What: The American New Women’s Club 15th Gala and Helen Thomas Award Dinner and Roast & Toast of Katie Couric.
Where: The Fairmont Hotel, 24th and M sts., Northwest.
When: Wednesday, May 20, 6:30 PM.
Who: ABC newsman Sam Donaldson hosted the event honoring Katie Couric. White House correspondent veteran Helen Thomas presented the evening’s awards, and roasters included White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod, Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, CBS Senior Political Analyst Jeff Greenfield, Republican Strategist Nicolle Wallace, CBS Pentagon Correspondent David Martin, and CBS Evening News Executive Producer Rick Kaplan. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a surprise video appearance.
Scene: The evening began with a cocktail reception during which guests schmoozed, snacked on hors d’oeuvres, and sipped wine and cocktails. At 7:30, the crowd moved to the dining room. Couric and her roasters were seated at a long table at the front, which faced everyone else in the room. A caricature of Couric resembling Jane Jetson was plastered on the blue curtains behind them. Brief introductory remarks were followed by dinner. As far as we could tell, Couric didn’t get a bite to eat. She spent the meal meandering from table to table, talking to guests and obliging photo requests. In fact, the seated dinner was hardly seated at all: Many guests were up and about throughout the meal. At the beginning of the ceremony, four college juniors hoping to pursue careers in broadcast and investigative journalism were awarded scholarships from the American news Women’s Club. Then, roasters took turns jeering and cheering the guest of honor, though just as many jokes were aimed at each other instead of Couric. Colonoscopies, Sarah Palin, and CBS were the most popular roast topics. The ceremony concluded with final remarks and an award presentation from Helen Thomas. When the event wrapped up at 10:30, few guests lingered.
Food and drink: During the cocktail reception, drinks were served from an open bar. Hors d’oeuvres consisted of coconut shrimp, cheese-covered grapes, and miniature Peking-duck wraps. Dinner began with a deconstructed salad with artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, tomatoes, and phyllo-covered cheese pastries. The main course included a crab cake next to a cut of medium-rare beef, accompanied by mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, and baby corn. The highlight was the dessert trio: chocolate mousse served in a miniature chocolate shell, crème brûlée topped with fresh berries, and strawberry sorbet. Chocolate-covered strawberries were also served to each table.
Couric’s dress: The anchor wore a lime-green strapless, floor-length dress from Carmen Marc Valvo.
Best Helen Thomas moment: “She saved the country,” said Thomas of Couric’s Sarah Palin interview.
Best colonoscopy joke: “People were surprised by the intensity of that interview with Sarah Palin, but I wasn’t. To me, it made perfect sense. After all, Katie has made it her civic responsibility to conduct public colonoscopies. But I’m sure that will be the butt of a lot of jokes tonight.”—Axelrod
Best CBS jokes:
• “Our audience thinks that YouTube is a hemmroid ointment.”—Jeff Greenfield
• “The transition from NBC to CBS was a little rough. Katie went from asking ‘where in the world is Matt Lauer’ to ‘where the hell are my viewers?’ And you know it must have been unsettling in those down months when the announcer opened the show with ‘The CBS Evening News, still with Katie Couric.’ ”—David Axelrod
• “When Katie took over the anchor slot for CBS Evening News, many people were skeptical. They weren’t aware that it was still on the air.”—Mike Huckabee
Best joke about a network other than CBS: “Everyone at FOX News has been fantastic to me. Bill O’Reilly even tips me when I park his car.”—Huckabee
Best Sam Donaldson joke: “What a delight to see Sam, ABC’s favorite son. Many of you think that’s an incomplete sentence, I know.”—Greenfield
Best Mike Huckabee jokes: “I really understand why Mike Huckabee feels as he does about gay marriage. Because in Arkansas, they believe that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and his step sister.”—Greenfield
“By the way, it’s nice to see Governor Huckabee here tonight. I guess he’ll go anywhere to get a meal without road kill.”—Richard Kaplan
The Washingtonian shout-out: “Axelrod: I had to say I have tremendous sympathy for him . . . Look who surrounds him in the White House. There’s Barack Obama on the cover of Washingtonian magazine, totally toned, totally six-pack. There’s Reggie Love featured in the Huffington Post as one of Washington’s hottest guys. There’s Rahm Emanuel, who swims three miles a day in shark-infested waters (The sharks leave him alone, professional courtesy). He’s listed as one of People magazine’s 25 most beautiful people. Axelrod is in next month’s GQ. He’s number 9 on the enemies list.”—Greenfield
Bold-faced names: 4 out of 5
Swankiness: 3 out of 5
Exclusivity: 4 out of 5
Food and drink: 4 out of 5
Total score: 15 out of 20