Take My Husband. Please!

By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 1, 2005

You might think that Venus and Serena Williams, Elle Macpherson, Jane Fonda, Mary Tyler Moore and a cameo by the president would be enough celebrity wattage to light up any Washington gala. And it was, and it did. But it was a dependable supporting player who stole the show.

At the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner last night at the Hilton Washington, Laura Bush made the evening her own with an extended riff on her husband, his family and life at the ranch that drew a standing ovation.

"I'm proud of George," she told the ballroom. "He's learned a lot about ranching since that first year he tried to milk a horse." Pause. "It was a male horse." Pandemonium ensued in a room filled with tough acts to follow.

It was a night about intersections: Sunset Boulevard at Connecticut Avenue, where Hollywood and Washington sit down to break bread. The Correspondents' Association dinner is an annual prom for journalists who dress up in fancy gowns and sensible shoes and wait for the president to make a joke. And while waiting wade through an artificially constructed gala that is not even a good party. Mostly, it's about appearance and posturing and rubbing shoulders.

You know you're invisible from the moment you walk into the main entrance where there's a red carpet, and nobody snaps your picture.

Then Donovan McNabb walks down the red carpet and the cameras snap in a swarm of lights. A chorus yells behind the rope, "DONovaaan." But he in his French braids, he who is here missing mini-camp, keeps walking.

Before long, another red-carpet flurry of excitement. Who is that, the chorus behind the velvet rope sings. And just like that, she steps onto the carpet: a slim, very slim, Mary Tyler Moore. "Maaary," the chorus calls, holding up digital cameras. She turns and smiles.

Someone behind the velvet rope asks, very politely, Can I just step in to get a little closer?

A woman with a shock of red hair snaps: "NO! I've been here since 4 p.m. and I'm from New York ."

While Mary is smiling to the cameras another sweet thing scoots onto the red carpet. And she poses. You have no idea who she is but you snap her picture anyway.

Then comes Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell. "AAALaaan!" the chorus choruses. He doesn't stop. Doesn't turn. Until Andrea Mitchell, who is on his elbow, pauses. "Say happy anniversary to the Discovery Channel," a person from the Discovery Channel yells.

Andrea: "Happy anniversary, Discovery Channel!"

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