News & Politics

A Night Out: 2009 Green Inaugural Ball

Al Gore,, Melissa Etheridge, Maroon 5, John Legend, John Cusack and other stars came out to celebrate at the environmentally-focused Green Ball.

Actor John Cusack and Denise Bode, the CEO of American Wind Energy Association, at the Green Ball.

What: 2009 Green Inaugural Ball.

Where: National Portrait Gallery.

When: January 19, 7 PM to midnight.

Who: Former vice president Al Gore served as the event’s honorary chair and was joined by more than 75 environmental, conservation, labor, civil-justice, youth, and business groups. Musical performances included, Melissa Etheridge, Maroon 5, John Legend, and Michael Franti. Other VIP guests included Blair Underwood, journalist Lisa Ling, comedian Paul Reiser, actors Melissa Fitzgerald and John Cusack, and singers Paulina Rubio, and Jon Bon Jovi. Other heavyweights included speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and environmental leaders Robert Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance; Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation; Denise Bode, CEO of American Wind Energy Association; Van Jones, founding president of Green for All; and Rhone Resch, President and CEO of Solar Energy Industries Association.

Scene: All energy focused on the stage, where celebrity performances got ballgoers dancing early in the evening. The courtyard where the event was held was lit in green and purple but later transformed into blue with white stars. Songs were interspersed with a few words from Gore, Pelosi, Ling, Reiser, and others. Many celebrities escaped to a VIP room on the third floor and remained unseen by the majority of attendees. Surrounding a large stage, guests mingled at the open bars or buffet tables, which featured all-organic centerpieces made of wheat grass, green and orange orchids, and orange roses. And oh, yes—the floral arrangements will all be donated or reused.

Video at the Green Ball

Photos by Jason Kempin.

See more photos of inaugural balls.

Highlights: premiered a new song about solving the energy crisis (chorus: “We’ll stand up and take our planet back”). It was performed with a choir of children singing behind him while a music video played on the screen above. Ethridge’s performance of “I Need to Wake Up,” featured in Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, received some of the loudest applause of the night. But despite all the A-listers gracing the stage, it was Gore who had the most cameras flashing when he approached the podium.

Attire: Black and green tie. From lime to olive to emerald, green made its way into gowns, bow ties, and boas. And as a continuation of an eight-year anti-poverty protest, musician Michael Franti wore no shoes.

Food: Buffet-style hors d’oeuvres from local and organic farms. Highlights included a golden-beet salad with local goat cheese and pumpkin seeds, chicken curry with butternut squash, and an apple-and-pear cobbler.

Drinks: Fifteen open-bar stations. The wait? No more than ten minutes.

Keeping it green: Forget the red carpet. Celebrities at this ball walked down a green carpet—and not just in color. Provided by Bentley Prince Street, it was made of 10 percent consumer waste and produced with renewable electrical energy. It was recycled after the event.

Transportation: Guests were encouraged to arrive by foot, Metro, or hybrid car. West Wing actress Melissa Fitzgerald and other guests arrived via pedicab.

Boldface names
: 5 out of 5.
Swankiness: 4 out of 5.
Food and drink: 4 out of 5.
Overall exclusivity: 4 out of 5.

Total score: 17 out of 20.

>> See more inaugural-balls coverage and all inauguration coverage

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.