More White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner Party Recaps: Atlantic Media and Vanity Fair (Pictures)

George Clooney arrived at the French ambassador’s residence and said, “Now this is a party.”
David and Katherine Bradley's WHCAD party in 2012. Photograph by Jeff Martin.
David and Katherine Bradley's WHCAD party in 2012. Photograph by Jeff Martin.

When people ask, “If you could attend only one party during the White House Correspondents dinner weekend, what would it be?”
the answer is easy: the pre-event dinner on Friday night hosted by Atlantic Media’s
David and Katherine Bradley at their grand
Embassy Row home. Why? Because it is the one sanctuary from the crush
and roar of humanity that defines the
weekend’s other parties. The wine is excellent, the food
delicious. More important, the party is a vestige of what the WHCA
dinner was originally conceived to be: an event for and about
Washington. In other words, there were no movie stars but lots
of reporters and their sources in politics, government, and the
corporate sector.

If I were asked to pick one other event, that choice
is easy, too: the Saturday night after-party at the French ambassador’s
residence on Kalorama Road, officially hosted by Bloomberg and
Vanity Fair but in truth run almost entirely by the varsity
event team at Vanity Fair. At this party there aren’t many
reporters, but it is packed to the rafters with celebrities of
every kind: film, television, music, business, high society,
low society, and, this year, even the four-legged variety–in
the form of Uggie, the dog from the Oscar-winning film
The Artist.

The “Vanity Fair party,” as it’s called, represents
the best of what the weekend has become, Washington’s one moment of the
year when it joins the celebrity pro-am tour, wherein the tribe
of the famous globe trot from circus-like occasion to circus-like
occasion, enjoying guaranteed room and board, limos on demand,
and publicity. In return they share the shimmer of their own
celebrity magic dust. This tribe will alight next at the Cannes
Film Festival; the circuit also includes Sundance, South by
Southwest, the Paris and New York fashion weeks, the Oscars and
Emmys, and various resort openings in Las Vegas, Dubai, South
Africa, and points beyond.

What’s in it for the celebs? They will tell you it’s
the gobsmacking thrill of being in the same room with the President of
the United States, rubbing elbows with the people who run the
country–from members of Congress and the Cabinet to members
of the Supreme Court and the joint chiefs of staff–and an
assortment of parties in some fairly amazing mansions. These include
the French ambassador’s, as well as two power-packed brunches
in Georgetown, one on Saturday at the home of
Mark Ein, formerly the home of the legendary
Katharine Graham, and the other on Sunday at the historic Bowie-Sevier
House, a federal
period mansion with views over the whole city, hosted by
Allbritton Communications. (For accounts of other WHCAD parties, see
Sophie Gilbert’s
recaps
.)

Katherine and David Bradley have hosted their dinner party
for several years. It’s a way to thank and entertain their tony
advertisers, but they lift it above the routine by mixing up
the guest list so the corporate executives from Exxon, General
Motors, Shell, Novartis, PepsiCo, Boeing, and United Healthcare
are seated next to media executives and reporters from all
the networks plus
Washington Business Journal, Roll Call, Huffington Post, Bloomberg, Facebook, and their own publications, such as the
Atlantic,
National Journal, and
Government Executive. There are quite a few lobbyists, too, and some diplomats and politicians. This year California governor
Jerry Brown was quite the attraction. The closest the guest list got to Hollywood glitter was
Sex and the City creator
Darren Starr, who attends most years with his friend and former college roommate, The
Atlantic‘s man-about-town, editor
Steve Clemons.

The other special feature of the Bradley dinner is the way the food is presented. There’s a different theme each year. This
year it was the foods of Africa. Acclaimed
Atlantic food writer
Corby Kummer takes a microphone and between courses tells the guests the provenance of what they are about to eat. He designs the menu,
which is prepared by caterer
Susan Gage and her team. The wines are chosen
to complement the menu, of course, and they flow freely, getting
everyone in the mood to
move on to the Bradleys’ after-party, named the First Amendment
Party and cohosted by Funny or Die and the Impact Arts & Film
Fund.

The Vanity Fair party has its own circuitous provenance. It began in the Kalorama apartment of the late
Christopher Hitchens and his wife,
Carol Blue. Then it moved to the Russian Federation building, which, like the Hitchens apartment, is close to the Washington Hilton,
where the WHCA dinner is held. After a few years, editor
Graydon Carter pulled Vanity Fair out of the
after-party mix, handing it over to Bloomberg. Bloomberg carried on
alone for a few years, and
then Christopher Hitchens resumed hosting a Vanity Fair party
at his apartment. A few years ago, Hitchens, working out an
agreement with then-French ambassador Pierre Vimont, moved the
party to the ambassador’s residence, a splendid chateau on
expansive and handsome grounds. There’s room for hundreds.
Bloomberg joined as cohost, giving us the party we have today.*

This year the guest list was culled and the party
benefited, even though a cold rain kept guests crowded together inside
rather
than out on the back terrace or by the pool. But through the
windows and doors they could see the trees were painted with lights
that changed colors. The front lawn was a vast expanse of
little balls of light, planted on stems in the grass. The French
ambassador,
François Delattre, and his wife, Sophie, greeted each guest as he or she came in out of a pouring rain. There were a lot of hugs and kisses.
The arrival of
George Clooney caused a happy gridlock. He was visibly excited to be there. In fact, he said, “Now this is a party.” Clearly true,
because he was practically the last guest to depart, too, at almost 3:30 in the morning.

The male waitstaff were a sight to behold, sporting a
look that hinted of Adam Lambert chic. Before the party began they were
sent to hair and makeup, where their faces got powdered and
rouged, their lips colored, and their eyes lined in black, with
black mascara. They wore white jackets and silver ties and
passed trays of ice cold Dom Ruinart and Henriot Champagne, sometimes
remarkably balancing as many as a dozen filled flutes. The food
was everything from savory–mac and cheese, lobster rolls,
shepherd’s pie, pigs in a blanket, shrimp in peanut sauce–to
sweet, including cookies, candies, and chocolate in lots of forms,
plus an espresso bar. No one went hungry or thirsty.

Who was there? Where to begin? Here’s a short list:
Claire Danes,
Charlize Theron,
Reese Witherspoon,
Goldie Hawn and daughter
Kate Hudson,
Bo Derek and
John Corbett,
Judd Apatow and
Leslie Mann,
Jimmy Kimmel,
Sophia Vergara,
Barbara Walters,
Viola Davis, New York mayor
Michael Bloomberg, Chicago mayor
Rahm Emanuel, New Jersey governor
Chris Christie, CIA director
David Petraeus,
Rachel Zoe,
Woody Harrelson,
Rashida Jones, attorney general
Eric Holder and
Sharon Malone, New York police commissioner
Ray Kelly,
Elle McPherson,
Kyle McLachlan,
Piers Morgan,
Eric Schmidt,
Christiane Amanpour,
Daniel Radcliffe,
Paul Rudd,
Kevin Spacey,
Martin Short,
Andrew Sullivan,
Howard Wolfson,
Katharine Weymouth,
Ivanka Trump and
Jared Kushner,
Kerry Washington,
Kate Upton,
Tory Burch,
Christine Baranski,
Haley Barbour,
David Axelrod,
Eric Stonestreet,
Andrea Mitchell,
Charlie Rose and
Gayle King, Health and Human Services secretary
Kathleen Sebelius,
Daniel Dae-Kim, and White House social secretary
Jeremy Bernard.

Who wore the most eye-popping dress? That’s easy. Rosario Dawson arrived in green silk that was more cleavage than actual
dress–remarkable, balloon-like cleavage. After that it would have to be
Sports Illustrated cover girl Kate Upton, wearing soft cream chiffon over a body that posed the dilemma of whether to look or look away; her
“fitness” is that intimidating. The most elegant dress was
Rachel Zoe‘s gold Valentino, but then she’s a stylist and also as thin as a pin.
John Corbett couldn’t have been handsomer or friendlier. Ditto girlfriend
Bo Derek, always by his side. Also quite friendly was
Modern Family star
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who found the whole
weekend to be something of a mind bender. What did he like best? A
Saturday visit to the White House
to meet the First Family. “It was the whole cast and our
partners,” he said. “We met the President, the First Lady, and their
daughters.” Do they watch the show? “Michelle and the daughters
do. The President has more important uses for his time.”

Those who were fortunate to be invited to the Bradley
dinner and/or the Vanity Fair party should savor the moment, especially
the elegant ambassador’s residence. It’s due for a renovation;
the Delattres and their children will be moving elsewhere during
the repair work, and it’s unlikely the home will be party-ready
by this time next year. Moreover, one of the
Vanity Fair higher-ups said, “We’re thinking of giving it a break next year, anyway.” Of course, that’s what almost everyone says the
Monday morning after.

*Ed. note: The Washingtonian was not allowed to send a photographer to the Vanity Fair party.

Most Popular

More from News & Politics