News & Politics

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
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
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
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.