Julia Allison explains how she crashed the White House Correspondents' Dinner
It was a simpler time, the White House Correspondents' Association dinner of 2007 -- an era when a pretty girl with a pretty dress but no invitation could sneak into the hot-ticket event just by attaching herself to the coattails of an unsuspecting VIP.
A very VIP, mind you, but more on that later. Looking back on her escapade, Julia Allison has no regrets.
"But I wouldn't do it again," says the 29-year-old New Yorker. "Crashing is a young person's sport."
We cajoled Allison into going public with her story, which may symbolize the last of the good times for the Washington Non-Invited -- back before Tareq and Michaele Salahi gave crashing presidential dinners a bad name. Though not as elite as a White House state dinner, the WHCA gala's mix of political A-listers and Hollywood celebrities has made it a highly coveted and heavily guarded affair. For years, savvy crashers managed to mingle with the stars at the numerous pre-dinner parties; but for this year's event on Saturday, featuring both President Obama and Jay Leno, hosts have mandated that even reception guests show a dinner ticket or printed invitation.
In 2007, Allison had neither of those. The va-voomy Georgetown grad is a frequent TV pop-culture commentator who runs a Web site devoted to her life and the lives of her friends (she prefers the title "lifecaster" to blogger), and by the late '00s, she'd become a fixture on Manhattan's media gadfly party scene.
She has crashed a few events in her day. "Acting like you're meant to be there is 90 percent of the battle," she says. "It's walking with purpose. You don't want to lie. You just want to act as if, 'of course, I'm just walking in.'"
Still, when she got a Huffington Post assignment to write about the party cavalcade around the dinner, she assumed she could "finagle a ticket." But no one had one for her, she said. "So I just showed up."
In a strapless red dress, she both stood out and blended in. "The party is in the hallway," she explains. Arianna Huffington introduced her around, and Allison scribbled down quotes and took photos of the blog empress with various celebrities.
At dinnertime, Allison hung back as most of the crowd lined up to show their tickets and pass through security. That's when she saw Colin Powell. She says she originally just wanted to get a quote from the former secretary of state. But as she got closer, "I realized that he was flying solo," only one aide leading him.
"You know how when a celebrity is moving through a room, they literally leave a wake?" she says. "I got in his wake, and I just moved with him."
Allison says she kept within inches of Powell. The room was so crowded that it didn't look strange -- and Powell, she says, never had any idea a young woman was shadowing him. She followed him past an usher and through the metal detectors, and no one asked her for the ticket she didn't have.
And then she was in. She had no seat, but Huffington gave Allison hers while she swanned around the room; then when Huffington wanted to sit, it was Allison's turn to work the room. She slipped into the empty seat of Hillary Clinton's press secretary, Philippe Reines, who chivalrously allowed her to share it with him when he returned: A prime seat, just a couple of tables from President Bush and a few feet from where the historic war-of-words between Sheryl Crow and Karl Rove went down.
Reines "is so sweet," Allison says. "This was the funniest, sweetest thing."
Is it still possible to crash the dinner? "There's always a way," she says. But "you have to have a purpose." She did it "because I had a job to do, not because I wanted to get famous," but the Salahis made the practice distasteful. "And for me to say that is really saying something!"
So we won't see her there this week? "No," she says. "Unless someone wants to invite me."
The Reliable Source
April 26, 2010; 1:04 AM ET
Categories: White House Correspondents' Association Dinner
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