By Libby Copeland and Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, April 23, 2007
And now, for the after-parties. We are so ready. It is nearly 11 on Saturday night and Rich Little is depressing the crowd at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner with imitations of dead people, so we sneak out early. One of us is wearing a microphone in our sleeve, attached to a tape recorder, which feels very wily, very "Fox News investigates."
The other one of us is wearing cleavage, good for any occasion.
We clickety-clack down Connecticut Avenue toward the Bloomberg after-party, ahead of the mass tuxedoed exodus, feeling awfully proud of ourselves because we won't have to wait in a god-awful line.
Of course, we are wrong. There's already a line at the Costa Rican Embassy, and some dude in front of us is helping his friends cut ahead, which makes us feel very fourth grade (Hey! No cutting!), and the poor shlubs who aren't on the list are being made to wait in a roped-off "penalty box."
"We were invited by Ludacris!" a woman wails.
We inch past, feeling quite special, and show our ID to a man with a laptop who does not smile. He waves us along and we walk in feeling very cool and then suddenly, very hot. Goodness, it's cozy in here.
Grab something pink and fruity and wander toward the heat source, which turns out to be a crowded and steamy room that keeps changing colors, with long gauzy streamers that look like toilet paper hanging from the ceiling. Reporters and politicians and Hill staffers stand shoulder to shoulder, gossiping and sweating and sipping and spilling and leering.
This is the brain of Washington. And it is drunk.
Look! Celebrities! Kind of! There's football star Reggie Bush! There's figure skater Michelle Kwan, who says she's "good friends" with Katie Couric! There's Morgan Fairchild, looking very much inflated around the chestal region, and comedian Eddie Izzard, who does both his American and English accents for us, and some really important lawyer dude!
There's Sanjaya, man of the evening, curls dangling around his neck like dainty fruit.
Regimen? we ask.
Ten minutes with a stylist and a curling iron, he says, all soft-spoken and gentle-like.
Wait! We have a follow-up!
But the crowd and its sweaty tentacles have swallowed him whole.
What would the correspondents' dinner be without the after-party? It would be not worth it. This year, there are three big bashes: In addition to the perennially decadent Bloomberg party, Capitol File is hosting a lavish affair at the home of the Colombian ambassador, and Vanity Fair has revived its storied shindig at the home of writer Christopher Hitchens, where a person can be sure to get a proper drink.
We are duly swagged. Capitol File is giving away party bags containing camera memory cards and $50 gift certificates to Lord & Taylor. Bloomberg has staffers passing out slippers, and hot model types in bathrobes giving out single-serve bottles of champagne from a bathtub. No glass, just a straw, which causes the bubbly to foam up and drip all over your hands. Additional swag: light bulbs. Don't know why.
At Bloomberg we want sweets, but at first find only fried pickles and refrigerators stocked with flavored waters and, oddly, meatloaf sandwiches. As at last year's party, the drinks have emasculating names like Cocokamikazi and Bellinitini, and, as at last year's, the bathroom lounge is so overdecorated it's difficult to actually find a stall.
"Oh, these are doors?" says some guy who has to be directed by an employee.
The one of us wearing a microphone spends much of the evening talking into his sleeve, dictating details of the party and congratulating himself for this brilliant arrangement, which is much easier than taking notes when one has had three Bellinitinis. There's Michael Chertoff (he goes into the sleeve). There's some model type (she goes into the sleeve).
This technique appears to work brilliantly, though we will think differently in the morning, when we turn on the tape and find nothing on it.
There's Georgette Mosbacher mincing past in high-high heels, looking like she should be carrying a teeny-tiny dog in her arms. We don't see singer Sheryl Crow and activist Laurie David, so we can't ask them about their dust-up at the dinner with Karl Rove. They say they tried to discuss global warming with the presidential adviser; he says David insulted him. (Sheryl, did you really reach out to touch Karl's arm and did he really snarl, "Don't touch me"?! He sounds like he needs a deliciously sweet Bellinitini! Instead, he will get a deliciously sweet shout-out from Sheryl at her Earth Day concert yesterday at George Washington University, when she dedicates "We Can Work It Out" to her "new friend, Karl Rove.")
Now, where were we? We see Marc Cherry, the portly "Desperate Housewives" creator who looks the teensiest bit like Karl Rove. That's sort of something. We ask him which Washington type would play him in a movie. "Jerrold Nadler," he says, referencing the rather rotund Democratic congressman from New York.
We chat up Kwan, who reports that during dinner she gabbed with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about how hard it is to find the right ice skates. Naturally. What else would they discuss? She says she told Rice "that I would get her a pair of skates and fit her."
Valerie Bertinelli is in a corner sitting on some stairs, surrounded by People people, and pronouncing herself a "wallflower." She's sweet as all get-out, fresh off a People cover ("I'm fat") and armed with a new contract to lose weight via Jenny Craig. She brings up her love for the New Orleans Saints and one specific Saint, Deuce McAllister. We're completely football illiterate, but we say he sounds like a real mensch.
"Yeah, Deuce is a mensch," she says.
Minutes later, she stands up on the stairs and surveys the hot and sweaty crowd, looking for her boyfriend, Tom Vitale.
"I see bald heads but not my bald head," she says.
We wander. We see people we know, but they disappear before we can fight our way to them through the crowd. We try to sample more exotic drinks and land ourselves in an arm-wrestling match on the bar. Which we lose.
And then off into the cool night air, weaving ever so slightly across Connecticut Avenue (Is that car beeping at us? Jerk!) and head over to Hitchens's place. This party is smaller and less schmancy. There are pigs in blankies. There's a mostly used-up bar of soap in the bathroom, along with a damp bath towel bearing ominous yellow stains. We are in here with someone else. How did that happen?
We see World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, but we do not his see his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, the World Bank worker for whom Wolfowitz gallantly arranged a raise. We offer several women $20 to approach Wolfowitz and ask for a raise, but we find no takers.
A woman wearing a Little Bo Peep dress asks us to hold her pink roses so she can capture some footage of Wolfowitz on her video camera. She then starts filming Hitchens's bookshelves.
In the next room, Antonin Scalia is in deep conversation with Ana Marie Cox, nee Wonkette, who is on the sofa. They are talking about partial-birth abortion. Ugh!
We mosey over to the Capitol File party at the Colombian ambassador's residence, by now quite fuzzyheaded from teeny-weeny drinkie-winkies, and on our way in we catch sight of booted "American Idol" contestant Chris Sligh.
Hey, Chris! What's it like to be temporarily famous?
"Hopefully, it's not temporary," he says politely.
Out on the patio, we find "Grey's Anatomy" star Isaiah Washington smoking a cigar. He says he was really psyched to meet Greta Van Susteren and she was really psyched to meet him, and when they met, they were all: I'm a fan; No, I'm a fan; No, I'm a fan; No, I'm a fan.
"We both didn't know how to, like, act," he says.
Whoa. Two strange worlds collide, and love blossoms, and we are all one. We feel so much better about the state of things. Then a friend interrupts to say they have closed the bar. We are deeply saddened.