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A Day-After Recollection of the Inaugural Balls and Their Aftermath

At the inaugural balls in Washington, D.C., the Obamas dance, A-list celebrities perform and guests enjoy the pageantry.

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By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2009

Coffee. Must have . . . coffee . . .

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It's noon on the day after inauguration, but it feels like 6 o'clock -- tonight -- probably because we were up until 5 o'clock. This morning.

Didn't there used to be a Caribou on this corner?

Like steam from our double espresso, fuzzy late-night ball memories rise again: The official balls and their breakneck speed (the president and first lady whipped through all 10 by 12:40). The stampeding guests. The surreality of the after-parties (was Forest Whitaker flirting or not at the St. Regis bar?). The experience of hearing Kid Rock at the Youth Ball -- hearing, not seeing, because some kind of fire marshal thing kept some ticketed guests away from the Washington Hilton concert hall.

Barack Obama does a smooth box step, doesn't he? Little bit jaunty, little bit sassy. He and the first lady were still looking good at their post-midnight stops, the Southern Ball at the D.C. Armory and Union Station's Eastern Ball. He complimented his wife for doing everything he did "backwards and in heels" -- very cute, even if people have been saying it about Ginger Rogers for years.

The madness didn't begin until after the first couple left Union Station, when the herd of guests learned that their coats had been moved from the Columbus Circle entrance to the movie theater on the lower level. The Herd rumbled down the steps and through the food court, only to learn that another section of the Herd had beaten them.

"Get back!" a panicked coat-check lady said. "You! Get back! God, I don't believe this!"

Men in mall-cop uniforms appeared; nervous mooing ensued.

But at least those ballgoers had been able to see what they came to see.

Elsewhere, stories of snafus and blocked entrances began to circulate.

At the Youth Ball for 18-to-35-year-olds, some attendees with tickets were prevented from entering the Hilton's main concert hall, instead quarantined in what one attendee describes as a "hallway" with one television.

"It was a bunch of angry, intoxicated young people," said Chris Murdock of California, who had been turned away from the inaugural parade despite having tickets for bleacher seats. When people in the banished crowd heard Kid Rock take the stage, they demanded entrance. When security told them they couldn't get in, they began to scream (what else?): "Yes we can!"


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