The hallway at the White House Correspondents’ dinner: it’s the place where decorum, boundaries and digital-camera restraint disappear in the face of celebrity abundance.
The hallway? Yes, that would be the path that everyone — from the Capitol Hill staffers and journalists who scored invites to one of the media receptions to the Mila Kunises and Matthew Morrisons of the world — must travel to get to their various parties and then back to the ballroom for dinner. It’s more congested than the red carpet at the Oscars and decidedly less glamorous. (As Seth Meyers pointed out during his dinner speech, we are, after all, in the basement of a Hilton.)
Many, many people without tickets to the actual dinner attend the parties and wind up caught in the crush of black-tied and ballroom-gowned humanity. Maybe it’s the scent of all that perfume, the whiff of fame or the availability of so many complimentary crudites, but something about the atmosphere strips away some individuals’ sense of inhibition.
“I don’t condone this behavior,” shouted one woman, laughing, as she raced to keep up with a male friend who was chasing Scarlett Johansson as she made her way to the Newsweek/Daily Beast party, at that point sans significant other Sean Penn .
The madness in the hallway leaked into some of the party rooms.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the ginger half of the Cameron/Mitchell marriage on “Modern Family,” walked into the Time/CNN/People/Fortune reception and was immediately mobbed by overzealous photographers. Hilary Rosen, the former Recording Industry Association of America head who was with him, advised that maybe they should turn around.
Matthew Morrison was similarly cornered, to the point where getting a moment with “Glee’s” Mr. Schuester turned into a futile effort. Eventually he disappeared; his rep said later that he had to be taken back to see the president. (Perhaps all the birth certificate business made President Obama relate strongly to the “Born This Way” themes in last week’s episode?)
Bristol Palin — glammed up quite literally beyond recognition — posed for photo after photo with guests at the People party, but wouldn’t answer any questions for reporters. “She’s not doing interviews,” said a blonde handler in a husky voice.
Steve Buscemi managed to enjoy a drink without being perturbed by fans. It was his first White Correspondents’ dinner and when asked what he made of it all, the only thing he could do at first was laugh.
“It seems very crowded, a little overwhelming. But I’m happy to be here,” he said. He also noted that part of the reason he came to Washington was to spend the previous day visiting with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed.
“I just hope that with everything that’s going on that these guys are not forgotten,” he said.
After that earnest, heartfelt moment, it was back to the madness of the hallway, where traffic was moving with all the momentum of D.C.’s Beltway during a rainy afternoon rush hour. SNL’s Bill Hader was spotted meeting “Modern Family’s” Eric Stonestreet for the first time. Another “Modern Family” cast member, Sarah Hyland, passed by in a floaty, darling dress that made her look like a miniature blue fairy.
But inevitably, floaty gave way to another bottleneck brought on by impromptu celebrity photo sessions. Everyone from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to ex-Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken to the aforementioned Kunis was pausing to accommodate requests to pose in photos.
But the flow may have been most impeded by Donald Trump — the reality star/mogul/birther/possible presidential candidate of the hour — who was surrounded by photographers and gawkers as he attempted to emerge from The Washington Post reception.
As we all stood there, unable to move for a couple of moments, one impatient, bespectacled man grumbled about what the world had come to. Whatever one may think of that world, one thing was clear: with everything that had gone on regarding Trump this past week, this man was not going to be forgotten.