By Teresa Wiltz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 7, 2007
There are upsides to a January heat wave, upsides immediately obvious to us as we stand outside Love nightclub in the wee hours between Friday and yesterday, waiting for the happenings to happen:
The naked painted ladies, part of the evening's entertainment -- and yes, naked naked, save for a thong and a head-to-toe paint job -- don't have to worry about goosebumps ruining the effect of all that . . . paint.
More advantages: Nobody needs a coat at this birthday blowout to end all birthday blowouts, so the party people from Bowie and Gainesville are bopping around the outdoor tent unencumbered, as the rapper Lil Wayne, equally unswathed, bops around onstage. The paparazzi on the red carpet (well, more like black AstroTurf) don't freeze their tootsies as they wait and wait and wait some more for Diddy to make his appearance.
But there are downsides, as well, to eerie winter heat waves. Big waste of money renting those giant outdoor space heaters. Such a pity, pass the champagne.
The biggest downside of them all: The birthday boy is melting.
Gilbert Arenas, a.k.a. Gilbert the Great and Agent Zero, the NBA's newest darling, stands outside the club in Northeast on the eve of his 25th, the occasion for all this glitz and glitter, silently greeting 7,500 or so of his closest friends, dressed in his athletic finery, basketball in one hand. Water soaks through his number zero Wizards jersey. His fingers -- the ones not holding the basketball -- are pretty much gone, liquid running in rivulets down the remaining stubs and threatening to erase his hands, too.
As Nelly, one of the expected guests, would say: it's hot in herre.
Perhaps that's why the real Arenas, as opposed to the stand-in sculpted from ice, was rumored to have spent a good chunk of time on this night camped out in his Lamborghini. This is a guy who's often described as a loner. Which begs the question: What's with the giant plasma TVs playing non-stop loops of all things Arenas, with the dueling artists outside painting portraits, with the "Vote for Gilbert" buttons, with the exclusive "Arenas Express" invites, the ones that cost nearly $40K to make and another $20k to send out via FedEx?
Hold that thought.
In the meantime, let's play guess-the-celebrity, shall we? The chick with the splendiferous 'fro and the slinky halter dress. Over there. The one posing for the cameras. Somebody? Or Wannabe Somebody? Look, there's Etan Thomas of the Wizards, looking laid-back and boho in a knitted Rasta cap. And there, there's the guy from "The Wire." You know, the one who plays Slim Charles -- Anwan "Big G" Glover, a legend of go-go music in DC.
"I only missed three episodes this season," Glover tells us, adding that he'll be back for the HBO drama's final season.
Folks crawl through four floors of gridlock, zapping text messages of sightings and rumored sightings into BlackBerrys and Treos. Halle Berry's in the house! (Unsubstantiated.) The Pussycat Dolls dropped by to hang out! (Oops, maybe not.) Where's Jamie Foxx? (Heck if we know.) On the radio, a deejay claimed to have had a Mariah Carey spotting. We didn't see Mariah. We did, however, see Doug E. Fresh.
Fresh, one of the evening's emcees, is making his way through the block-long tent pitched outside, doing the I-wear-my-sunglasses-at-night thing, bragging about how he was brought in the behest of Love owner Marc Barnes as "the extra artillery."
"I specialize in the area of people having a good time," he tells us. "I'm'a do whatever it takes to make sure the party's a smash."
And that would mean . . . ?
"I'll do whatever needs to be done."
"I'm'a make sure that we have some go-go music tonight."
This is, after all, D.C., a fact that the party people keep mentioning again and again, as if they can't believe their own good fortune. Gilbert the Great could have chosen to celebrate in, say, Vegas or L.A. But he chose us! "This is great for D.C.," Barnes says, grinning. (And yeah, he acknowledges, great for Love, too.)
Marion Barry stands on the sideline of a craps table -- "I can do dice. But I'm just looking" -- soaking up the fun. "It's a great party," Barry says. "Right here, in D.C."
A few months back, Arenas called Barnes and told him he wanted to throw a birthday bash.
"I said, do you want to throw a birthday party?" Barnes recalls, laughing, "Or do you want to throw a birthday party?"
Judging from the lavishness of the spread, the free food and open bar from 8 to 11, we're pretty sure what Arenas's answer was. (Barnes won't say just how much things cost or who ultimately footed the bill, only that the tally was somewhere between $1 million and $2 million.)
A couple of planeloads of the birthday boy's nearest and dearest were flown in from Los Angeles, according to Barnes. Vast sectors of the Ritz-Carlton Washington and the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown were rented out, so that Arenas's friends and family could have a place to lay their heads. (All the bedding was monogrammed with "Agent 0" in honor of the occasion, according to a hotel spokesperson, including the sofa in Arenas's own suite -- since he's not too fond of beds and prefers to snooze on the couch.)
"I never had anybody call me and demand my presence," Diddy, billed as the evening's host, says onstage. "He's a bad [expletive about your mama] . . . Say something, Gilbert!"
But Arenas is a man of few words, and he's already said them earlier, exhorting the crowd to "get drunk and make bad decisions!" So right now, he's just standing silently onstage, decked out in a white suit, as the crowd starts chanting, "MVP! MVP!"
The party people are showing no signs of letting up, even as the clock nears 2 a.m. The chicks in the cantilevered dresses are still strolling around, the dudes with the sunglasses are still grabbing hunks of heinie whenever an unwitting lass in a cocktail dress wanders into their line of vision. The Game and Busta Rhymes have yet to take the stage. So the night's still young, right?
Not for Arenas. Surrounded by an entourage holding umbrellas aloft, Arenas makes his way out of Love, through the tent and into the street and the misty rain.
"I wonder if that's his baby's mama with him," one woman says, craning her neck for a better look.
"Hmmmph," her companion huffs. "I need somebody to hold my umbrella for me, too."
So do we. So do we.
Staff writer Amy Argetsinger contributed to this report.