White House Correspondents Dinner: Preview
Friday, May 8, 2009; 1:00 PM
Mary Ann Akers, The Sleuth blogger, was online Friday, May 8, at 1 p.m. ET to preview the upcoming White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, an annual event held to raise money for scholarships and honor professional recipients for journalism awards. Akers will brief on the exclusive before and after-parties, the celebrities expected to attend, featured entertainer Wanda Sykes and all the rest of the anticipated excitement only A-list celebrities can provide.
Mary Ann Akers: Hey, everybody. Mary Ann here to talk about the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner tomorrow, what we call Hollywood on the Potomac, or the prom. The latest news on the VIP guest list is that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin won't be there. (She's dealing with flooding back in her state.) Too bad, because where Sarah Palin goes, stories follow.
Washington, D.C.: Hey Sleuth -- Why did Sarah Palin back out of the dinner?
Mary Ann Akers: She has declared a state of emergency in Alaska because of flooding. So, no photo-ops of Palin with Obama at the dinner. Sorry.
Washington, D.C. : Will Eric Cantor be in attendance at the White House Correspondence Dinner -- Washington's newest Republican D.C. Celebrity? He seems to have had a tough week with his Republican Council group imploding.
Mary Ann Akers: No, he'll be at a Britney Spears concert!
washingtonpost.com: GOP House Whip Raises Cash At Britney Spears' Concert (Sleuth, March 25)
Just kidding. His spokesman tells us the whip will indeed be at the dinner Saturday night, as a guest of Newsweek. And he won't be sitting with Britney Spears. He'll be with Owen Wilson and Natalie Portman. Not shabby.
Las Vegas, Nev.: Do members of the Washington press corps realize that the public views these dinners as more evidence that journalists are in bed with the people they cover?
Mary Ann Akers: Yes, we do realize it. And that's a perennial source of contention for us. I'm a defender of the dinner myself. Sure, we look gross. But it's a great time, fabulous people watching (which is what I do) and it's a rare opportunity for us to talk face to face with high-level government officials who are typically not accessible. And that allows reporters to do their jobs better, maybe get their calls returned, get answers to questions that may otherwise be ignored. All of which, in turn, allows us to better serve our readers.
Washington, D.C.: How does one obtain a press pass for the dinner tomorrow night?
Mary Ann Akers: You have to contact Karl Rove or Dick Cheney, who we hear will be guest of Field and Stream magazine.
OK, not really. You have to be a credentialed reporter, and get a pass from the White House Correspondents' Association.
Washington, D.C.: Who else speaking besides Wanda Sykes?
Mary Ann Akers: The president will entertain the crowd. He'll probably do a little standup, as well as a video. This is Obama's first dinner, and it'll be more of a zoo than it usually is. Tons and tons of celebrities - both politicos and Hollywood types - will be there.
Berkeley, Calif.: Are they doing anything to green the event?
Mary Ann Akers: I don't know that they're doing anything green. But I do know that the correspondents' association this year decided to give more to charity than ever before, given the economy. What does that mean for all of us attending the dinner? We'll have to give up dessert. We'll still get plenty of cheap wine though.
Columbia, S.C.: Where will you be after the Correspondents Dinner??
Mary Ann Akers: Yes, I'll be there, with Washington Post crowd. And I'll be hopping around to the pre-dinner receptions and covering the "scene" at the dinner itself. And if I'm still standing, I'll hit an after party or two.
Washington, D.C.: Mary Ann -- Is Vice President Biden also attending the dinner? What about the first lady?
Mary Ann Akers: The first lady will definitely be there. She's scheduled to hand out scholarships to students chosen by the white house correspondents' association.
Rolla, Mo.: Will you be the youngest person there?
Mary Ann Akers: Yes! I most certainly will. Thank you for noticing. Love ya.
Charleston, W.Va.: Where are the hot parties going to be throughout the weekend?
Mary Ann Akers: Hot parties start tonight - a "Funny or Die" event at a club in Georgetown, and a party hosted jointly by Time magazine and People mag. Tomorrow, the annual garden brunch at video diva Tammy Haddad's house. Tons of pre-dinner receptions (Newsweek has a great one, so does CQ mag) and the most exclusive after party tomorrow night will be hosted by Bloomberg News and Vanity Fair. The coolest and wildest after party will likely be the Capitol File magazine party at the Corcoran.
Washington, D.C.: Will there be a bottle of Dijon mustard at the Fox News Channel's table? And if so, will Sean Hannity fall to the floor with his mouth frothing?
Mary Ann Akers: We expect to see Hannity wearing a Dijon mustard colored cummerbund and bow tie. And for those who don't know the joke... here is the back story:
Obama Burger Firestorm Still Raging (The Sleuth, May 7)
Rochester, N.Y.: Any chance David Gregory will be dancing again?
MC Rove, y'all!
Mary Ann Akers: The famous Rovian rap was actually at the annual Radio-TV dinner, not the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.
washingtonpost.com: Rove Raps At Radio-TV Follies (Sleuth, March 29, 2007)
Olney, Md.: Will the public be able to attend the red carpet at the Hilton? I'd love to get some pics of celebs -- but won't bother coming downtown if I'm going to be 'shooed' away.
Mary Ann Akers: The public is always welcome outside, people are always there snapping photos and watching the insanity unfold.
Washington, D.C.: Who's going to be at the Corcoran after party?
Mary Ann Akers: As far as I know, most of the hot Hollywood celebs who will be at the dinner will be at the Corcoran party, which is being hosted by Capitol File magazine. Here are a few names: Bon Jovi,Glenn Close, Jason Bateman, Forest Whitaker, Sting (hot!), Tim Daly, Tyra Banka and Wanda Sykes.
Sykes of course is the big entertainment. I'm a big fan, so excited to see her perform in person.
Arlington, Va.: Considering the decline of the newspaper industry, are there any outlets that didn't buy tables this year because of budget constraints?
Mary Ann Akers: Yes, I think there are plenty of them. On the other hand, the Houston Chronicle, whose bureau was all but decimated, is getting a table. And so are others in similar shape. The dinner makes advertisers very happy. And our industry needs advertisers. Desperately.
Anonymous: How many attendees at this year's dinner?
Mary Ann Akers: I don't know the exact figure (I'll have that for you later) but I would guess at least 3,000
Washington, D.C.: What celeb are you most looking forward to seeing?
Mary Ann Akers: Well, I'd have to say my celeb needs are probably different from most. I'm looking for the celebrity who'll provide the best story, and that type is usually a bit more offbeat, a bit more controversial, and usually a politician or govt official. So, I'm looking forward to seeing how Alberto Gonzales handles himself. I was surprised to learn he's coming to the dinner - really surprised. Here's what i wrote on that on my blog:
Gonzo Goes (Back) to Washington (The Sleuth, May 8)
Dallas, Tex.: How does this White House Correspondents' Dinner differ from year's past?
Mary Ann Akers: This one will be marked by Obamamania. Many of the stars who flocked to Washington for his inauguration are coming back: John Cusack, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Sting, so many others, will be back. And Washington just loves it when Hollywood comes to town. We fall all over ourselves. Last year was Bush's last, and it felt very flat. Though, fun was still had. Rest assured.
Houston, Tex.: Stephen Colbert certainly pushed some buttons as a headliner a few years ago, and Wanda Sykes can get pretty raunchy. Has the Association or the White House asked her to keep it toned down?
Mary Ann Akers: That's a great question, I don't know what lengths the correspondents' association has gone to to ensure she keeps it clean. My guess is, Sykes won't cross the line too far but will keep it just raunchy enough to keep it fun. Good clean fun of course. (though come on, we want Wanda to be Wanda.)
Washington, D..C: Will Michael Steele be attending the White House Correspondents Dinner? After all, tomorrow is his 100th Day at RNC Chairman. Could he have had a worse tenure? Republicans really blew it in that special election.
Mary Ann Akers: Hey, if Gonzo has the courage to show up in Washington, then I certainly expect Michael Steele will be there. He is the party's chairman after all. Horrible tenure or not. It's just as important for Steele to make face time with the Washington high and mighty (the dreaded elite media) as it is for us to make face time with powerful figures like him. I expect Fox News to have plenty of GOP luminaries at its tables.
Red Carpet: How early do I need to get there to get a good spot and see some famous people? Will any stop for photos or autographs?
Mary Ann Akers: I'd get there by 5 pm, stake out a good spot and have your camera ready. You'll also see plenty of protestors waving signs of outrage at the media's coverage of various events. It's better than going to the circus. And no animals will be mistreated.
washingtonpost.com: Gonzo Goes (Back) to Washington (The Sleuth, May 8)
Houston, Tex.: Hi Mary Ann. Looks like this year's dinner will have more celebrities than it's seen in quite awhile. But with Sarah Palin skipping the festivities, who do you think will be the prime target for attendees, both politicians and reporters alike, to coyly gossip about?
Mary Ann Akers: Gonzales for sure. And of course since we're only three years away from the next presidential election, expect plenty of buzz about the potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates. These dinners can often serve as an early cattle calls for the up and comers. it's usually a safe bet that important will do or say something outrageous enough to give a one or two-day story. (For example, two years ago, Laurie David accosted Karl Rove at the dinner.)
Washington, D.C.: What does one wear to the hot pre-party in Georgetown?
Mary Ann Akers: If you're referring to the party tonight, you can wear whatever you want, anything that goes with a martini.
Stephen Colbert's year: What was the response from journo-types and politicians after Colbert's blistering routine? I thought it was absolutely brilliant and spot-on, but am wondering if the truth hurt a bit too much with the audience.
Mary Ann Akers: I actually agree with you. I thought Colbert was hilarious, and the media deserved a good ribbing. If we can dish it out, we should certainly be able to take it.
washingtonpost.com: Rich Little Bravely Answers Washington's Call (The Sleuth, April 23, 2007)
Washington, D.C.: What are you wearing to the dinner?
Mary Ann Akers: I'm wearing a blue dress, but not the one Monica wore. I can assure you of that.
Bethesda, Md.: Do many stars plan on coming in town today/tonight? Any chance I could spot someone in Georgetown later on?
Mary Ann Akers: Very good chance you'll spot celebs in Georgetown today. Head down to the waterfront, walk along M Street, have a drink at the Four Seasons or the Ritz. You'll be hard pressed not to spot someone you'd like to have a photo taken with.
Washington, D.C.: Forget the politicians, which reporters have gotten drunk and made fools of themselves at this thing? Even if you can't name them, can you tell the stories?
Mary Ann Akers: Unfortunately we're not as notoriously wild as we used to be. Reporters seem to go to the gym these days more than they go to bars. Boring. But don't worry, there'll be plenty of drinking tomorrow night. I'll be on the lookout for you.
Annapolis, Md.: Is this dinner specifically for just the White House press or does all the Washington press come?
Mary Ann Akers: While it's hosted by the White House Correspondents' Association, the dinner is attended by many different reporters in Washington, those who cover Congress, federal agencies, the Supreme Court, politics, etc. As a matter of fact, ABC News Supreme Court correspondent Jan Crawford Greenberg is taking Justice Antonin Scalia as her guest tomorrow night.
Colbert!: When, oh when, will you folks bring back Colbert? Sorry, but for us little people the ego deflation and calling out the laziness and the cozy buddying up to power of the press corps was a beauty to behold.
"Write that novel about the tough journalist calling truth to power, regardless of the personal cost. you know. Fiction!"
Mary Ann Akers: I'll pass along your request to the folks at the white house correspondent's association. my guess is, it'll be a while. hopefully he'll slam us in other venues.
Washington, D.C.: Any chance Joe Biden might grab the microphone and warn people the chicken is undercooked?
Mary Ann Akers: No, Vice President Biden will stay far away from that ballroom full of swine flu germs.
Tyra Banka?: Freudian typo?
Mary Ann Akers: I'm surprised (and my editors probably more so) that I only had one typo!
Mary Ann Akers: Thanks, everyone! That was fun, let's do it again soon. And don't forget to read my blog posting Sunday morning with the who's who and what's what on the dinner. (And post comments.)
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