The British arrived.
The British arrived.
For the British, we roll out our most glorious specimen. For the British, we bring out The Clooney.
The purpose of a state dinner is always to cement relationships, celebrate ties, create photo-ops. But diplomatic canoodling reaches a treacly pinnacle when the guests in question are our special friends from across the Pond — as they were at Wednesday’s White House party.
The U.K. was in top form, whispering sweet nothings with clipped consonants. “Barack, it is an honor to call you an ally, a partner and a friend,” Prime Minister David Cameron said in his toast to the president. “It is a pleasure to work with someone with the moral strength, with clear reason and with fundamental decency in this task of renewing our great national alliance for today and for the generations to follow.”
America was in equally top form, showing off for the country we declared independence from 230-plus years ago and have held in soft focus almost ever since. “In war and in peace, in times of plenty and in times of hardship, we stand tall, and proud, and strong together,” President Obama said as he raised his glass to Cameron.
Technically — technically — this is an official visit, not a state visit (no queen, the head of state), but the White House decided to call the meal portion a “state dinner,” and, really, who are we to quibble? Besides, this means that the White House gets to host Cameron and his chic wife, Samantha, who wore a blue patterned Alessandra Rich gown. Michelle Obama wore blue, too — a deep teal Marchesa designed by Georgina Chapman, a guest at the dinner.
The 362 guests — the largest state dinner of this administration — demonstrated the reciprocal relationship the United States and the U.K. have with each other’s pretty celebrities.
British actor Damian Lewis, last seen as an American POW trying to assassinate the vice president on Showtime’s “Homeland,” was there — Obama’s a huge fan of the show. “When does he watch TV?” the actor wondered, ambling past the press line on his way into the dinner. “That’s what I’m going to ask him.” Lewis brought his wife, Helen McCrory, better known to Americans as Harry Potter’s Narcissa Malfoy.
In terms of British cultural imports, the score at the dinner was Downton Abbey 2, Harry Potter 1. Both Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern (Lord and Lady Grantham!) were there, the former commenting that Britain’s relationship with the United States “was symbolized in the show with me being married to an American.” The latter wore a daring mesh gown and looked hotter, older, sharper than her dizzy, slurring onscreen character.
More star power: PBS’s Gwen Ifill brought “The Wire” actor Wendell Pierce (Bunk!). BET head Debra Lee hitched up her dress to reveal teetering hot pink shoes, designed by Brian Atwood. Anna Wintour, teeny as a human Q-tip, wore black and white Chanel. Richard Branson’s lion mane was there, as were Warren Buffett’s delightful grandpa glasses, and there was a strong showing of gay power couples (blogger Andrew Sullivan and his husband, Aaron Tone).