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Recapping the Celebrity Invasion of Washington for the 2013 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner

From Atlantic Media to Vanity Fair, it was a whirlwind weekend.

Nicole Kidman and Jeremy Renner were among the celebrities in Washington this weekend. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

As expected, the White House Correspondents Association delivered on celebrity wattage during the weekend it overtook Washington for its annual gala. We couldn’t get to every party, but we got to as much as possible. Here are the highlights of our party-going, including gossip about Psy, a lively lunch at Cafe Milano, and an evening rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jeremy Renner, Nicole Kidman, Chadwick Boseman, and Jessica Paré.

On Friday, Atlantic Media’s Katherine and David Bradley held their annual eve-of dinner at their Embassy Row home, drawing a mix of guests from media, politics, society, and the corporate world. The evening was an homage to the National Gallery of Art’s upcoming exhibition of The Ballets Russes. The tasty canapes were by Michel Richard and the coq au vin dinner by Susan Gage Caterers, but what people were talking about was the breaking news that CBS had, at the 11th hour, booked pop star Psy to be one of their White House Correspondents’ Association dinner guests, joining a roster that included the Army’s vice chief of staff, General John F. Campbell*; Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; former joint chiefs chairman Mike Mullen; and actress Claire Danes.

Chris Isham, CBS News Washington bureau chief, said the connection to Psy came through Isham’s wife, Jennifer Maguire, who is an executive with New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, which earlier in the day had presented an award to the South Korean singer. Maguire invited him, and he accepted, with one condition: He needed a hotel where he would be able to smoke cigarettes. Done and done.

At the Atlantic Media/National Journal/OurTime.Org after-party at Georgetown’s Powerhouse, the talk was about the “upstairs-downstairs” separation of guests with basically A or B wristbands. The A folks were upstairs with more booze and better food, and the Bs were downstairs with chips and dip and fewer bars. But since the restrooms were upstairs, the Bs did find a way to infiltrate the A level (or, according to one guest, do their business outside). What they also found was a table featuring Las Vegas imports Gill and Jill Bumby, disguised like bank robbers in hats, wigs, and sunglasses, and seated before old-school typewriters, tapping out a “fair and honest appraisal of your appearance” for any guest who waited in line for the privilege. Mine said: “When your friends’ lives are falling apart, you know how to turn on the mojo and blast some sense into them.” What did that have to do with my appearance? Who knows—it’s performance art.

Cafe Milano on Saturday at lunchtime was the perfect place for people-watching. Out on the terrace were Newsweek and Daily Beast editor Tina Brown, her colleague Kathy O’Hearn, and Brown’s husband, Reuters editor-at-large Harry Evans. One table over was DC businessman Ron Dozoretz, having lunch with philanthropic and talented NFL cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who just signed with the San Francisco 49ers. Nearby was another DC businessman, Raul Fernandez, with his friend MC Hammer. In the dining room was Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles, having lunch with philanthropist Adrienne Arsht, and also, at another table, according to Cafe Milano, the foreign minister of Jordan. CBS News and talk show host Charlie Rose arrived alone; Washington National Opera artistic director Francesca Zambello arrived with her wife.

I watched the dinner itself on C-SPAN, all the better to recharge for the Vanity Fair/Bloomberg party, which began after the Hilton event. Guests began streaming into the French ambassador’s Kalorama residence at about 11 PM, greeted as they arrived by WHCA marketer Tammy Haddad in a bright greenish-gold jacket. Haddad had hugs or handshakes for MC Hammer, Nicole Kidman, Connie Milstein, and her husband, J.C. de La Haye Saint Hilaire, White House social secretary Jeremy Bernard, Harvey Weinstein, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sofia Vergara, Virginia senator Mark Warner, and “Mad Men” star Jessica Paré, with her boyfriend, Canadian musician John Kastner, among others.

Later, Haddad handed over greeting duties to the French ambassador’s wife, Sophie Delattre, who was smiling and cheerful despite crutches and a broken foot.

The place to be was out on the terrace, where the evening temperature was pleasant, the lighting was gorgeous and the bars well-staffed. We talked with Jeremy Renner, who made the trip to DC from Boston, where he is filming American Hustle with Bradley Cooper, who was also at the party. The star of The Hurt Locker, in which he played a bomb defusing expert, recalled the day of the Boston Marathon bombing and how the lockdown in the city shutdown the film. The cast, he said, stayed in their hotel and watched the coverage on television.

Paré said she was impressed with how obsessed people on the East Coast are with Mad Men, in which she plays advertising executive Don Draper’s wife, Megan. “In LA people are not that obsessed,” she said, “but we come to New York or Washington and everybody is up on the show.” She talked about her period ’60s costumes and how seriously they are researched and protected by the costume designers. None go home with the cast. She said slipping on some of the outfits helps her to slip into character. The dress she wore to the party, an elegant off-the-shoulder navy and black evening gown, was not ’60s but still timeless.

Paré said she was thrilled to be in the audience at the dinner and to see President Barack Obama. She said it was her understanding that he’s a big fan of the show.

Chadwick Boseman was as charming in person as he is in the film 42, in which he plays baseball legend Jackie Robinson. Boseman is a graduate of Howard University, but he’s not a baseball player. He said his skills on the diamond came from a combination of training and movie magic.

The most entertaining conversations to eavesdrop upon were between ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, NBC’s Willie Geist, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Geist and Kornheisher discussed Matt Lauer, affectionately. Romo wanted Kornheiser in particular to know that this year everything about his game would be different. Unfortunately, Robert Griffin III was not at the party to respond.

Also seen at the French ambassador’s: Kevin Spacey and Michael Douglas in conversation, Katy Perry looking relatively demure in a green gown with gold accents, Hayden Panettiere, Conan O’Brien, Paul Rudd, Carrie Brownstein, Amy Poehler, Olivia Munn, Eric Stonestreet, Annie Erin Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent), Ian McKellen, Barry Diller, Kerry Washington, Piers Morgan, Chris Matthews, Bradley Whitford, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Jon Bon Jovi. There were also some actual politicians, including, in addition to Bloomberg and Warner, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, senator Joe Manchin, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.

In truth, there were too many celebs to mention. But you get the picture—this wasn’t just another night in Washington. I was left with this riddle to ponder until the next WHCA dinner comes around: If the weekend were the Titanic, who would be saved first, the journalists or the celebs? Discuss.

*This post has been updated from a previous version. 

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