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Vanity Fair's Coverage of the White House State Dinner: A Namedropping Guide

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Bob Colacello's piece in the June issue of Vanity Fair is a thorough history of state dinners that rehashes all the questions we asked when we discovered in November that a couple had crashed the annual gala. The event, as ABC News, quoted in the article, put it, is "the hottest ticket in town." But whether or not Colcacello comes to any conclusions about the gathering, the glamour, or the unexpected guests in his 8,800-word piece is beyond me. I got sidetracked by the incredibly long lists of names that appear inside the article.

Colacello was obviously trying to put the 2009 dinner in context with how previous years' affairs went. But he may have gotten a bit carried away in including quite so many characters, even as afterthoughts. Here, an excerpt:

"The guest list was also commendably bipartisan, balancing Democrats such as Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey and Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm with Republicans like Indiana senator Richard Lugar and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who is of Indian descent. Other prominent Indian-Americans included PepsiCo C.E.O. Indra Nooyi, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and New Age icon Deepak Chopra. David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg represented Hollywood; Katie Couric, Brian Williams, and Robin Roberts network TV; G.E. chairman Jeffrey Immelt big business; and A.F.L.-C.I.O. president Richard Trumka big labor."

Sure sounds like a who's who covering a variety of industries. Colin Powell, Nancy Pelosi, and John Kerry get mentioned, too, among others. Immediately thereafter, Colacello introduces the Salahis and everyone involved from all ends -- remember Carlos Allen? -- in the breakdown of White House security and the ensuing media storm.

From there, Colacello gives an overview of similar past events, referencing as many ex-presidents, socialites, world leaders, and White House staffers as possible. One dinner Jackie Kennedy threw featured "a guest list that included Robert Lowell, Leonard Bernstein, Mark Rothko, Saul Bellow, George Balanchine, Tennessee Williams, Julie Harris, Arthur Miller, and Charles and Ann Morrow Lindbergh."

Similar lists are given for those the Fords and Carters entertained at their hosted state dinners, but perhaps not with the same elitism of the Kennedy era. Nancy Reagan, however, like Jackie Kennedy, "sought out the crème de la crème -- Brooke Astor, David Rockefeller, Diana Vreeland, William Paley, Jimmy Stewart, [and] Claudette Colbert."

As for the Clintons, they hosted "playwright Edward Albee, historian David McCullough, choreographer Judith Jamison -- but was heavily weighted toward Hollywood and the media. Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, Peter Jennings, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Ovitz, Katharine Graham, Mort Zuckerman, and Anne Cox Chambers."

To be invited to a state dinner is an unsurpassed honor and extreme recognition of prestige. Making it into Colacello's piece must be the cherry on top.

Read the entire article at Vanity Fair.