Washington has an unlikely night spot: team tennis in downtown D.C. Kastles CEO Mark Ein hosts tennis great Billie Jean King during Serena Williams debut match while some of Washington’s power players — Larry Summers, Judy Woodruff, Al Hunt, Luke Russert, Michelle Fenty, Debra Lee, and Ray and Nina Benton — look on.
Serena Williams played for the Washington Kastles last night, after after spending the afternoon at the White House.
She wowed the crowed, which included: NBC’s Betsy Fischer and Luke Russert, Bloomberg’s Al Hunt and Margaret Carlson, Newshour’s Judy Woodruff, Larry Summers from the White House NEC, and venture capitalist and Kastles’ co-founder Mark Ein (those are the Fenty boys next to Mark).
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And Serena showed everyone what they came to see — some great tennis. Serena won her Singles match 5-2 (against Marie Eve-Pelletier), she and Rennae Stubbs won their Doubles match 5-1, and Serena and Leander Paes ran away with the Mixed Doubles match 5-0.
By Neil Grace and Catherine Hill
MSNBC threw a memorable Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner after-party that stood apart from parties past. Held directly across the street from the main event at the Washington Convention Center, MSNBC turned the traditionally staid Historical Society of Washington, D.C. into a brightly-lit fete of themed cocktails, glowing neon necklaces and comfort food.
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As guests walked down the blue carpet entrance, we asked them the question of the night: are you a nerd or a jock? Politico’s Mike Allen said he was “all of the above!” and Patrick Gavin thought he was a hybrid of the two. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell exclaimed she was a “total jock.” John “I’m a PC” Hodgman discussed the modern cultural divide at length during the dinner.
Inside the party, the scene downstairs included a Starbucks-sponsored coffee bar where guests ate ice cream sundaes and desserts. From the main bar, guests walked outside to a large outdoor patio, where dance music had the party-goers on their feet for “Don’t Stop Believing.” Faces and heads glowed in the light of neon necklaces and headbands.
Upstairs, special guest bartender Rachel Maddow was mixing up cocktails at her heavily-branded “Rachel Maddow’s Bar”– complete with MSNBC napkins and “Rachel’s Bar” menus. Maddow’s signature cocktail was listed as a Hearst: a mix of gin, sweet vermouth and bitters (though she told us she actually served more of her cava drink, “Airmail” which mixed rum, fresh lime juice, honey and the bubbly cava on top). Afterwards, Maddow relinquished her bar duties to catch up with Ana Marie Cox and John Hodgman.
Later in the night passed treats included mini-pancakes and mini-ham, bacon and cheese croissants. As the bars began to close, guests went out back. Among the last to leave at 3:00 a.m. were MSNBC Morning Joe’s Willie Geist, Luke Russert and many of the cable network’s junior staffers.
Media heavy-hitters spotted at the party: Steve Capus, Tamron Hall, Norah O’Donnell, Contessa Brewer with Matt Ackland, Joe Scarborough with Mika Brzezinski, David Shuster, Carlos Watson, Chris Matthews, Lynn Sweet, Margaret Carlson, and Eugene Robinson.
Politicos rounded out the guest list, including Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers, as well as Hilary Rosen, Alex Castellanos, Brad Dayspring, and Kevin Madden.
President Obama in his speech to the RTCA got right to the heart of Washington’s journalist dinner rivalry, saying he was on hand to “Tell jokes that weren’t funny enough for me to use when we did this five weeks ago,” at the White House Correspondents’ dinner (known as the Senior Prom to the RTCA’s Junior Prom.) Then again, he said, twisting the knife deeper: “The jokes may not be as good but neither is the guest list.”
And later: “I think your programming is more relevant than ever before — at least that’s the impression that I get when I read the blogs.”
In his appearance before the Radio and TV correspondents at the Washington D.C. Convention Center, the President was unaccompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama on the orange and yellow rose-rimmed dais and he left at 9:20, before dinner was served. His short stay prompted some last-minute frantic juggling of the entertainment lineup, according to insiders. VP Biden wasn’t there, either, despite apparently erroneous earlier reports that he would attend. A spokeswoman said that he had a scheduling conflict.
Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, right after the speech, noted the President’s “sharp elbowed humor;” a few tweets from the dinner suggested that his humor was “underappreciated” by the audience. He cracked himself up several times, however.
The biggest laughs of the night came when he joked about embattled California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger competing on “I’m a Celebrity….Get Me Out of Here,” then added: “That’s how I feel about tonight.” The dinner, he said, was causing him to miss “date night” with Michelle, and his plans to go for Thai food-pause-“in Bangkok.”
A joke about being in bed with NBC’s Brian Williams, whom he called a terrible house guest, was followed by a list of new TV programs that the success of “Inside the White House” had inspired, the funniest of which was TLC’s “Jon & Kate plus Peter Orszag.”
There was also a mild jab at NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd for having the style of a TV correspondent and “the facial hair of a radio correspondent.” To MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, he said: “We both have partners named Joe who used to be in Congress and don’t know when to stop talking.” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, he noted, was “the only other man in America with his own situation room,” and it was cooler than the President’s, which he said, was unable “to generate the bandwidth to turn Larry Summers into a hologram.”
Random jokes poked fun at his own Administration, including Richard Holbrooke, whom he alleged sprayed WD-40 that caused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s elbow-breaking fall. He announced a “new” plan to rescue the auto business, telling dinner guests to look under their seat, a la Oprah, because everyone was getting a car company. Fox, he said, would get AIG.
Looking relieved that his speech was over, the President ended his remarks with a serious tribute to the work of the press, noting “I am here tonight because I appreciate the role you do.” He got the traditional standing ovation at the beginning and end.
Fox News set the bar for RTCA after-parties with its disco extravaganza in 2004, and this year, MSNBC will try to top it with Rachel Maddow, who will be mixing cocktails behind the bar. If that’s not enough, there will also be a chocolate fountain.
More than 400 guests are expected to cross the street from the Convention Center when the dinner ends to an MSNBC logo-swathed Washington Historical Society, at 801 K Street.
Maddow won’t be at the dinner; she’ll head to the party after doing her show; her “special cocktail” is being kept a tightly guarded secret. But an insider reveals the rest of the menu will include mini-milkshakes, ice cream bar, the chocolate fountain and breakfast, for those who stay to the bitter end. And a Starbucks Coffee Bar, in honor of the new “Morning Joe” sponsor. There won’t be a band, just a DJ.
MSNBC muscled in on the party after Fox News backed out. MSNBC was initially told Fox had locked up the Historical Society, the only party venue around in that part of town, and “It was this space or nothing,” said an insider. No official word on why Fox may have changed its mind but someone in the know said it was due to the ever-changing dinner date, from April 2 to June 4 to June 19, a Friday-and Father’s Day weekend, no less. (Many on-air talent types at all the networks are begging off this year because of the timing.)
NBC is going all-out with dinner tables, too, purchasing 13, which will seat administration guests including Attorney General Eric Holder; David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisers to President Obama; White House economic adviser Larry Summers; Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Congressional guests include Sen. Susan Collins, R.-Maine, and Rep. David Obey, D.-Wisc.
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NBC’s lengthy list of on-air talent attending includes: Chris Matthews, Pete Williams, Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, Tom Costello, Savannah Guthrie, Jim Miklaszewski, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, John Harwood, David Schuster, Carlos Watson, Tamron Hall, Contessa Brewer, Monica Novotny, Alex Witt, Ed Schultz, Norah O’Donnell, Dylan Ratigan, Willie Geist, Kelly O’Donnell and Luke Russert, as well as a number of commentators and analysts (Lawrence O’Donnell, Ana Marie Cox, Michelle Bernard, Eugene Robinson and Richard Wolffe.)
Execs include NBC News President Steve Capus, MSNBC President Phil Griffin, SVP and Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker, and Betsy Fischer, the longtime exec producer of “Meet the Press.”
“This is our year, this is our time. We’re the place for politics and we really wanted to make a big splash in D.C. at this dinner,” said spokesman Jeremy Gaines.