Drummond and his shutterbug brethren will be in hyperdrive this week for the White House correspondents’ dinner at the Washington Hilton, an event affectionately known around town as “prom.”
The annual rite of spring, which the president almost always attends, has morphed over the years from a staid dinner to a glitzy spectacle resembling the Oscars, where celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber mingle with Cabinet secretaries on an actual red carpet. There’s also a slew of pre-dinner cocktail parties, post-dinner brunches and competing after-parties. Of those, an invite to the Bloomberg/Vanity Fair event is the most coveted; the list will be pared to a mere 400 this year, making invitations more sought-after than ever.
Some news organizations, the New York Times, for example, have made a show of boycotting the dinner, but interest in the WHCD weekend remains intense. The number of photographers credentialed for the event has grown from 50 in 2008 to more than 100 this year, organizers say. Fans can follow the consuming details online at the White House Correspondents Weekend Insider site.
Drummond will be working nonstop from Wednesday to Monday, trying to catch stars such as “Saturday Night Live’s” Seth Meyers — this year’s host — in candid moments off the red carpet. A few years back, when Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes came to town, only one paparazzo managed to get pictures of them inside the Hilton — and it wasn’t Drummond. That rankled.
“It’s the biggest weekend of the year for us,” Drummond says. “There’s going to be a lot of A-listers here trying to get face time in.”
One evening on the Georgetown University campus, Drummond crosses Healy Lawn, past students playing pickup volleyball, lugging his camera bag. He’s dressed like a college student himself in jeans, white sneakers and a blue T-shirt, an expensive silver diving watch on his wrist.
The photographer is headed to an auditorium where he hopes to get video of Martin Sheen, in town to attend a screening of his small independent movie “The Way,” directed by his son Emilio Estevez. In addition to his regular camera, Drummond carries a small hand-held video camera for on-the-spot interviews, often throwing out goofy or slightly off-kilter questions in the hope of getting the stars’ attention.