The country music-loving cabbie put it well as we pulled into the Hilton driveaway: “What is this?” This, my WMZQ-listening, over-pollinated, Red Top-driving friend, was the annual White House Correspdonents Dinner. I got wear a tux, and he got to pilot us around the protesters out front, including one dressed as David Gregory, and through the dressy crowds approaching from everywhere, cabs, town cars, and on foot. We had done a little country on the way over, tapping along with friends in low places and enjoying girls trying and failing to cross the street. Now for the city.
Basically, USAT very generously asked me to go, and I had a great time. The scene was overwhelming the first hour, but then started to make more sense. Tourists and hotel guests watched people arrive on the upper and lower floors, and the parties stretched all over those lower floors and out to fill the courtyard. Bars pouring everywhere and to everyone, including one man in a cowboy hat, another in a kilt, some tourists, and me.
The food at dinner was better than expected, and was pretty well-paced given the television schedule. On the entertainment side, President Bush’s double skit probably went over better with the crowd than Colbert’s material did. There was a lot more laughter in the room than the C-SPAN recording picked up — for everybody’s remarks, not just Bush’s and Colbert’s — but it seemed like Colbert didn’t hit his mark, the full-room laugh, as much as Bush did.
At the end of the night, things ended much more quickly than I expected. Colbert finished; the emcee said goodnight; the president left; and everyone immediately go up to go. Apparently got on C-SPAN and CNN around this point but forgot to TiVO. Anyway, it was like a Nats crowd on a losing day at RFK but with tuxedos and a ballroom. No one sitting around and shutting the place down. Leaving the ballroom explained — the parties had restarted quickly. The corporate rooms outside the ballroom were going, and the after-parties were departing across town. Reuters had girls everywhere with signs — “follow the signs to the buses,” one girl said. And by signs she meant girls with signs. I stuck around for a while before catching a cab out.
Celebrities seen up close: Matt Cooper, Michael Wilbon (I think), Rep. Edward Markey, Doris Roberts, Tony Snow, Tony Perkins, Ace Young, Joey Cheek (from behind), Clarence Page, various network correspondents, Tommy Lasorda.
Celebrities not seen up close: President Bush, Stephen Colbert, many others. Celebrities not seen at all: George Clooney, John Legend, Ludacris, Anna Kournikova, many others. Celebrities not seen at all, breaking my poor Maura Tierney-loving heart: Maura Tierney.