Text and photos from LIFE.com, where you can check out more odd social pairings at state dinners.
The state dinner dates back to 1874, when Ulysses Grant invited King David Kalakaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii to break bread with him. President Obama's first state dinner will be held for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and has been the subject of much speculation -- Washington is abuzz with details of who will be invited. In an effort to convince the Obamas to diversify their guest list, here's a handful of encounters that may never have occurred without a state dinner.
John Travolta Dances With Princess Diana, 1985
President Reagan Makes a Speech, Accompanied by Nancy, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como at a State Dinner for Italian President Alessandro Pertini, 1982
Salma Hayek and Harry Reid at a State Dinner for Argentine President Carlos Menem, 1999
Hillary Clinton and Spike Lee at a Dinner for South African President Thabo Mbeki, 2000