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Congressional Black Caucus weekend; the thrill is gone

President and Mrs. Obama after being announced to speak by Barbara Lee and Donald Payne at the Congressional Black Caucus, 2010. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Instead of buzzing about what happened at the Congressional Black Caucus parties last weekend, this year, people were asking what happened to the multi-day extravaganza.

The annual legislative conference, which ended Sunday, is a Washington institution: four days of networking with leading African American politicians and business leaders. It used to be one of the hottest tickets in D.C., bar none. "I remember renting limousines and popping around to all the parties," said reality-show-rookie/man-about-town Paul Wharton. "It was almost on the scale of the inauguration."

This year, there were still dozens of receptions and dinners -- highlighted by Saturday's awards dinner with President Obama and the first lady -- but the fun, dizzying thrill of past years was faded.

"I think it was more low-key this year, but it was more substantive," said Black Entertainment Television CEO Debra Lee. "People were getting geared up for the midterms, and the economy is still a concern." The excitement of the first black president has been tempered by political infighting and jitters about November's elections. Another downer: Three prominent caucus members -- Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters and Eddie Bernice Johnson -- are caught up in ethics and financial scandals.

The result: less glitz, more gravitas. Corporations that once competed for the most lavish fete have scaled back to earnest (bor-ing) gatherings. And the beloved, over-the-top annual fashion show has completely, woefully disappeared. "When I was growing up, the CBC fashion show was the end-all and be-all for any influential black American in this community," said Wharton. "Months out, my mother would be looking for her dress. It was just huge."

This year's standouts: political consultant Art Collins's Saturday brunch at the Four Seasons, which drew heavyweights such as White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Attorney General Eric Holder, and Essence magazine's extravagant bash Friday at the Ronald Reagan Building with Sheila Johnson, Holly Robinson Peete, Omarosa, "Real Housewives of D.C." co-star Stacie Turner and En Vogue.

By The Reliable Source  | September 21, 2010; 1:05 AM ET
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Why are two Caucasian women being so snarky about a CBC event? It's a Black thing -- they don't understand!

Posted by: bs2004 | September 21, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

White trash gossiping about a black event. Why DOES the Post waste this money on irrelevant comments about a relatively irrelevant event?

Posted by: pjohn2 | September 21, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

pjohn2: No offense, really, but you are an idiot. This is a gossip column.

bs2004: Sorry to say, you might be one too.

Posted by: MeriJ | September 21, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Any event that is reduced to the commentary of Paul Wharton and features as a "get" that dreadful Sheila Johnson can most charitably be called recherche.
Alas, the parvenus have blighted yet another Washington tradition.

"Rented limousines", how typical! I bet they were big, long, garish ones too, stocked with urban liquors. You iron that hair girl!

Posted by: SoCali | September 21, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Who is Paul Wharton?

Posted by: SoCali | September 21, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Right, Paul Wharton, your mother started looking for her dress months before. Uh-huh. Little boy, don't try to pretend you're descended from a connected family; you've got "jumped-up lower middle class" written all over you.

Posted by: 7900rmc | September 22, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

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