After KenCen Honors, the Boss bails on dinner
Was that the A-list-iest Kennedy Center Honors ever? If you managed to get a ticket, you were entertained by the likes of Sting, Ben Stiller, Eddie Vedder, Sharon Stone and Aretha Franklin on the stage of the Opera House, paying tribute to the honorees.
Your $1,500-plus ticket, however, did not mean you got to break bread or clink chardonnay glasses with those folks afterward. Many of the biggest names bailed on the post-show dinner in the Grand Foyer, including honoree Bruce Springsteen.
It's generally expected that the honorees, since they don't have to entertain, will at least make a polite appearance at dinner. ("Well, he waved to us from the balcony!" one Boss apologist insisted.) Of course, the night, which raised $5 million for the center, ran unusually late -- diners got their first courses around 11:30 p.m. And have you ever seen the way the honorees get mobbed at these things?
Mel Brooks had just posed for photos with exuberant dancers from the show and was making his way to his table when a lady in a black halter gown intercepted him.
"Mr. Brooks, I have a big Jewish family," she said. "I have to get you to come say hello to them!"
Brooks winced, shrugged. "I have to go eat dinner with my own family!" he protested. "Well ... where are they?" And so he let her walk him over to her gang. "Yaaaayyyy!!!!" they cheered.
So that's what you were missing, Bruce. And Ben, and Eddie, and Sharon. Sting was glimpsed briefly in the foyer; Aretha passed through with an entourage of three Sub-Zero-size men.
Meanwhile, there were plenty of other premium VIPs to enjoy. Lingering over dinner: Meryl Streep and Donald Sutherland in a deeply witty conversation we couldn't exactly hear, all sparkling eyes and fine cheekbones -- uh, were we staring?
Jane Krakowski gazed into the eyes of a handsome man with longish hair and a three-day beard. (Google, Google: her longtime sweetie, British documentarian Marc Singer.) Pretty black dress -- but what happened to the dazzling silver sheath she wore onstage? "It was just for the performance," she said. "It's too heavy!"
And there was Jon Stewart and wife Tracey, dutifully taking their seats. They told us the Obamas slipped backstage during intermission to greet the performers; Tracey got teary when it was her time to shake the president's hand.
"It was quite a moment," she said.
"If he hadn't stepped on her foot, she wouldn't have cried," joked her husband. "That's what happens to the little people."
Jack Black, lookin' good as Robin Hood! Those green tights! (Part of the Brooks tribute.) "I missed all my dance moves," said Black, at that point wearing a nice suit. "I pretended like everything was fine. Bottom line: It's not really about us. It's about Mel. But I like that you're complimenting my legs."
Hey, Peter Orszag, your date is hot! The lady on the OMB director's arm turned out to be ABC business reporter Bianna Golodryga. ... The annual Cool Kids Table, non-honorees division: Lynda Carter, Cal Ripken, their spouses, always seeming to have fun. ... Rahm Emanuel, working the room, smiled and said hello -- he knows us? Oh, wait: He's a politician. He was just pretending. Patrick Kennedy greeted us warmly, too.
His cousin Caroline Kennedy, meanwhile, posed for a photo with Sen. Debbie Stabenow's daughter (dangly earrings, pierced eyebrow), taken by the Michigan Democrat herself. Then Kennedy left with husband Ed Schlossberg, relatively early, at 11:56 p.m.
Why'd the night run so late? Blame the Salahis. Security was crazy tight. The list for the White House's pre-show VIP reception was scaled back, but it took twice as long to enter -- as usual, we're told, because guests went through multiple checkpoints. And none other than social secretary Desirée Rogers, in a somber black suit, greeted them near the entrance. Many bigwig guests were dismayed that the traditional receiving line with the president and first lady -- a cherished photo op -- was scuttled this year. Increased security also caused backups and late arrivals.
But you know who was still there past midnight? Streep, giving the same super-attentive treatment to David Axelrod, who'd slipped into Sutherland's seat. Rep. Jane Harman -- love the mink stole! -- lingered until 12:24 a.m. And the friends of Dave Brubeck, whose tables erupted into an impromptu chorus of "Happy Birthday" for the honoree's 89th.
Things got lively before it all ended (jazz singer Frieda Lee belting "Route 66" with the band for a mob of happy swing dancers), but at 1:04 a.m., just one couple owned the dance floor. Joe Robert III, 29, an Iraq Marine vet and son of the same-name business magnate, clung to his girlfriend, Tiffany Carter, 24, for a romantic slow dance, gripping the train of her dress against his thigh. A little earlier, he had led her into the Opera House's presidential box, by then empty -- and proposed. She said yes.
The Reliable Source
December 7, 2009; 3:56 PM ET
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