Latino Stars, Pols Gather for Their First Inaugural Ball
By Ed O'Keefe
UNION STATION -- More than 4,000 people packed the lobby of Washington's main train station Sunday night and most seemed interested in seeing Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez and President-elect Barack Obama.
Well, two out of three ain't bad.
The Latin power couple hit the red carpet at exactly 8 p.m. ET, fielding softballs from entertainment reporters before slipping away to the VIP room. The duo's security posse did its best to keep gawkers away, even shoving aside "American Idol" runner-up David Archuleta and "70's Show" star Wilmer Valderrama to make way. Actor Edward James Olmos and "Ugly Betty" TV father Tony Plana also fielded questions from a mostly Spanish-language press, eager to hear what they think of the new president. Most professed pride, but also seemed to acknowledge the Obama administration could use a few more Latinos.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), who declined offers from a "gracious" Obama to join his administration, explained that his decision was more about saying "Yes to Congress more [than it was about saying 'no'] to anyone or anything," noting he plans to yield plenty of influence as the fifth most powerful House Democrat. Obama "tried" to include Latinos in his cabinet, Becerra said, but fell at least one short of his goal with the quick departure of Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.).
"They're still doing it," Becerra said of Obama's staffing efforts, noting there are several assistant and deputy secretary positions to fill.
"That's where you need a farm team, in order to have those folks move up in the future."
Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) (donning cowboy hat and bolo tie) and Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), two Latinos joining the administration as Interior and Labor secretaries, respectively, also joined the crowd, taking few questions from reporters and generating nowhere near the excitement as celebrities and singers in attendance (except for a few Beltway types eager for face time). Obama Spanish media spokesman Federico De Jesus was among the other transition/administration officials in attendance.
Other attendees included actresses Rosie Perez and Rosario Dawson, New York Gov. David Paterson (D), Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera, CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Univision news anchor Maria Elena Salinas (whose "Noticiero Univision" evening news broadcast often beats Katie Couric, Charles Gibson and Brian Williams, or some combination thereof in New York City, Miami and other cities with large Latino audiences.)
Master of Ceremonies George Lopez began the evening's musical performances roughly one hour after their scheduled start (in classic "Latino time" fashion as some attendees said). Musical acts War, Mariachi Los Camperos and Paulina Rubio warmed up the crowd ahead of performances by Marc Anthony and Alejandro Sanz (who performed well after this reporter went home to rest up for the remainder of the week!).
January 19, 2009; 1:03 PM ET
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