwriter Jon Favreau is maybe-sorta dating Rashida Jones of "The Office," which can indeed give hope to legions of Hill staffers. But thus far he can't hold a candle to George Stephanopoulos, who spent the early Clinton years courting Jennifer Grey before moving on to Bebe Neuwirth. And D.C. lawyer Robert Altman wooed and won Lynda Carter all the way back in the early '80s! Today's West Wingers are, relatively, just getting their A-game going.
Kal Penn: Whoo hoo, a Hollywood guy is deigning to work in government. Anyone remember a thespian-turned-fed named Reagan?
Fashion: Well, never mind -- New Yorkers are still dumping on the way we dress. (Don't we get points for not wearing running shoes with pantyhose to work anymore?)
Reality TV: "The Real World Washington," "Real Housewives of Washington," "Blonde Charity Mafia," all headed for your TV soon. We'll give you this one. When it comes to semi-unscripted basic-cable theatrics, D.C. is the place right now!
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