Drawing the stars for charity

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

There is no such thing as a short dinner when Bill Clinton is in the house. The 42nd president, bless his heart, loves to talk. And talk. And then talk some more.

Of course he was the last guest to leave Sunday's Kuwait-America Foundation dinner, much to the delight of the guests who cornered (or was it the other way around?) the guest of honor. Of course his remarks - ranging from unrest in the Middle East ("I've found this, in country after country: No one expects anything to be perfect tomorrow. They want to know if it's going to be better than it is now") to Neanderthals to the supercollider - went way too long. He's Charlie Sheen without the crazy, a polymath with no "stop" button - and, yeah, still a total bitchin' rock star.

Clinton was the night's big draw, but there were plenty of other stars at the home of Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah and his wife, Rima.

Yes, that was Ben Affleck chatting up John and Cindy McCain (good get: She hardly ever shows up at Washington parties). We turned around to find Michael Bolton huddled with a thinner-but-robust Michael Douglas (flying solo; wife Catherine Zeta-Jones was home sick with food poisoning).

Chicago's mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, officially there as husband of Amy Rule, tried to fly under the radar on this trip back to D.C. (wife and kids will live here until school's out) and utterly failed. Most of the 144 guests mobbed around to congratulate him on the election; Clinton gave him a big shout-out from the podium.

The bipartisan crowd (White House press secretary Jay Carney, KenCen Chairman David Rubenstein, Sens. Scott Brown and John Kerry, Reps. John Dingell and Anthony Weiner, Chief of Protocol Caprica Marshall and a bunch of oil execs) gathered for the foundation's seventh annual benefit.

"Each year I tell my husband, 'That's it! That's the last one!' " Rima Al-Sabah told the crowd. (As if.) This one marked the 70th anniversary of the USO and raised $2.9 million for two new centers for troops at Bethesda's National Naval Medical Center and Fort Belvoir.

The program (there's always a program at these things) was emceed by MSNBC's "Morning Joe" joined-at-the-hip co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. The two office mates looked particularily cozy Sunday night, which is always a little confusing to the uninitiated. (Hey, bring your real spouses sometime!) They slipped out before Bolton took the mike to praise "president of the world" Clinton and sing a short set of ballads.

The party ended around midnight, with Clinton still saying his extended farewells. Too late?

"Well, you get your money's worth," said one guest with a grin, before slipping off into the night.

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