4 White House Correspondents’ Dinner Parties, 3 Hours, 1 Reporter

We braved ABC News, Thomson Reuters, Newsweek/Daily Beast, and BuzzFeed so you didn’t have to.
Kerry Washington at the ABC News cocktail party. Photograph by Sophie Gilbert.
Kerry Washington at the ABC News cocktail party. Photograph by Sophie Gilbert.

As the old adage goes, if you’re going to get wet, you may as well go swimming. And if you’re
going to eat miniature crabcakes and drink Chardonnay at one White House Correspondents’
Association Dinner pre-party (now there’s an event that predates Twitter and resolutely
refuses to fit into 140 characters), you may as well eat miniature crabcakes and drink
Chardonnay at four of them. Here, without fear or favor, is a blow-by-blow account
of what happened at the Hilton on Saturday night.

5:30 PM: ABC News cocktail party on the lawn

The sun was shining, unlike last year, so the ABC News party offered something that’s
typically at more of a #WHCD premium than selfies with Diane Sawyer: space. Even at
this early hour,
The Daily Show’s
John Oliver and
Aasif Mandvi were hanging out on the periphery with
Modern Family’s
Ty Burrell, and
Arianna Huffington was wandering around schmoozing in elegant black lace. The second ABC star to wander
in was
Tony Goldwyn, a.k.a. Fitzgerald Grant, a.k.a. El Prez, and he was promptly mobbed by fans, as
was
Kerry Washington, a.k.a. Olivia Pope, when she followed on his heels. Even
Shonda Rhimes wasn’t safe. Apparently Washington really loves
Scandal

6:15 PM: Thomson Reuters cocktail party downstairs

Downstairs at the Hilton is the Playboy Mansion grotto of the White House Correspondents’
Association Dinner parties—it’s dark, cramped, and more than a little claustrophobic,
but oddly enough you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a famous person. In the
Thomson Reuters party, which was elegantly decked out in shiny red fabric,
Kathleen Turner walked in looking slightly bemused by it all, while
Steve Zahn stood by the bar smiling and chatting animatedly. No sign of
Jeremy Renner, at least while we were there, but on the other side of the room the real prize—
Downton Abbey’s
Dan Stevens—was taking pictures and sporting a handlebar mustache. Maybe he thought it would
make him look less like someone who broke a million fan’s hearts when he [spoiler
alert if you’re not caught up] left the show and widowed Lady Mary? If so, no dice.

6:30 PM: Newsweek/Daily Beast cocktail party downstairs

What’s that we hear? The sound of a thousand iPhones snapping pictures and the hum
of Washington fandom reaching peak frenzy? Sure enough,
Nicole Kidman was walking down the hall with
Harvey Weinstein close behind her, and
Bradley Cooper hanging around nearby with what looked like either Brylcreem or eight weeks of unwashed
hair on top of his head. They sauntered into the darkness of the Newsweek/DailyBeast/Newsbeast/Death
Knell for Print Journalism party, which was about the busiest and least cheerful of
all the parties, and Nicole somehow managed not to look completely freaked out by
the fact that she was now crammed into a room with 800 people who all wanted to take
a picture with her. She’s a pro.

6:45 PM: Corridor

Little-known WHCD fact: If you can’t get an invitation to one of the downstairs parties,
you can hang out in the hallway and wait for people to pass, which is what lots of
fans seemed to be doing. CNN’s
Piers Morgan walked into the
Time/People/Fortune/CNN party with
Gerard Butler.
Giancarlo Esposito, better known to
Breaking Bad fans as Gus Fring, tried (and failed) to scurry through the throng without being
noticed.
Paul Rudd, who stopped on his way into a party to take a picture with a fan, was also sporting
a terrible mustache (we’ll forgive him if it’s for
Anchorman 2). And back by the Thomson Reuters party,
Eric Cantor was in the middle of a pile of photographers and Capitol Police, chatting to people
and smiling. This is Washington, folks. Eric Cantor gets five bodyguards, and Nicole
Kidman gets Harvey Weinstein with a grimace on his face.

7 PM: Escalator

An otherwise ordinary trip up an escalator was notable for a
Matthew Perry sighting. Walking through the hallway at the top of the escalator:
Conan O’Brien,
Katy Perry, and
Jon Bon Jovi.

7:05 PM: Back to ABC News

Things were heating up on the lawn. The
New York Times’s
David Carr was smoking cigarettes with BuzzFeed DC bureau chief
John Stanton.
Connie Britton and
Hayden Panettiere had arrived, as had their
Nashville co-star
Charles Esten (Deacon). We also spotted US attorney general Eric Holder. Everyone wanted their picture taken with
Sofia Vergara, and she cheerfully obliged. Then came the announcement that the dining room was
now open, meaning all the real celebrities left, and all the hangers-on (us included)
sighed.

8 PM: BuzzFeed party at Jack Rose

To counter the fact that it couldn’t get a table at the dinner this year, BuzzFeed
threw its own party at Jack Rose. The lines outside were long, and we mean long. When
we finally got in, downstairs (decorated with cutesy posters and stickers saying things
like “OMG” and “Win”) was packed and upstairs was full of people smoking under the
canopy. Every journalist who hadn’t managed to snag a dinner invitation was there,
and very few were paying attention to the broadcast of the dinner itself. But as far
as a place to kill time while you’re waiting for the post-parties to begin goes, it
wasn’t a bad one.

What did we learn this year? If you love daylight, the ABC News party is the place
to be. If you love stars and selfies, stalk the corridor outside the
Washington Post party. The food and drink are exactly the same at every Washington Hilton party,
so don’t switch rooms hoping for better sushi. Wear the highest heels you can, because
the taller you are, the more you’ll be able to see celebrities over everyone’s heads.
And resist the free mouthwash in the ladies’ room, no matter how hard it is, because
it’ll inevitably leak all over your clutch bag and make you smell like a dental hygienist.

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