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Washingtonian Today: Why Sean Spicer Should Work Every DC Red Carpet

Photograph by Evy Mages

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It’s not terribly surprising to run into a former White House official on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner circuit. What’s less common—nay, nearly unprecedented—is to run into them at ancillary events while they’re on the clock. Yet that’s precisely what happened when I stepped into the Embassy of Qatar’s reception at the Institute of Peace Thursday—there was Sean Spicer, holding court by the event’s step-and-repeat (that’s the expected part) alongside a camera crew, wrangling folks for on-camera interviews (that’s the extremely abnormal part). But maybe I should not have been so surprised; Spicer is, after all, a “special correspondent” for celeb-news TV show Extra. I couldn’t easily identify who Spicer was chatting with before I was whisked away and thrown into the necessary pleasantry farce that many Washington party-goers adhere to. I am certain you’re familiar with the script: “Oh hello, [dang, what’s his name again?] it’s just wonderful to see you again [I think? Oh God, am I mistaking this person for somebody else?]. I hope you’re killing it at such-and-such gig [and speaking of, let me tell you a little about mine–oh, and here’s my card, just in case you need reminding]. Your outfit is stunning!”

Within the hour I broke from that Groundhog Day loop, said hi to a few dear friends and colleagues, and hopped into another rideshare toward Fiola Mare for the United Talent Agency’s party. I was a touch nervous since I was showing up alone. But I was greeted with a familiar face as soon as I stepped out of my Nissan Sentra and onto the Georgetown Waterfront: Spicer, with a camera crew once more. There’s no place like home, truly. I was quickly guided away from Spicer by UTA staff just after I checked in and was thrown into an extremely packed room of people who probably buy LaCroix by the case-load, which is less of a judgment and more of aspiration if we’re being honest with each other here.

As it always is at these things, I ran into another Washington journalist who after exchanging pleasantries, said: “Did you see Spicer over there, interviewing people?” Several others throughout the night echoed this refrain. While I can’t fault Spicer personally for, shall we say, securing the bag, it must be at least a bit bizarre to transition from Trump’s inner circle to red carpet scrums in event space atriums. I suppose George Stephanopoulos made a pivot in a similar style, and that guy gets to hang out with Al Roker now.  Spicer’s candid camera set up was quickly overshadowed, however, by a cast member of Riverdale dancing to all I do is win and taking his shirt off, as witnessed by the Daily Beast’s Max Tani. Unfortunately for me, I was in the bathroom as this happened. And while several “DC Famous” folks mingled, including CNN on-air talent Jim Acosta, Dana Bash, and Jake Tapper, there weren’t the kind of celebrities that’d leave a more seasoned local awe-struck. Except, I suppose, the Fiji Water Woman (yes, that woman), who was a guest of New York Post reporter Nikki Schwab. Oh, and Mr. Wonderful (yes, that man) of Shark Tank, who happened to be interviewed by Spicer at the party. Apropros of nothing, my mother may have been never more proud of me when I told her I accidentally bumped into Kevin O’Leary. Much like the rumored effects of rubbing a Buddha’s belly for good luck, knocking into Mr. Wonderful may have granted me some kind of super-human investor power. My good fortune aside, I spent most of the time circling the dance floor and scoping out a good photo opportunity wall. Because when Clooney’s not here, that’s what most of these parties are about now, aren’t they? Being seen “being cool.” (Though I’d argue that “cool” is an impossible aspiration for those of us who live Beltway-adjacent.)

Ah, how could I forget: I spotted embattled DC Councilmember Jack Evans at a few of the shindigs, which, well, should answer any remaining questions about “celebrity influence” at these pre-and-post parties.

But I know the question you truly want to be answered is if the Correspondents’ Dinner itself was any fun. My answer is: depends on how you define fun. I, personally, quite enjoyed Ron Chernow, who was all but absent at in the pre-and-post party tomfoolery. He is the kind of man who can end a joke with a punchline about Warren G. Harding and tear up the room, which is now my prime dating requirement. But was there definitely a feeling that something was different? With no administration officials, no Hollywood awe? Absolutely.

None of that stopped former Trump lawyer Ty Cobb from partying. I spotted him at the Yahoo! News reception and, more surprisingly, at the NBC News and MSNBC after-party at the Italian Embassy wearing an American flag bow tie. I, once again, ran intoSpicer: He was leaving, clutching a complementary pair of branded flip-flops, as I went in. But the MSNBC event, often billed as the most exclusive ticket in town, felt as subdued as the rest of the weekend. Frankly, each event projected “office party” rather than “Washington blowout bash,” and perhaps that’s for the best. Maybe we as a city perform best when we acknowledge we’re more Jos. A. Bank than Hugo Boss—or the place where red carpets are worked by Sean Spicer instead of Ryan Seacrest

Good morning, I’m your newsletter author who unabashedly drank politically themed cocktails on Sunday morning, Brittany Shepherd (bshepherd@washingtonian.com). This is my final dispatch of Washingtonian Today, a project that I, along with Andrew Beaujon, built for you guys each and every morning since October. It will now go on hiatus for a little while. Last fall, we knew we wanted to create something unique in the morning e-mail space; a place where long-time Washingtonian subscribers could come together with newer readers, a place that did not write about the news with pretension or an assumption that audiences were less-than-savvy, a place where we could all have a little fun. I think I can say we did that. I have never been more proud of a professional project, and I am humbled that so many of you let me take up some of your precious time each morning. I will forever be indebted and grateful.  

Thank you, Andrew, for your editing and guidance; thank you, Evy Mages, for your wonderful photography that added color and life to this project; thank you to the entire team at Washingtonian for creating a family of support around this newsletter; and thank you, reader, for giving me another reason to wake up and create.

To crib from a line often attributed to A.A. Milne: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

One more thing before I go: Veep completely owned all of us, myself included, who say “WaPo” instead of Washington Post, and we deserve it. 

Perhaps I’ll grace your inboxes someday soon; until then, see you on Twitter.

What we have cooking at Washingtonian:

Our pick for things to do around town:

BOOKS In conjunction with an upcoming exhibit on women’s rights (“Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote” opens 5/10), the National Archives is hosting a lunchtime lecture with historian Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers about her new book, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South. Jones-Rogers examines how owning slaves was a primary source of wealth for white women—they typically inherited slaves rather than land—and how these women used their participation in the slave market for their own empowerment. The program will be followed by a book signing. Free (reservations recommended), noon.

Good reads:

  • Workaholic culture is widening the gender gap in offices. You should be paying attention. (The New York Times)
  • Pete Buttigieg is going to force me to listen to political podcasts, isn’t he? (NiemanLab)
  • And one last one for the road: how Frasier found a second life (and in my case, a third and a fourth) on streaming platforms. (The Ringer)

Big events from Washingtonian:

Sip sip rosé! Join us as we toast to spring at our Rosé Soirée on Thursday, May 16, at Long View Gallery! It will be an evening full of wine from local and national vendors, light bites, and music. Use code sipsiprose for 15 percent off your ticket at washingtonian.com/rose.

An evening under the sea: We’re celebrating the best restaurants in the Washington area at Best of Washington, presented by Lexus, on Thursday, June 6, at the National Building Museum. Tickets are selling fast to the kick-off party of the summer, so get yours today at washingtonian.com/bestof. Want 20 percent off your tickets? Use code bestofbrittany.

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Staff Writer

Brittany Shepherd covers the societal and cultural scene in political Washington. Before joining Washingtonian as a staff writer in 2018, Brittany was a White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review. While she has lived in DC for a number of years now, she still yearns for the fresh Long Island bagels of home. Find her on Twitter, often prattling on about Frasier.