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Inauguralpalooza Night Three: Oprah, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson...

Squeezing into Maureed Dowd's jam-packed cocktail party Sunday night was too much for Tom Hanks to handle. He opened the door to her narrow Georgetown home, looked aghast at the hordes of guests (yours truly included) sweating shoulder-to-shoulder on all three levels and walked away.

Too bad he didn't have the security entourage Oprah Winfrey had, or he could have cleared a path -- as she did later at The Root ball at the National Museum of American History.

Oprah and her bosom buddy Gayle King whisked in and out of the black-tie, celebrity infused ball with an entourage of security, all in about 20 minutes, leaving behind Oprah's dear friend Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr., the African American studies Harvard professor and editor-in-chief of The Root magazine. Along with Samuel L. Jackson, Gates closed down the party just after 1 a.m.

(Earlier, according to Politico's Mike Allen, Oprah and Gayle dined with President-elect Obama at the Blair House at an exclusive gathering of Obama's inner circle, including Valerie Jarrett, Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Anita Dunn, Robert Gibbs, Bill Burton and Dan Pfeiffer.)

The Sleuth walked out of the Root party with Gates at 1:06 a.m. and he said he was going to find a cheeseburger and maybe hook up Oprah. "I'm going to email her right now," he told us.

Diane von Furstenberg arrived at The Root ball just as she did at Dowd's party earlier in the night -- by herself, entirely sans entourage. (SEIU's Amy Dacey to the famous designer: "I wear you all the time, it makes me feel special.")

The Root ball was a Who's Who of prominent African American journalists, actors, thinkers, politicians and activists, plus many others. Besides Oprah, Gates and Jackson, guests included Spike Lee, Natalie Portman, John Singleton, Hollywood producer Joe Pichirallo ("The Secret Life of Bees," "Lakeview Terrace") and Obama's choice for attorney general, Eric Holder, and his wife, Sharon Malone, an OB/GYN physician.

Besides Oprah, Jackson seemed to be the most sought after actor for photos and chitchats. His good friend Pichirallo, the producer, provided entrée to several folks who wanted to meet Jackson, including the Sleuth. Jackson was much more approachable than Oprah, and welcomed conversation, though he really didn't venture out of the V.I.P. lounge.

It was there that we overheard Jackson telling Mother Jones magazine's Washington bureau chief, David Corn, that his favorite ever "death scene" -- of all the many hot movies he has starred in -- was being eaten by a super-intelligent shark in "Deep Blue Sea." (Seriously, "Deep Blue Sea.")

Outside the V.I.P. lounge, there was a ton of dancing to the tunes spun by D.J. Biz Markie. Newly minted "Meet the Press" host David Gregory was a wild man on the dance floor.

Among the celebrities crammed into Dowd's mob scene of a cocktail party earlier in the night were: Ron Howard, Larry David, von Furstenberg, Mike Mills of R.E.M., Arianna Huffington, George Lucas, historian Doug Brinkley (who, unfortunately, didn't bring his best friend Sean Penn), and Jerry Brown. (Brown told the Sleuth he's running for governor of California again because, well, "I've done it before.")

Everybody who was anybody and nobody wanted to be there. And they were, including Patrick Whitesell, a partner with Rahm Emanuel's brother, Ari Emanuel, at Endeavor talent agency in L.A (whose clients include Matt Damon and Ben Affleck).

Also last night:

- The Impact Film Fund's bash with Ludacris, Darryl "D.M.C" McDaniels (of Run-D.M.C fame), Nelly and Sarah Silverman. D.M.C. sang "Tricky." California first lady Maria Shriver showed up just to see Ludacris. Also there: Ron Howard, Jessica Alba, actor Jeffrey Wright, band members from Maroon 5 and Funny or Die's zany High Five Guys.

- The unofficial Montana "ball." As our colleague Francine Uenuma reports:

Despite this being a weekend for black-tie affairs, cowboy hats and ski goggles were the name of the game at Montana's Big Sky party. The Western, winter-themed bash featured fake snow, ski lifts and a mechanical snowboard. Sen Max Baucus (D-Mont.), appropriately attired in jeans, greeted revelers next to a buffet of delicacies such as wild boar sausage and huckleberry cheesecake. His former chief of staff turned Obama deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, also made an appearance.

We'll bring you more party revelry and behind-the-scenes nuggets throughout Tuesday, so check back often.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  January 19, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
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