Washington, DC is often referred to as “Hollywood for ugly people,” but for at least one night of the year, we are Cinderella, and Hollywood’s collective Prince Charming stalks us with a glass slipper (and a Walking Dead-style hoarde of photographers). In recent years, the White House Correspondents Dinner (or “Nerdprom,” as the so-uncool-they’re-cool kids call it) has become a feast for celeb-watchers and wonk-worshippers alike, and this year was no exception. While anyone with a cable box already knows that Jimmy Kimmel endeared himself to Democrats everywhere by not being nearly as funny as President Obama was, we’ve got a look inside the engine that really makes this night go; the open bar and finger food-fueled pre- and post-parties.
Attending any event in DC is a bit like summer camp, where you get to see people you haven’t run into since the last one, but the WHCD has the added bonus of a megawatt celebrity quotient that many of this year’s attendees agreed jumped the shark with the attendance of politically random Fox News guest Kim Kardashian.
The sense of déjà vu started early (and weirdly) for me when David Shuster (whom I randomly ran into on the way to last year’s dinner) wandered by and caught me taking a quick pre-pre-party cat nap in my car in front of the Italian Embassy. I wisely parked there early and walked to the Hilton, ensuring a quick getaway at the end of the night. We shot the breeze about a variety of topics, including his newly-syndicated radio show for Anacostia-based We Act Radio. I taped an interview on Thursday for his Saturday show, and joked that we had both been spared the embarrassment that would have ensued if I had died Friday night. That’s kind of my “thing,” being the guy who’s always not-quite-dying of something.
While copping a quick smoke next to the red carpet entrance (where I would later unwittingly photobomb Kim Kardashian), I got a chance to briefly catch up with MSNBC contributor and Revival author Richard Wolffe, who must think I have a death wish, since he always catches me doing something unhealthy (I am quitting soon, I swear).
At the pre-party, I also ran into Twitter celebrity DC Debbie, whom I met IRL at last year’s dinner as she headed a protest of then-GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. Since President Obama took care of Trump and Osama bin Laden later that same night, she was free to roam the pre-parties, and we agreed to help each other bird-dog politicos and celebrities that the other didn’t recognize. That strategy paid off in the highlight of my night, which was that I actually managed to impress my 18 year-old son by texting him a photo of Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson (who plays Peeta) and me.
The pre-parties are held in a series of ballrooms at the Washington Hilton (also known as “The Hinckley Hilton” to jaundiced Beltway types), and while they’re individually ticketed, once you’re in, you can pretty much go wherever you want. The wide hallway that connects them all is the well-lit place to be if you want to get pictures of the stars, but the open bars in the ballrooms eventually draw everyone in. This year, I limited myself to two drinks: an Amstel Light at the pre-party (my go-to beer for people who don’t love beer) and a vodka and tonic that Rachel Maddow made me at the MSNBC afterparty.
I’m definitely not too cool to admit that the whole night had me amped, but aside from the many thrills that I’ll get to in the slide show, it was really great to see so many of my friends and colleagues. I’m a DC odd duck in a lot of ways, one of them being that I’m a Washington journalist who spends most of his time in New Jersey, so I think I appreciate these interactions a little more than they do.
Among the highlights you’ll see in this video and still slide show are a glimpse of the insanity that is the red carpet, the killer bartending skillz of Rachel Maddow, a quick look at the MSNBC dance floor that includes heroic Dancing With The Stars champ J.R. Martinez getting down with the aforementioned DC Debbie (you can read her recollections here), the one celebrity sighting that actually made me lose my sh*t completely, and some notes and observations about the festivities.
Since we were all drinking, I’m going to keep the details of our conversations to a minimum, but the frequently-broached topics of the night were Keith Olbermann (mostly not in a good way), Kim Kardashian (mostly NSFW), The Daily Caller/Tucker Carlson (I swear I didn’t bring it up once, but I’m grateful I could generate some buzz for them), the bewildering closeness of the presidential race, and President Obama’s winning set at the dinner.
Here’s this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner slide show (be sure to read the captions for more on the happenings):
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