After the tour de force from President Obama, it didn’t seem like the night could be any more magical. But as guests walked up the circular drive for the Bloomberg | Vanity Fair after party at the French Ambassador’s residence, the magic continued. It was the ultimate insiders affair: no red carpet or paparazzi gauntlet, just Owen Wilson lounging near the front door talking quietly to a few Washington admirers.
With Donald Rumsfeld, who lives down the street, stopping by for a drink, it was a night, a location, and a crowd where anything could happen. Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter, joining party forces this year, welcomed the exclusive guests.
The brave captain of the Maresk Alabama, who offered his life in exchange for his mates, was Bloomberg’s special guest for the weekend. That followed getting the keys to New York City from Mayor Bloomberg the day before. Captain Richard Phillips shrugged off the compliments of celebrities (Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore) and politicos who lined up to shake his hand, but he did pose proudly with another real-life Captain America, Chesley Sullenberger, who safely piloted a US Airways jet onto the Hudson River.
Earlier in the day, Phillips and his wife, Andrea, met with President Obama in the Oval Office, after a private tour of the White House. The unflappable captain told Bloomberg it was an “honor to meet the President. He’s a very amazing man and he’s a very down-to-earth man.” His wife agreed, “It was very overwhelming, surreal to actually, be inside the Oval Office … I was so deeply excited to have met the President like that.”
After being introduced to the Commander-in-chief, Phillips admitted it was hard to get excited about meeting anyone else after being introduced to the Commander-in-Chief.
The dinner that kicked the evening off, the White House Correspondents Dinner, recognizes the stars of the White House press corps, many of whom shined brightly at the Bloomberg | Vanity Fair party afterwards. At one end of the party media veterans – Barbara Walters, Margaret Carlson, Jon Meacham, Jim Bell, Andrea Mitchell, Bill Plante, John McLaughlin, and Al Hunt — rubbed elbows with the new kids on the media block – Katherine Weymouth, Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie, Jake Tapper, Lara Logan, Michael Calderone, Betsy Fischer, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei.
And the stars from Hollywood mingled with the brightest lights from stage and screen: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Natalie Portman, Claire Danes, Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, Amy Poehler and Will Arnett, Chace Crawford, Ali Wentworth, Kerry Washington and Denis Leary.
Celluloid royalty Jonathan Rhys Meyers could be found in one room, real royalty, His Highness Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein in another, and a Supreme, Justice Antonin Scalia, in yet another. And real rock stars, like Sting and Jon Bon Jovi, mingled with Obama rock stars: Valerie Jarrett, David and Susan Axelrod, David Plouffe and his wife Olivia Morgan, Peter Orszag, Dan Pfeiffer and Sarah Feinberg and cabinet members Shaun Donovan, Steven Chu, Hilda Solis, and Lisa Jackson. Also at the party, Team Obama’s pit crew led by Tommy Vietor and Katie McCormick Lelyvold, Reid Cherlin, Marissa “Ground Zero” Hopkins, Sally Armbruster, Amanda Anderson, Kate Kochman, Katie Johnson and the cool and collected Eric Lesser.
Jon Favreau standing next to Graydon Carter looked like he belonged at all Vanity Fair parties. Team Fav favorites Sarah Hurwitz, Cody Keenan, and Jon Lovett who helped pen the President’s dinner remarks, were like the President they serve, modest in their success.
The Emanuel family represented multiple spheres of influence: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (the butt of one of Obama’s better jokes) his National Institutes of Health bioethicist brother Zeke, and Ari, a Hollywood agent depicted in “Entourage,” who left early to get his son Noah home for Mother’s Day.
What was unusual about the party was its low-key, matter-of-fact quality. There was no push to meet and greet the biggest bold-faced name, no jostling for position near the celebrities, no rubbernecking fans. As the party wound down, it was just a group of friends, old and new, enjoying the conversation, the trees lit by red, white and blue lights, and the soft warm May breeze.