The Reliable Source

Hollywood stars share their inauguration experiences at the Creative Coalition Ball on Tuesday night. Video by Jen Chaney & Liz Kelly/washingtonpost.comEditor: Jonathan Forsythe/
Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 21, 2009; 12:00 PM

Reliable Source columnists Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts were online Wednesday, Jan. 21, at Noon ET to discuss your favorite gossip, what you think about their recent columns or who you want to see them writing about in future ones.

Turn to Amy and Roxanne for all you need to know about the VIPs in town and the social scene at the balls and parties celebrating the inauguration of Barack Obama.

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A transcript follows.


Amy Argetsinger: Good morning, everyone! Sorry -- pokey computer. Also: I woke up at 11:30 a.m. I haven't read the paper yet, or anything, so you'll probably be informing me about a lot.


Roxanne Roberts: Hey gang: i finally went to bed at 6 a.m.----so don't make any loud noises, okay?


Arlington, Va.: This is a comment regarding the Youth Ball.

It was oversold by a factor of 2. There were 5,000 tickets printed and the capacity of the ballroom is 2,550. I along with thousands others were shut out in the lobby or outside during the president's offer of refund or anything....granted it was only $75 but a lot of people bought tickets for up to a $1,000....please print this as the Youth Ball was a total rip-off for half the attendees.

Amy Argetsinger: Thanks for writing. We're hearing this about a number of events, and Style is currently working on a story about all the ball snafus (which were plentiful)... If you'd like to talk to a reporter about any of this, please e-mail us at, and we'll share with our colleagues.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Is Oprah gone yet?

Amy Argetsinger: I think she's actually taping another show here today...


Arlington, Va.: Thank you for the honest and revealing assessment of the inaugural balls. Much like everything else this week, lots of hype, overpromotion, etc. Glad to see some of these ridiculously overpriced events were undersubscribed. Makes me feel better for passing on them in the first place. Reliable Source Ball Coverage

Roxanne Roberts: I'm so please for you! I saw a few people following my advice last night, especially in the flats department. I went to three parties, wore flats to walk or Metro, then switched to high heels at the event. I would have died if I had to walk all those freezing blocks in heels.

So---I want to hear more the balls. Share, everyone.


Who was the little tyke?: Who was zonked out during Sunday's concert?

Roxanne Roberts: I don't know for sure and haven't seen pictures----but I think it was the daughter of Obama's sister, Maya. I heard she was sitting right behind the first family, and that makes sense.


Adams Morgan, D.C.: Roxanne -- Followed your advice, and had a great time at the HRC Equity Ball at the Mayflower. Luckily caught a cab from Adams Morgan, ate before (although buffet and open bar was accessible, plentiful, and good), and avoided coat check. Seriously, we had great entertainment, fantastic crowd, and a fab celebration. Thanks for the survival guide -- it was a life saver.

Amy Argetsinger: Rox gives good advice. And though her advice was tailored to the mob-scene official balls, I think this year it applied to the unofficial ones as well. I assumed that going to a corporate event on Monday night would be a piece of cake -- but it was the same heavy traffic, no transpo long lines, overcrowding, no food, bad shoe choices nightmare you hear about with officials balls (except it had an open bar).


Alexandria, Va.: I missed the part on TV when Robin G. said who the designer was for Michelle Obama's gorgeous yellow ensemble. Only heard the designer was NYC-based and does no self-promotion (not that he/she needs to now). Name please? Thanks. I'm trying to type quietly for you!

Roxanne Roberts: Isabel Toledo, a New York based Cuban-American designer. I'm interested in what everyone thought of her day dress and inaugural gown which was designed by 26-year-old Jason Wu.


Washington, D.C.: So how high were your heels?

Roxanne Roberts: Mine were 4 inches, but only during the parties themselves. The only reason I lasted until 5 a.m. is wearing flats to actually walk on the street.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi ladies! I just wanted to report that my parents made it to their ball at the Corcoran by Metro without an issue -- they had a great time and apparently -- the food was delicious and the drinks were plentiful -- they even had a place to sit down! I think the dire warnings were more applicable to the official balls. I hope you both had a blast!

Roxanne Roberts: Excellent! If memory serves, didn't you offer to be their driver for the night?


Demmycrat: I saw Cheney in a wheelchair. What's up with that?

Roxanne Roberts: White House SAID he hurt his back the day before moving boxes. Hhmmmm. How likely is it that he was tossing around heavy boxes? Hhmmmmm......


SW Nebraska: Michelle's gown - poor design or simply ill-fitting?

Roxanne Roberts: Not likely to be ill-fitting, since it was custom-made for her. What part didn't you like?


Good morning gossip gurus!: Any favorites from yesterday and last night? Least favorites? Outrageous faux pas? Best outfits? Can't wait to read your takes on the celebrations.

Amy Argetsinger: Okay, full disclosure: I don't know! I feel like I saw less of the inauguration than any of you. I barely had a chance to look at the TV during the day yesterday, so busy was I putting together a columnn. (It was a normal work day and then some for us.) I didn't even look at the TV in time to see Aretha's hat.

Meanwhile, there were, I don't know 18 significant parties going on last night? And each of us was physically able to attend only *maybe* two. And having been out at these things until 2 a.m. -- and barely waking up in time for this chat -- I haven't even read the story I contributed to, which has wrapups of all the balls. It's Libby Copeland's (probably) excellent story, link to follow.

Also, online on our column's page (hate using the word "blog), you can see dispatches from a lot of the balls around town.


Texas: Where were Malia and Sasha during the parade? Didn't Chelsea walk in the parade during one of the inaugurations? And why didn't they go to any of the balls?

Amy Argetsinger: They're very little girls... and last night was a school night for them.


Virginia: What with the husbands of Pelosi and Fernstein? They loved the spotlights, always being closer to Obama than their wives....

Roxanne Roberts: I'm sure they were there---just no speaking roles.


Pacific Grove, Calif.: Since it's a day to talk about the changing of the guard, would you update us on what my old online gossip father, Richard Leiby, is up to these days?

In particular, what was he up to last night? Did he dance with Michelle? Barack? Anyone?

Amy Argetsinger: Richard Leiby, to the best of my knowledge, attended the Creative Coalition ball with the alleged likes of Ann Hathaway and Susan Sarandon. Read the stories to see what he had to say. Link to follow, I think.

_______________________ Reliable Source Blog

_______________________ Almost Famous: Yes They Can Party, Too (Post, Jan. 21)


Washington, D.C.: Any Bruce Springsteen sightings while he was in town? Or did he get in, sing, and get out of Dodge?

Roxanne Roberts: Never saw him at any parties. I know he planned to drop by Maureen Dowd's party Sunday night, but saw the crowd and never even got out of the car. it was apparently so crowded Tom Hanks and Ben Affleck never made it past the front door.


Takoma Park, Md.: Ladies, do you know what was in the box Michelle Obama gave to Laura Bush yesterday?

Amy Argetsinger: She gave her a pen engraved with the date and a leather bound journal to help Laura get started on her memoirs.


Mariah Carey: Did she sound as bad in person as she did on TV? And maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea for Shakira to not do any more Van Morrison songs.

Amy Argetsinger: This was the Neighborhood Ball, correct? I'm trying to figure of our colleagues were there so they can tell us.


Washington, D.C.: How about the dreadful anticlimax of the "poet"? So America now knows that Obama's speechwriters are significantly better than the Yale faculty

Amy Argetsinger: She seems like a lovely person. But I was underwhelmed by the poem. I'm not sure that inaugural poetry is ever very good. Poetry really isn't meant to be read out loud, and thus poetry designed to be read out loud doesn't really seem like poetry.


America, The Beautiful: Who was the coolest person you saw?

Roxanne Roberts: In person? The prez is now officially the coolest person of the free world.


She gave her a pen engraved with the date and a leather bound journal to help Laura get started on her memoirs.: Wow, I just adore Michelle. What a kind and gracious thing for her to do.

Roxanne Roberts: From all indications so far, she's going to be a great first lady.


Boston, Mass.: (Okay, I feel a little like a creepy stalker that I know this -- it's the cable news)

Malia and Sasha were probably in the car during the motorcade parade -- it was cold and kids walk slow. They were in the viewing stand for part of the parade but left at some point. At night they had a movie party with friends and a big scavenger hunt the White House staff set up and the prize was the Jonas Brothers (boy-band). And they aren't going to school today.

Amy Argetsinger: Link to follow -- yes ABC reports that the White House staff set up a scavenger hunt for the girls and some of their friends last night, the prize at the end being that the Jonas Brothers were there. What a weird new existence for them.

_______________________ Malia and Sasha Enjoy Scavenger Hunt, Movies (ABC, Jan. 21)


Atlanta, Ga.: Amy -- saw you on TV the other were great. There was not much in the interview (what's going on around town, whatever) but you did look great.

Amy Argetsinger: Thank you so much. I was subject to some very impressive TV news makeup this past week.


Capitol Hill, D.C.: Okay, so what was your take on Michelle's dress? I've heard from friends various comments like "a molting rabbit" or "wads of tissue paper stuck to it" ... I didn't think it was quite that bad, but it definitely wasn't quite what I was hoping for. I have a feeling it was better in person than on TV.

Roxanne Roberts: I didn't see it up close---I suspect it's gorgeous and detailed, but all those exquisite little touches didn't translate well on a television screen. I would have gone with a smoother surface.

_______________________ All Hail the Leader of the Fashionable World (Post Jan. 21)


Amy Argetsinger: We're putting out a link to Robin Givhan's story on inaugural fashion -- whoa, looks like it was on the front page! She's also having a web chat at 1 p.m.


AARGH!: This chat is competing with Gene Weingarten's chat today. What moron made THAT schedule up? Yours are the only two I participate in and I didn't want to choose, so I made lunch plans and have to leave in 10 minutes...

Amy Argetsinger: Aw, you're nice to join however briefly.


Maryland: what was Jill Biden wearing yesterday? I thought it was more appropriate for a 22-year-old!

Amy Argetsinger: Any other thoughts?


Alexandria, Va.: Celebrity inauguration sighting: We saw Gerard Butler, wearing an 'Obama' hat, on the grounds of the Washington Monument, right there with all the commoners instead of in any VIP section! He was with two ladies and graciously posed for pictures with our group before dissolving into the crowd. No one else seemed to know who he was -- but it was awesome to run into him.

Amy Argetsinger: Very nice.


SW Nebraska: Maybe the gown didn't come across well on the TV but it looked awkward and the crystals (?) came across as sticky out things that defied definition. Also the waist didn't look at all fitted to her or defined. The strap didn't blend in with the dress and looked too large and tacked on. Picky, picky, sure, but I've seen photos of her in a back gown that was very svelte.

Roxanne Roberts: The bodice had what looked like pleating, which may---again---have detracted from the lines of the dress. If you want an expert opinion, Robin Givhan is doing a chat on this very subject at 1 pm.


Inaugural comment: I can't believe how many full-length fur coats, fur hats (I'm talking about you Jay-Z) I saw in D.C. in the last few days, on both celebrities and your average citizens.

Roxanne Roberts: It was really COLD---and anti-fur debate aside---fur is very, very warm.


Annapolis, Md.: VP Biden's sons have been much in evidence throughout the inauguration. Can you tell us anything about his daughter, Ashley? I knew her briefly in college and, unless she has greatly changed her appearance, she did not appear to be present at any of the inaugural events over the past few days. I had the same impression after the convention. Thanks!

Amy Argetsinger: Ashley was there -- standing next to her mom as her dad took his oath yesterday. She's got longish dark hair. She's a social worker in Delaware, and she's 27 or 28... and we'll try to find out more!


Jill Biden: I liked it and thought it was appropriate. She wasn't being flashy or showing parts of her body best left seen by her hubby and doctor. Was the poster referring to her boots? That's the fashion -- ladies wear boots like that, as I am today. And I'm not 22 but older. I hope to be able to have Jill's body and looks when I'm her age.

Amy Argetsinger: Definitely well preserved. And I wouldn't have worn anything other than boots yesterday.


Washington, D.C.: I'm a 24-year-old it okay for me to say Mrs. Biden was looking pretty hot yesterday?

Amy Argetsinger: Yes, you can.


Hollywood, Calif.: Monday night on TMZ they showed all the celebrities at their respective hotels and was asking them silly questions. It was just weird to see TMZ in D.C.

Roxanne Roberts: Well, get used to it. DC is going to see a lot more A-listers, I predict.


Anonymous: Who's ready for a nap ?

Roxanne Roberts: Me---but I have to write a column for you all. I want props, people!


Falls Church, Va. - Springsteen Sighting: The Boss was definitely spotted in the crowd during the inauguration. A friend as a pic on her Facebook site along with pics of Billy Baldwin and Tom Hanks. They were all up front in the reserved seated area.

Roxanne Roberts: Good for him. Anyone who braved the cold yesterday gets points in my book.


On TV once at age 10: You wrote: "I was subject to some very impressive TV news makeup this past week."

What is that like...trusting someone you barely know to make you look good on this weird electronic medium?

Do you have any sense yourself of how the makeup is going to make you look?

It just all feels creepy weird to me.

Roxanne Roberts: I did all my own makeup and had friends tell me I looked washed out. A good friend said TV makeup makes you look like a clown in real life but looks perfect in front of a camera.

Amy Argetsinger: Those makeup artists are true professionals -- they know exactly what they need to do to make you look good on their particular set, in front of their lights. On Saturday, I did an early morning outdoor spot for CBS, for which they applied makeup, and I guess it looked okay. I only wiped a bit of it off, though, so when I went to ABC for a taping I thought I'd be okay -- but their makeup people wanted different stuff on me. And then it was off to MSNBC, where they put even MORE on me -- which looked like kabuki clown in real life but was absolutely necessary under their blinding lights... where it looked like I was just fresh-faced and natural. It's amazing.


Inaugural celeb sighting: I saw Tony Dungy (former Indianapolis Colts coach) leaving the swearing-in. He was very nice when he politely declined my request to take a picture with him. He was wearing a long gray wool coat, dark washed baggy jeans, and jogging shoes.

Amy Argetsinger: A colleague who didn't recognize him was chatting him up as he went into the swearing in and asked, how'd you get such good tickets from your congressman? And Dungy politely said, "Well, I used to be coach of the Indianapolis Colts."

_______________________ Robin Givhan Chat Today: First Lady Michelle Obama's Inaugural Attire


Re: fur: How do you know it was real. Could be faux fur, which can be almost as warm as real.

Roxanne Roberts: True---but I can usually spot real vs. faux. They haven't perfected that beautiful sheen real fur has.


Washington, D.C.: Is there like a budget with regard to how much the White House spends on the daughters? Reading that ABC article, it's almost impossible to say those kids will never be bored. They are 10 and 7...they are probably bored right now for all we know.

Amy Argetsinger: It's just part of what White House staff does. Fair to say that scavenger hunts featuring pop stars won't be an everyday thing. Also, note that if you're, say, a tech billionaire, you have to pay the Jonas Brothers to show up at your tween's birthday party, whereas if you're the White House, they'll do it gratis (I'm assuming). Big honor, and awfully good publicity.


Has George Clooney left?: I know he arrived but I never heard about anymore sightings.

Roxanne Roberts: Never heard a peep out of him. Kinda weird, actually, since he's a political junkie.


Dr. Biden looked great!: I thought she looked excellent in the red coat and black boats. I can't believe some folks are saying it looked to "young." Craziness if you ask me.

Roxanne Roberts: I agree.


Washington, D.C.: I heard Samuel L. Jackson had some issues yesterday....

Amy Argetsinger: We reported that he and Vanessa Williams were holding purple tickets in silver line, or silver tickets in the purple line or something like that. If you know of any interesting VIP "issues," please send them to


Bay Area, Calif.: Would you each take a moment to reflect...and share what comes to mind as your most memorable moment yesterday?


Roxanne Roberts: For me, it was the swearing in. I watched on television, and got choked up by the scenes of people all over the world huddled by tvs watching this historic moment. Everything else is just window dressing.

Amy Argetsinger: As I said, I was so swamped just trying to get the column done yesterday, I missed so much of it. That's why it didn't hit me until the middle of the afternoon, when I had a brief moment to glance at the TV, and I saw the Obamas walking the parade route and thought, wow.


Arlington, Va.: What was Beyonce wearing last night? How can she get away with wearing that on a "G" rated program?

Amy Argetsinger: What did I miss? I'm pulling up photos of her at the Neighborhood Ball wearing a perfectly prim and traditional satin gown. That's when she was singing for the Obamas, though -- was there a costume change? As I said, those of you watching TV last night probably have a better idea of what went on than I did being in the thick of it.


Michelle's dresses: I thought both were pretty terrible. The one she wore to the inauguration was too glitzy for day -- had too much going on with a bow, metallic material, sweater and necklace. The evening dress made her look like a chubby bride. The president looked good, though.

Roxanne Roberts: I didn't love the day dress but---for the most party--- liked the gown. Michelle's clothes, clearly, are going to keep us busy for the next four years.


TV makeup: I used to work in NYC with a guy who did regular TV interviews, and when he returned to the office still wearing his makeup his face was bright orange. Sort of like an inverse Krusty the Klown. He looked positively absurd in real life but on TV looked normal.

Amy Argetsinger: I'm told that there are some pundit-type guys who neglect to wipe the makeup off after the show -- not because the makeup improves their looks in real life (it doesn't), but because it's a way of telling everyone "I was on TV today!"


TV makeup makes you look like a clown in real life : Years ago my husband spotted CBS's Rita Braver doing a stand-up on Pennsylvania Avenue out in front of the White House. He was shocked by the extreme makeup she was wearing, said it made her look like a, um, painted lady.

Amy Argetsinger: It's all for the camera. Really, TV makeup has very little relation to regular makeup.


Upper Marlboro, Md.: We went to Illinois State Society Ball Mon nite and All American Ball (Westin Hotel) Tues nite. All American Ball had terrible flow pattern. We spent most time trying to find an elevator or escalator. Both were oversold and underwhelming. My first and last inaugural balls. Took your advice about the flat shoes. Most women did not! Amazed to see many women who did not seem to have a coat handy while we were standing in the long lines waiting to get into Ill State Society Ball

Roxanne Roberts: I saw a few women shivering outside Union Station last night and was shocked. It was way too cold to go without a coat for even a few minutes. Glad about the shoes!


More fashion:: But the yellow day dress/coat that Mrs. Obama wore for the swearing-in and parade was beautiful!

Roxanne Roberts: See? There we go....


No George Clooney Sightings: Let's face it, George has pitch-perfect tone for everything he does. He knew who the star of the day, and conducted himself appropriately. Unlike some people I could name (yes, Sara Silverman, dressed like a Valley Girl wannabe circa 1982, I'm looking at you..)

Amy Argetsinger: I give bonus points to any celebrity who came to town and did NOT let themselves be seen. Frankly, I'm so tired of celebrities right now. If I see another celebrity, I might punch them in the face. (Though not Sarah Silverman, who was just lovely when I chatted her up last night.)


Middle America: When I see what a truly loving family the Obamas are and how sincere the affection is between the parents and the girls it warms my heart and I can't help but smile and feel hopeful in my heart.

Amy Argetsinger: Thanks!


"If I see another celebrity, I might punch them in the face..": Amy, so long as it isn't Tony Danza, we will forgive you.

Amy Argetsinger: Oh, thanks for catching that -- apologies. Tony Danza is always welcome here, and will not be punched in the face.


Roxanne Roberts: Oh, it's going to be a fun four years for the gossip world: Kids, clothes, and---can't BELIEVE no one mentioned it today---a puppy!

Enjoy the glow of this great moment, and send those lingering celeb sightings to See you next week!


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