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Red carpet pandemonium — packed on both sides of the velvet ropes — photographers and reporters on one side, faced fans and star gazers on the other. Glenn Close,”It’s completely crazy!” Screams and shouts for arriving VIPs: aplusk (Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher), Alicia Keys, Ludacris, Bon Jovi, and Stevie Wonder.
Early estimates for the turnout at the Pre-WHCD Garden Brunch exceed 500, probably more, as a capacity crowd mingled and mixed in anticipation of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner tonight. The weather — always an issue in D.C. — cooperated, serving up a sunny, if slightly humid afternoon.
Guests included actors Val Kilmer, Christian Slater, Matthew Modine and Dana Delaney; Capt. Richard Phillips of the Alabama Maersk and his wife Andrea; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; former Clinton administration official Donna Shalala; David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell and Ann Curry of NBC News, and many others.
The party ran from Noon until 3:00 p.m., when guests started leaving to prepare for tonight’s big event.
Rapper and actor Ludacris says he’s looking forward to the big correspondents’ dinner tonight, and, noting that he’s been a longtime fan of Wanda Sykes (tonight’s entertainer), adds that she shouldn’t “hold back… there’s too much seriousness in this town.”
Ludarcis attended the 2006 WHCD, when Stephen Colbert was the evening’s entertainment, and said he’s taking his mom tonight,”kind of an early Mother’s Day present.”
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said the White House press corps “serves a function” and that getting rid of it, as some have suggested, “would be wrong.” Napolitano was at the Pre-Dinner Garden Brunch.
Both People and DC Modern Luxury magazine threw pre-WHCD receptions tonight, the eve of the big dinner itself tomorrow night. At the St. Regis Hotel, just blocks away from the White House, the old world elegance of the venue provided a warm atmosphere for the People bash, which was packed nearly wall-to-wall. Hotel staff in tuxes passed drinks and hors d’oeuvres among the several hundred guests, who included actor Kevin Bacon and musician Ludacris. TV news personalities also filled the room, such as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, ABC News’ Ann Compton, NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell and Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. The mood was relaxed and festive.
A couple miles away, on Washington’s famed Embassy Row, DC Modern Luxury magazine hosted a reception in the extremely modern digs of the Finnish Embassy. Pale wood and glass and steel abounded as a capacity crowd of mostly younger guests mixed and mingled. Spotted among the faces was CNN’s Ed Henry and Suzanne Malvaux. A DJ played a mix of house music for dancers, whose numbers increased as the evening grew later.
Captain Richard Phillips and his wife Andrea will attend the White House Correspondents Dinner as guests of Bloomberg. Phillips, who was held hostage by Somali pirates along with his crew just weeks ago, will be among the more prominent guests at this year’s correspondents dinner — definitely one of the big “gets” for 2009.
Many previous presidents have turned to outside comedy pros to help liven up their speech to the White House Correspondents Dinner, but Newsweek is reporting that Barack Obama is relying as usual on his closest aides and staff.
“Politics on Film,” Washington’s first political film festival, debuts tonight with a downtown rooftop party just as the city gears up for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
“We didn’t plan that on purpose,” says Gayle Osterberg, a festival co-founder. “But there certainly is some perfectly delightful synergy there.”
With all the Hollywood stars in town for the dinner, it seems a good fit to have a film festival underway. “We’re excited to have screenings going on all through the big party weekend,” Osterberg adds.
The fest will have its own stars in attendance — Kate Mulgrew (“Star Trek: Voyager”), Aasif Mandvi (“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”) and Peter Riegert (“Animal House,” “The Sopranos”). The three actors star in one of the festival’s featured films, “The Response.”
Festival schedule here.
The original Wonkette Ana Marie Cox, now of the TheDailyBeast and Air America and author of a provocative piece about the White House press corps, talks with ABCNews’ Web anchor and noted author Rick Klein about what to wear for Saturday night’s WHCD and handicaps chances of getting into different after parties.