Non-Official Balls Offer Brushes With Fame (and Famous-Looking)

By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Everybody wanted a piece of the glow at the various unofficial balls going on around the District last night. Even ordinary guests felt a little like celebrities in their special clothes, gawking at the famous people and the famous-looking, seeing fame in everyone around them.

At the Creative Coalition Inaugural Ball, a cameraman yells out, "Madonna!" and everybody turns, only it is a labor-union benefits manager named Madonna Brennan, of Gambrills, Md., who got a ticket with her husband, Bob. But what the heck: Bob and Madonna can be celebrities, too, on this night. D.C feels like a celebrity town, a place where everybody wants to be. And here to prove it: Anne Hathaway on the red carpet.

And then, at the Google/YouTube Party: Sarah Silverman in slinky red, swarmed by guys cuter than Jimmy Kimmel. And Jessica Alba, chatting "normally" with a friend while bystanders just stare. And then:

"Ben Affleck, again!" groans the Hill's Emily Goodin. "I'm seeing him everywhere."

Heresy! There's no such thing as too much Ben Affleck. We want more.

Famous-looking people, everywhere we look. There! At the Inaugural Purple Ball (celebrating bipartisanship, honoring the troops), an attendee asks a woman in a stunning floor-length saffron gown to pose for a picture, assuming the saffroned one is a celebrity, not knowing precisely which celebrity she is. She just has that glow.

Around her, teachers, government employees and nonprofit executives sip Mo√ęt & Chandon and nibble on prosciutto crostini as Ed Harris and Dionne Warwick parade past. Ball newbie Stephanie Day, 25, a special-ed teacher in the D.C. school system, says she found out at 3 a.m. Monday that her sister bought tickets. Day is decked out in a purple asymmetrical gown scored at the last minute at Nordstrom, and holding out hope that she might catch sight of one of her favorite stars.

"Let's make sure he's not behind me," Day says, hazarding a glance over her shoulder. "John Cusack. If you see him, tell him there's a girl here who wants to marry him."

As it happens, Cusack shows up at the Google/YouTube Party, looking all Lloyd Doblerish -- long black trench, Doc Martens-ish black footwear, rumpled hair. A couple of women in their 40s swarm, asking for photos, and he gives them a hangdog look that says "A photo with me? Why?"

Because you are faaaymous.

The unofficial balls, ranging in price from $75 a head at the Recording Industry Association of America's charity ball to $10,000 per couple (and $100,000 for 50 VIP admissions!) at the Creative Coalition, range, too, in their quality of partying. There are parties with open bars (beer, white wine) and parties with chicken skewers and upscale BLTs and light buffet. And at the Creative Coalition, sponsored by Pepsi, there is free Pepsi Natural, said to be made with sparkling water, sugar and kola nut extract. But it's never about the food and drink, is it? And besides, we celebrities don't need to eat.

We survive off the glow.

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