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WHCD: Swanky, Sweaty and Star-Studded

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Prom! It's not a joke, it's what everyone apparently calls the White House Correspondents Dinner, the annual mash-up of high-ranking politicos and the journos who cover them along with a random selection of stars of varying degrees of wattage, all thrown together in a sweaty hotel basement. Glamorous! This year your ETP editor attended for the first time, trusty camera in hand, doing our best to accost celebrities and needle-movers for your viewing pleasure. It was a dizzying event, truly - or maybe that was just the dehydration talking - 2,600 people milling around from party to party can get a little warm. All told, the event had more parties than we can count - we're counting the Time/CNN pre-party, the Newsweek pre-party, the CBS pre-party, the National Journal/Atlantic/Hotline/other names pre-party, plus there must have been a Fox party, as well as two brunches (Tammy Haddad et al before and Johnn McLaughlin after) and three after-parties (Bloomberg, Vanity Fair/Christopher Hitchens and Capitol File). If you like parties, it's a fairly efficient way to go. Here are but a few snapshots from the evening - a few stolen moments from the center of the whirlwind. Stay tuned for after-party and brunch-specific posts upcoming - it was one of those nights. Here we go!


Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and, more germanely for this event, the "Yes We Can" Obama song, poses with a pink-with-pride John Harwood on the ramp outside the Time party, in the thick of a sweaty scrum (he had just finished being interviewed by Obama Girl, in a nice bit of synergy). John was hanging with will.i.am later at the Bloomberg afterparty, too - BFFs!


Best moment of our night: asking Donatella Versace who she was wearing. Surprised laughter from her and Kate Betts, followed by confirmation that yes, she was wearing Versace. Betts, funnily enough, was not - she was wearing Narcisso Rodriguez.


Time's Karen Tumulty is the happiest person around right now: The Office's B.J. Novak just signed a Dunder Mifflin t-shirt for her son's birthday. Awww, what a mom. Alas, the shirt is covering her great dress. Take it from us, she certainly was tumult-y! Oy.

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Desperate Housewives' Marcia Cross We resisted the temptation to ask Cross to whip off her wig and show us her bald head (you'll always be Krazy Kimberly to us, Bree!)

Morgan Fairchild, as stunning as she ever was as Racine in "Paper Dolls," my favorite book and then TV show in the early 80s, and which was my first experience with the trauma inflicted by canceling a series mid-season (and right after the fashion show cliffhanger, too!). The show starred a young, innocent Nicolette Sheridan prior to her movie debut in "The Sure Thing." Hey, where was John Cusack this year? Anhow, enough 80s trivia (hi, five of you that got it!) - how good does Morgan Fairchild look? Tommy Flanagan would be proud.

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Time managing editor Rick Stengel with Amber Lee Ettinger, aka Obama Girl, and Betsy Burton, aka TimeGirl (aka their ace PR rep).


CNN uber-anchor and whitely-bearded Wolf Blitzer, hangin' with the team: Lucy Spiegel, CNN Sr. EP and VP of weekend programming and Linda Roth, EP of "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

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WaPo's Jonathan Capeheart and author and commentator Keli Goff, reminiscing about their MSNBC segments. (Just kidding, that would be extremely dorky.)


Christiane Amanpour and hubby Jamie Rubin, all smiles. Somewhere to the left is Madeleine Albright, whose entrance created a minor stir.

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Also creating a minor stir: The rakish duo of SNL heartthrob Will Forte and actor Bradley Cooper, he of Wedding Crashers and Alias fame. Best WHCD sandwich ever! "SNL heartthrob," you say? Damn straight - quite a few young ladies noted with appreciation that Forte was far more fetching in person than under that Falconer beard. Mmm-mmm, Tim Calhoun cleans up well!


More smiles: CNN prez Jon Klein, Larry King, Christiane Amanpour and Person Whom Christa Robinson Is Going To Identify For Me, all happy for a pic. We won't tell you which person from a rival network asked us to remind them who Jon Klein was. Shhh!

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"I don't know, Jon, the co-anchor thing didn't work out too well for Aaron Brown."


FishbowlNY' s Glynnis MacNicol fulfills a lifelong fantasy of meeting Charlie Rose. If I'm not mistaken, that might also have been Bradley Cooper's lifelong fantasy, too (true Alias fans never forget).


President Bush conducts the United States Marine Corps Band in "The Stars And Stripes Forever" - a nice and fitting final WHCD performance for a controversial president - to celebrate and appreciate the office (though no doubt many in the audience will celebrate and appreciate that office being vacated!).

Featured entertainment Craig Ferguson is far better viewed in this handy YouTube video than in another grainy version of the pic above - though, between the sound system and his Scottish brogue, only marginally easier to understand. We loved the Canada shout-out though. Also, Dems or Republicans, by far the biggest cheer of the night came for his joke slamming the New York Times for opting out:. "They felt, I just want to make sure I get this right, they felt that this event undercuts the credibility of the press," Ferguson said. "That's funny, I thought that Jayson Blair and Judy Miller took care of that." And then, just for good measure: "Shut the hell up, New York Times, you sanctimonious whining jerks." After that, he owned that crowd. Definitely worth watching.

Okay, here's the Bush video too - David Corn likens it to Nero fiddling, and didn't appreciate the standing ovation. That's the debate over this dinner right there - see Ferguson's NYT riff above - does it compromise the media to play buddy-buddy with its subject for this night? Or is it possible to separate out the ceremonial from the very real life-and-death decision-making that goes on every day? And is there room in the process to stop and recognize that it is a nice moment to have a sitting president conduct the Marine Corps Band on a song that has played for him at every event for the last 8 years, and every president before him? Or is that the very reason to sit through it in stony silence, because it's this president? There's no right answer, because too many people disagree - just as I'm sure you all will in comments. I will say this: It's a hard song not to clap along to.


Straight outta Compton: WHCA chair Ann Compton of ABC raises a glass, and probably downed a few like it after organizing this thing. Whew!


Greta, from above: FNC's Greta Van Sustern in the crowd shuffling patiently toward the dinner. Metal detector + POTUS-inspired security at the entrances = time for Greta to realize that she was being observed.


Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz. At least we think so - we approached the redhead and said, "Ashlee?" and she responded, but we sure as heck didn't recognize her.

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Cindi Leive with husband Howard Bernstein, wearing a look that was no doubt on her face all night since she was hosting funny people Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, plus Chelsea Handler at the Glamour table.

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The perils of attending these things: 2,600 of your closest friends, each armed with a digital camera.


WaPo "Reliable Source" columnist Amy Argetsinger in a showstopping cherry gown, working the classic Zellweger pose. Va-va-voom! Do people outside of Archie comics say that anymore? Well, they do now.

Rosario Dawson, mid-sentence (and still stunning).


CNN's John King and his fiancé, Dana Bash, at the, er, party.

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A big thank you to Julie Mason of the Houston Chronicle for being such a wonderful hostess! The Chronicle also hosted Obama Girl (beating out Google, who also requested her hand), and she joined bureau chief Rick Dunham nearby. Julie has way more pics (and some pretty funny captions) at her blog, Beltway Confidential, here.


Your faithful (and shiny) ETP editor with another aweomse Julie, the wickedly funny Julie Banderas of Fox News. (Evidence @ 2 a.m. whenever she's on RedEye.)

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CNN doyenne Christa Robinson, who was all over this shizz. (Did I say that right?)


Oh, no she didn't! Obama Girl makes a point.


MSNBC's David Shuster bear-hugs CBS morning/evening Svengali (they hope) Rick Kaplan as he made his rounds at the MSNBC table, his former stomping grounds. Awww. Kaplan, who bear-hugged Tucker Carlson too, looked especially jaunty in his red tuxedo vest. He seemed to be glad to meet us, which was good because he's very large, so you'd probably want to be on his good side. Also chatted up at the MSNBC table: "Hardball" EP John Reiss and dayside anchor Tamryn Hall. We'd tell you what all of them were wearing except their outfits were off the record.


Sort of a random trifecta, but with a little creative cropping they match perfectly! On the left is retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey, now an analyst for NBC and MSNBC. I see your flag pin and I raise you...(Silver Star, Purple Heart etc.). Next is Huma Abedin, right-hand woman of Hillary Clinton, and person I met at a July 4th roof party seven years ago. BFFs! She looked flawless, of course - after managing the schedule of HRC, taming the shine of a sweaty ballroom is nothing for her (many people sported a light sheen that evening, including your faithful ETP editor, cropped out of this photo for reasons not excluding that one). Finally, the delightful and Arianna-riffic Tracy Ullman, who favored us with a little bit of the bosslady (alas, far away in L.A. hosting a book party for the LAT book fair for her new book, Right is Wrong). Tracy swore she was a regular ETP reader, which made us love her even more than we did back in the day when she wore fuzzy pink slippers in the supermarket (and yes, we can still sing every word).


Atmosphere! Also, look carefully at the bread basket: MATZAH! Two or three delicious slices per table, although if you're really a serious Jew then eating it after it's been embedded in chumetz doesn't help you much. It also didn't help you much if you were a hungry Jew, as I was. Thanks to Julie for giving me her salad.


Keli Goff with Newt Gingrich. According to Keli, this is how it all went down: Keli: "Would you mind taking a photo with me? It will really irritate certain members of my family." Gingrich (laughing): "Sure! But why will it irritate them exactly?" Ha. Keli said Newt got the joke, and posed anyway. Good sport award!


MSNBC pop culture correspondent Courtney Hazlett with....Martha Stewart! Courtney's dress was a favorite of mine with that ruffle top and the wide ribbon band below. Very feminine and coutur-ey. (It's by Gilles Montezin.) Don't know who Martha's wearing but I would have rather seen that necklace against a more dramatic gown, maybe a strapless. She can pull it off, I've seen it.

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Obama Girl, flanked by two very happy RealClearPolitics guys.

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Former Romney press secretary and current D.C. power playa Kevin Madden with Lauren Conrad of The Hills, courtesy of a borrowed (and very artsy!) pic from Adam Verdugo, Norah O'Donnell's producer at MSNBC.

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Here's Verdugo himself, in the company of Kal Penn, aka Kumar of "Harold & Kumar." From White Castle to the White House - not bad!

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WWD's Stephanie Smith and Politico's Michael Calderone, who somehow always seemed to be in the company of beautiful women. Is it the animal magnetism of the Politico brand? Perhaps - the guys from the NYO, his former stomping ground, always seemed to be in the company of each other. Hmm.

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Oops, my bad - here's the NYO's John Koblin with Mother Jones' David Corn. Score!

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Brit actor Rupert Everett was at his first WHCD, just like us. He was standing in the makeshift VIP area alone at a table near where Donatella and Kate Betts were chatting with Stephanie Smith, and at first we didn't even know it was him - he looks different when he's not singing Dionne Warwick. He was there as a guest of Time with Donatella and Colin Firth (who looked different when he wasn't in a Christmas sweater or leather pants). I asked Rupert who the most interesting person he'd met yet was. "I haven't met anyone yet," he said. "You!" I let him know that he had nowhere to go but up, and promptly introduced him to Obama Girl. "I'm an Obama Girl, too!" he said. "I'm really disappointed he's not here!" Was he supporting Obama, then? "Definitely - I think he's the only hope America has." Alas for Obama, Rupert can't vote. But saying he's an Obama Girl's should go far in Indiana. We also complimented him on the deliciousness of British candy, which he gladly accepted. "American candy is a scandal," he said. Even bigger scandal: That no one saved him from that awkward, awkward interview.

Thanks to Keli Goff, Julie Mason, Adam Verdugo and Courtney Hazlett for sharing pics, and to Max Follmer for his assistance with photo upload. Thanks also to Mikael Aghal for my dress!