White House Dinner, Behind the Scenes
In the world of Obama, there are more celebrities packed into a single night than in all eight years of the famously Hollywood-centric Clinton administration combined. Such was the scene last night at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner.
From rock stars and designers to silver-screen beauties, they all flocked to Washington for President Obama's first crack as "Stand-Up-in-Chief."
Offstage, it was a true mob scene. Never before have we seen the White House correspondents' dinner so crowded, or heard the red carpet reverberating with such high-pitched squeals and screams, mostly from local teenagers who came to catch a glimmer of glitterati.
Among the celebs who were there: Sting; Bon Jovi; Kevin Bacon; Stevie Wonder; Steven Spielberg; George Lucas; Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes; Eva Longoria Parker; John Cusack; Jason Bateman; Glenn Close; Natalie Portman; Rashida Jones and Jon Hamm (who was pawed throughout the evening by women who wanted to be with him, and men who wanted to be him).
Lucas, the legendary director of Star Wars, chatted up Portman (Padme Amidala to him). But he had to share the actress with Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, who gave Portman a big hug as if she were a long lost pal. (She may be for all we know.) Portman also chatted away with Attorney General Eric Holder.
And while the dinner scene very much personified the Democrats' newfound stronghold on power, there were notable Republicans in the crowd as well.
They included Alaska's first dude, Todd Palin, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who told us he's turning 77 in a couple of months), former White House counsel and attorney general Alberto Gonzales, Newt Gingrich and former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman.
Rumsfeld and Gonzales sat on the far, far rim of the gigantic ballroom in the Hilton Washington hotel. Asked how it felt to be back at the dinner but sitting in outer Siberia, Rumsfeld smiled his classic toothy, squinty-eyed grin and declared, "Fantastic!"
Asked what it was like for him, Gonzales replied, "I'm just here having dinner." With that, he picked up his fork.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich worked the ballroom in the Hilton like a champ, or a 2012 presidential candidate. Beleaguered Republican Party chairman Michael Steele put on a happy face, too. (And Mehlman was overheard saying he's out of the partisan politics business.)
Media darling Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), was there, too. Dad was not. The younger McCain wore an eye-popping white dress with gold sparkles all over, as she had promised the world of Twitter earlier in the day.
She sparkled all the way over to the Corcoran Gallery of Art for a private after-dinner party hosted by Capitol File magazine. Lots of celebs - including the dinner's entertainment, Wanda Sykes - followed her there, as did first designer Jason Wu and Johnny Wright, first lady Michelle Obama's hairdresser.
The two Obama administration "co-hosts" of the Capitol File party, Valerie Jarrett and Desiree Rogers, however, seemed more enchanted with the Vanity Fair/Bloomberg News after-party. They stayed there most of - if not the entire - night.
But not Rahm Emanuel. The potty-mouthed White House chief of staff was at the rival - or second-class, as some considered it - Cap File party, where he danced and schmoozed (as he left his Secret Service-driven SUV parked out front).
And last but not least, CNBC's "Mad Money" madman Jim Cramer was at the Corcoran late-night bash. Asked what he thought of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Cramer said, "He saved us." (Meaning, Geithner took Cramer's advice not to nationalize the banking industry.)
Asked whether Geithner, who also attended the dinner last night as a guest of Newsweek, would survive on the job, Cramer said, "Absolutely."
Willing to believe Cramer on this one?
Mary Ann Akers
May 10, 2009; 3:33 AM ET
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