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 , 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. President Obama was
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
(whom I David Shuster 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
, whom I met IRL at last year’s dinner as she DC Debbie headed a protest of then-GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. Since President Obama took care of Trump and 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 Osama bin Laden 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 at the MSNBC afterparty. Rachel Maddow made me
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 getting down with the aforementioned DC Debbie (you can J.R. Martinez 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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Photobombing Kim Kardashian
On my way into the pre-party, I pulled that cliche gaga where you pretend the frantic paparazzi are really there to photograph
you, shooting them all a big hammy wave. I only found out later that I had actually photobombed Fox News belle of the ball . I'd like to say I'm sorry, but I just can't.
Red Carpet Insanity
Viewers at home got to see footage of the red carpet entrances of various celebrities, but they didn't get to
hear them. The next time Jay Carney starts to think we're getting too aggressive, I'd like him to watch this video, in which the throng of Hollywood reporters scream things like "Who are you wearing?" (yes, they really do that) at the arriving celebs.
Sen. Richard Shelby
Richard Shelby (R-AL) being interviewed by The Hill's Judy Kurtz at the paper's Friday night Turkish Embassy reception
Judy Kurtz and Tommy Christopher
The Hill's lovely gossip columnist Judy Kurtz and I at the paper's Friday night Turkish Embassy reception, which Judy invited me to. Since she was the only person I knew there ( Sam Youngman, I've learned, has moved on to Reuters), I did a quick tour of the place, then hung around with her until she had to do some actual work.
More Judy Kurtz (daughter of Daily Beast scribe Howard Kurtz), because who doesn't need more Judy? She was also at the MSNBC party Saturday night, and everywhere else, it seems.
Mike Calderone Pre-Gamin'
The first person I ran into at the Washington Hilton was
HuffPo's Mike Calderone, late of Politico, Yahoo! News, and seemingly everywhere else. Mike is living proof that there's always demand for a good reporter.
Glynnis MacNicol, Kathryn Minshew, and Rachel Sklar
Mediaite Old-Timers Day at the WHCD, as founding editors Rachel Sklar and Glynnis MacNicol met up with me on the way in, along with Kathryn Minshew, CEO & founder of . The Daily Muse
Peeta And Me
The highlight of my night: impressing my 18 year-old son by texting him a photo of
Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson (who plays Peeta) and me.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Homeland Security
Janet Napolitano at the CNN pre-party, talking to a Columbia grad student who is making a film about first campaigns.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Tommy Christopher
Sec. Napolitano and me at the CNN pre-party.
Priorities USA Action's Bill Burton
Former White House spokesman, Priorities USA Action co-founder, and proud papa
Bill Burton, looking like he just scored some oppo video of Seamus Romney.
David Axelrod and Tommy Christopher
I saw Bill Burton and senior Obama adviser
David Axelrod in the hallway outside the ballrooms, where Axelrod joked, with mock guilt, "We're not coordinating!"
I asked Axelrod what everyone else had been wondering all night, which is how the hell a weak nominee like Romney could be polling so close to the President. "It was always going to be close, no matter what," he said.
"Like, even if they put up Bozo the Clown, which is basically what they've done, it would be close anyway?" I said.
He laughed. "Exactly."
I can understand people thinking that the President may have saved the patient, but that the treatment hasn't resulted in enough improvement. I don't understand half of them wanting to go back to applying leeches and snake oil.
Rachel Sklar, Arianna Huffington, and Kathryn Minshew
Rachel Sklar, Arianna Huffington (she of the eponymous Post, and Kathryn Minshew at the CNN pre-party. Arianna told me to "Click here for a handshake!"
Rev. Al Sharpton and DC Debbie
Al Sharpton poses with Twitter-famous , who got recognized at least as often as I did. No, I DC Debbie totally don't hate her.
Dakota Fanning, star of Man On Fire, the most badass Dakota Fanning movie ever, at the CNN pre-party.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
Secretary of Defense
Leon Panetta at the CNN pre-party, obviously deploying some kind of photo-blurring cloaking device he had left over from his CIA days.
no, I wasn't Annie Hall-ucinating. That was film legend and awesome hat aficionado Diane Keaton at the CNN pre-party, looking fantastic.
Retiring Maine Senator
Olympia Snowe (R) at the CNN pre-party, where I resisted the urge to ask her to sing Informer.
Wolf Blitzer and Tommy Christopher
Wolf Blitzer and I survey the Situation in the Room. He's got a dry sense of humor. I said "Come meet Wolf Blitzer! Wolf, this is my friend, DC Debbie," and he said "Hi. I'm Wolf Blitzer."
He also told one of us "No, you look good."
Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Tommy Christopher
Former Michigan Gov.
, star of Current TV's Jennifer Granholm The War Room and hottest governor ever, at the CNN pre-party, where I introduced her to DC Debbie, whom she promptly offered a spot on her show. No, I did not push Debbie down that escalator, why do you ask?
Richard Kind, who, like anyone who eve even had a cameo on one of my favorite shows, I think of as "the guy who was on Scrubs," in the hallway outside the pre-parties.
Rep. Steny Hoyer
Steny Hoyer (D-MD), whose name sounds to me like a Southern revival preacher, but who my friend says sounds like a product from Dow Chemical.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Tommy Christopher
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and I talked a little bit of War On Women. I told her to keep fighting the good fight.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Eliot Spitzer
Reese Witherspoon and Tommy Christopher
This is me with actress
Reese Witherspoon, whom I've been a huge fan of since her precocious, insanely good turn in Freeway.
Cenk Uygur and Tommy Christopher
I was stoked to run into
The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur at the tail end of the pre-party, since I'd just missed him in New York last week. Strong ratings for TYT prove that there is Life After Keith Olbermann, and his forward-thinking web presence even earned him the admiration of the late Andrew Breitbart, but what I'd want people to know about Cenk is that he's a stand-up guy with an incredibly generous spirit.
Cenk Uygur and DC Debbie
Here, I accidentally score another TV booking for DC Debbie. I owe her big-time for recognizing Peeta, so it's cool. It's cool.
Dancing With The Stars (and Everyone Else) at the MSNBC Afterparty
I shot a little bit of video of the dance floor at the MSNBC afterparty, including heroic
Dancing With The Stars champ getting down with the omnipresent DC Debbie. Toward the end, I panned the entire dance floor, so if you look closely, you might catch a glimpse of J.R. Martinez Dave Weigel cutting a rug like a bitter fan in William Shatner's attic, and David Gregory doing that 80's new wave sidestepping thing we all did back in the day.
Rachel Maddow's Cocktail Moment LIVE!
In this exclusive video, Rachel Maddow tends bar the way I imagine an assassin in a
Quentin Tarantino movie would: cool, meticulous, and a little bit quirky. At the end of this clip, you can also catch a glimpse of another particular NerdProm thrill: my first-ever IRL meeting with my longtime pen pal Meghan McCain, who was stunning, as always:
Tommy Christopher and Rachel Maddow
As she mixes my V&T, Rachel Maddow and I talk about the time we met at CPAC, where she was a huge hit with conservatives. It is not possible to meet her in person without absolutely loving her.
Prof. Michael Eric Dyson
Georgetown University Professor and frequent MSNBC contributor
. who is Michael Eric Dyson not a former boxing champion, nor is he Toure, at the MSNBC afterparty.
Provocative MSNBC host
, still resisting the Martin Bashir , was unafraid to discuss American politics at the party. Dana Loesch gag order
Meghan McCain and Tommy Christopher
After years of emails and Twitter correspondence, the wonderful and even more beautiful in person
Meghan McCain and I finally got to meet face-to-face. We only got to talk briefly before our respective shmoozing duties separated us, but even though I didn't get a chance to tell her, I'm sure she knows I could not be prouder to call her my friend. Watch for Meg's recap of the WHCD, coming soon to her blog.
Eric Boehlert and Mike Calderone
When I saw
Media Matters' Eric Boehlert and HuffPo's Mike Calderone, I joked, "Alright, we're all here, let's put our heads together. How do we get President Obama reelected?"
They laughed, but Calderone reflexively backed away a few steps at the suggestion.
I had to interrupt
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein because his two guests were so enthralled, I'd have never gotten to introduce myself otherwise. Sorry, ladies.
Even in a room chock full of world-class beauties, MSNBC's
Tamron Hall stands out. When I appeared on her show, she said what I wrote had taken her breath away. Saturday night, she returned the favor.
Tamron Hall and DC Debbie
The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart for taking part in one of the most riveting pieces of cable news this year, Lawrence O'Donnell's sustained grilling of George Zimmerman pal Joe Oliver.
Morning Joe's Willie Geist
I can't say what we talked about, but don't forget, Willie, okay?
Morning Joe's Willie Geist and DC Debbie
Frequent MSNBC contributor and Democratic strategist
Karen Finney was also stunning, and about 9 feet tall, which you can't really tell on TV.
The Daily News' S.E. Cupp was also on hand, looking great even in the psychedelic dance floor lighting. The dance floor at Italian Embassy, by the way, has a mirror finish, so think twice before you go commando, ladies and gents.
Chairman Michael Steele
Tommy Christopher and Chairman Michael Steele
I thanked MSNBC contributor and Former RNC Chairman
for generously Michael Steele hanging in there for a nearly hour-long interview a few months back.
New York hip-hop icon
Funkmaster Flex was the DJ, which is like having having Mario Andretti as your cab driver.
Living radio legend and Current TV morning star
Bill Press promised to send me the picture he took of Uggy, the dog from The Artist, but there was no attachment to the email! Sorry so blurry, I think Leon Panetta must've been nearby.
Mr. And Mrs. Eric Burns
Eric Burns, late of Media Matters and currently of Bullfight Strategies, was on hand with his lovely wife, whose name I think was Marie, or possibly Maria, it was loud. Also in attendance was Burns' fellow Bullfight co-founder Karl Frisch, also a former MMFA-er.
I had a chance to talk with the irrepressible
David Corn, author of the new book , at the outdoor cigar bar tent that MSNBC had considerately set up for the smokers among us. Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor, and the Tea Party
Jim Cramer and Tommy Christopher
Mad Money host Jim Cramer for a quick photo in the cigar bar, but neglected to offer him a hack stock tip, like "Make sure you fish out all the bay leaves."
Glee star Matthew Morrison was huddled in the cigar bar, which put me one picture of Lady Gaga away from a son-impressing hat trick.
Slate's Dave Weigel was in the cigar bar, too, but not smoking. Well, not smoking tobacco. He is a very handsome man. Despite the intense gaze, Dave was in excellent spirits Saturday night.
Dylan Byers, Marin Cogan, and Dave Weigel
Slate's Dave Weigel, Politico media reporter Dylan Byers, and GQ correspondent Marin Cogan in the cigar bar. Later, I got a chance to see Weigel's dance moves, and while I'm a poor judge of these things, Debbie was duly impressed by his terpsichorean stylings, so I will accept her judgment on the matter.
I thanked NBC News President
Steve Capus for the awesome party, and learned that he is very pleased with my favorite weekend political talk show, . I also thanked MSNBC President Up with Chris Hayes Phil Griffin, but my phone seems to have eaten the photo I took of him.
My oldest friend in the WHPC,
AURN's April Ryan, rolled into the party fashionably late, and looking like a million bucks.
Ed and Wendy Schultz
For some reason, my flash refused to work on
Ed Schultz and his gorgeous wife, Wendy. I told Ed he ought to give Wendy her own show, since she had pulled off the Jedi mind trick of seducing him away from the Dark Side so many years ago.
Ed and Wendy Schultz Again
While Ed was being schmoozed by someone else, I had a minute to talk with Wendy, who is just a delight, and who humbly downplayed the difficult task of converting Ed from conservative to caring human being.
Eliot Spitzer and Tommy Christopher
Why do I point at people in photographs? I blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-a-alcohol. This is me with Current's
Eliot Spitzer, former New York Governor.
Dave Chappelle and Tommy Christopher
I meet famous people all the time, and while I am sometimes nervous, maybe even a little bit starstruck, I almost never completely lose my sh*t. I completely lost it when I met
Dave Chappelle Saturday night. Now, I know this picture looks like the kind of thing they crop and use on TV when someone goes missing or is murdered, but it's Dave Chappelle, bitch! I'm using all of them!
I'm proud of myself for not once mentioning Rick James or Wayne Brady (although I did sing a bar from the Chappelle's Show theme song while this photo was being taken), but I couldn't bring myself to try and make him laugh. Although I did make him laugh without trying, when I told him to pretend I made him laugh. That should count for something.
Dave Chappelle and Tommy Christopher
I also told Dave Chappelle that there are comic's comics, and there are comics that everybody likes, and as a former comic, I could vouch for him being both. Polish
that and put it in your awards case, Dave!
Dave Chappelle, DC Debbie, and Tommy Christopher
Chappelle (or "Dave," as I now call him) asked me to jump into this photo with DC Debbie. Why? I don't know, but I did it. Why? Because he's
Dave Chappelle, bitch!
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