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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?

By Mary Ann Akers  |  May 10, 2009; 3:33 AM ET
 
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Comments

For the Presidential news conferences, Obama memorizes about 20 little "speechlets" to answer questions he expects. These speechlets are about 4-5 minutes long, without a chance for reporter follow-up...

I call them little rehearsed "Big City Sliders," little morsels with a little piece of meat, a little cheesy smile, and a promise of le$$uce. The sliders are designed to go down easy, like you don't even notice them until you have had 10-12 over an hour of press conference/dining.

The White House press corps reminds me of baby robins all around their mother, waiting to the next "slider" worm to be slid down their throats by the "Thin Chested Slider Talker"

As Obama said once to Harry Reid, "I have a gift!"

Posted by: bamvol | May 10, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

It seems all the action was at the residence of the French ambassador. How unamerican...

Posted by: RegisUrgel | May 10, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

As snarky a column as snarky can be. It also encourages contempt (as if contempt is needed!) for politicians and the press.

Posted by: natalkstlmo | May 11, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Wanda Sykes, who appeared to be brain dead, made as much impact as a large turd falling from a tall cow's behind.

Posted by: nmg3rln | May 11, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Wow! What a night!
I can't believe I wasn't invited.
At least maybe they mentioned my name:
dePaul Vincent Consiglio

Regarding
dePaul Consiglio

Posted by: depaulconsiglio | May 11, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Twitter,...Twitter,...Twittering!!! I now follow The Sleuth on Twitter; from e-mails, which is now the official killing field for junk mail, to blogging, the new forum for political-analysis, to Twittering, 'The' one question to life's epiphany. So what is the Sleuth going to be doing on Twitter?

Posted by: edtroyhampton | May 11, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

WHAT A SHAME THAT WE HAVE FALLEN THIS FAR IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. WANDA DID HER PRESIDENT NO FAVORS. IT WAS A SLIMY AFAIR AND I WOULD HAVE BEEN ASHAMED IF I WAS THE PRESIDENT. HE MADE A FOOL OF HIMSELF FOR FALLING INTO HIMSELF. TO ALLOW THIS TRASH IS A INSULT TO AMERICA PEOPLE. THIS LOW LIFE SLIME DINNER IS ALLOWED BUT NOT A DAY OF PRAYER AT THE WHITE HOUSE SHOWS YOU WHERE WE ARE HEADED WITH THIS ADMIN. WHY WEREN'T THER ANY JOKES ABOUT ALL THE CLOWNS AT THE WHITE HOUSE AND IN THE CONGRESS.

Posted by: saratextoris | May 12, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

obrown1033
Ms Skyes might have been slighty over the top at the White House press dinner, but the fromer VP had one comming sonner or later and Wanda just tried to put him ot of his misery earlier than latter. What the former VP needs to do is go out west and sit in the warm sunshine and take a long rest.

To be honest I didn't think his health would hold up as well as it did for those eight while they were in office. He is simply trying to keep a finger in the dike, but what I began hearing this morning at the Senate Sub Committee hearing on torture he is going to need a log to plug that dike. That agent who testified from behind a blind screen took the BUSH GANGE to the Woodshed.

Posted by: obrown1033 | May 13, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

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