Will.I.Am showed up on time Saturday for his gig at the Democratic Governors Association party, 11 p.m. on the dot — unusual for a celebrity, but right on track with a frenetic inauguration weekend schedule.
“I’m used to being in the tornado,” he explained.
Certain showbiz stars are just plain everywhere this weekend: Eva Longoria, who bundled millions for Obama; singer John Legend, who held forth Friday on education at the U.S. Council of Mayors meeting and was set to headline at least four parties. Meanwhile, Will.I.Am — who energized the 2008 youth vote with his “Yes We Can” video and gave $75,800 to Democrats in 2012 — had a full dance card: the OurTime gala, the DGA party, the Green Ball, plus RSVPs to elite donor gatherings through the weekend.
Second time around, of course.
“There really are no words for it,” he said, recalling the first Obama inauguration. “You were part of history.” As for the second? “You don’t dare compare it.”
Sitting backstage at the Hamilton nightclub, the Black Eyed Peas frontman was soft-spoken — none of that “Boom Boom Pow” swagger — but he lit up when Terry McAuliffe burst into the room.
“How are ya, buddy?” the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial hopeful roared. He hugged the singer, then showered charm on Will’s mom (“looks like your sister!”) and aunt. McAuliffe is the one who got him into politics: In 2004, after Will spontaneously shouted “Go out and vote!” at the Grammys, McAuliffe, then the DNC chair, called and roped him into the John Kerry campaign.
“It was too early,” Will said. “We didn’t have a tool like YouTube. We still used words like ‘grassroots movement.’ In 2008, we had the tools.”
After eight years in politics, what has he learned? He sighed. “At times like these, when people come together, it’s magical. Then days pass, they go back to regular politics.” Welcome to Washington, Will.
Like Legend, Beyoncé and other musicians, Will.I.Am was not just a guest this weekend but working, too. But he didn’t mind. “Musicians are unique in the world. If you sing with perspective, people are like, ‘That’s how I feel.’ . . . So I don’t think of it as work. I look at it as conversations over sound.”
Then he went to the stage and took the mike before a packed crowd that had been drinking for hours. He talked up the need for science and math education in inner-city schools and lauded his host: If not for McAuliffe luring him into politics, “I would be in Brazil or Costa Rica living it up” like so many other rich celebrities.
“Is he gonna sing or is he just giving a speech?” whispered a woman behind us.
“On that note, you guys want to party?” Will.I.Am asked, cueing up “Boom Boom Pow.” “Don’t be too stiff — dance, y’all!”
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