The Reliable Source

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, January 23, 2009

Dressed Up With Nowhere To Dance

Ah, the humanity! Of all the inaugural party letdowns (oversold events, AWOL stars), the worst may be the Dionne Warwick and Ludacris-headlined American Music ball.

It didn't just flop. It was abruptly scrapped -- the morning of -- leaving countless party hopefuls in the cold.

Maybe not that many: Out-of-town organizers sold thousands fewer tickets than they needed to operate. But the Marriott Wardman Park staff had the sad task of breaking the news to several fancily dressed folks who had no idea the party was off until they got there.

Tiffany Shannon, a D.C. graphic designer, dipped into savings to buy six $450 tickets for family and friends. She bought a $600 dress; her dad got a new tux. They skipped the swearing-in to make sure they'd get to the ball on time.

"Imagine all the people that paid to fly in," she said. "It's not even about the money. It's about the stolen moment." Tony Reddick paid $713.75 for a VIP pass; he may sue. "They pretty much stole our history, our time to be down there celebrating."

What happened? Warwick, who announced the gala last fall, offered few answers. "We had no sponsors, and the expense was horrendously high," the singer told us. (She ended up at the Purple Ball as an "Entertainment Tonight" correspondent.)

Who was in charge? "I couldn't begin to tell you," she said. Both the hotel and a PR agency ID'd the promoter as Guy Draper. That's the same name as Warwick's partner in earlier charitable ventures that raised questions about fiscal management, according to reports by ABC in 1993 and Entertainment Weekly last year. Draper is a former D.C resident and was a city official during Marion Barry's first mayoral term. Draper's voice mail was full yesterday; he did not reply to e-mail.

One winner: D.C. Central Kitchen. The financially-hit Marriott donated its prepared feast -- including 360 pork ribs, 780 servings of chicken parmesan, nine dozen biscuits and four cases of bananas.

For Miss D.C., It's Not Just The Tiara

One day until the other coronation: The 88th crowning of Miss America in Las Vegas. The 52 contestants -- including Miss D.C. Kate Marie Grinold, Miss Maryland Louise Schlegel and Miss Virginia Tara Wheeler -- spent the last eight days rehearsing for tomorrow's live broadcast on TLC; the last episode of their taped reality countdown airs tonight.

"There are people placing bets on us," Grinold, 23, told us yesterday. "It's weird." Grinold, a classical dancer with a degree in international affairs, won her first title in May -- just two weeks after graduating from George Washington University -- but can't collect the $5,000 scholarship ("I have a ton of student loans") until she finishes her reign this year.

Former Miss D.C. Shannon Schambeau Patterson, who finished in the top five at the 2006 national pageant, has been coaching Grinold for the last six months. If she wins the big title tomorrow, she'll walk away with a $50,000 prize; if not . . . well, she starts job-hunting Monday: "I need an awesome, international-oriented, community-based, high-paying job."

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . .?

Stars! When will they leave?

· Paul Reiser (you know, the "Mad About You" guy) dining with Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer at Oya on Wednesday. Boxer threw a surprise party for husband Stewart; guests included Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer . . . and Reiser. Arugula-beet salad, sirloin, cod, banana bread pudding.

· Bradley Whitford (you know, the "West Wing" guy) sporting an awesome 'stache at the Air and Space Museum on Wednesday; spent two hours touring with his kids.

· Val Kilmer dining at Rasika on Wednesday. The actor (long hair, black beret) ordered for a party of eight; met chef on the way out.

* * *

"Mother Nature was not very kind to me. I'm going to deal with her when I get home. It, by no means, was my standard."

-- Aretha Franklin telling Larry King that the cold weather hurt her performance of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" at the inauguration.

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