Once upon a time, there was a White House correspondents’ dinner so grand that lords and ladies such as George Clooney and Barbra Streisand made the treacherous pilgrimage from the faraway kingdom of Los Angeles to attend.
Those are now days of lore, when famous comedians such as Stephen Colbert or Wanda Sykes would entertain the masses, and the president would actually attend. Back when the president was just another celebrity onlooker — one big fish in a school of A-listers floating around the halls of the Washington Hilton.
This year, you’ll be lucky if you spot a glimpse of Jay Leno. That’s about it, folks. Unless you’re aching for a selfie with historian Ron Chernow, this year’s featured speaker, we’ve officially scraped the bottom of the barrel in terms of Tinseltown star power.
Leno, the former “Tonight Show” host, is expected to make an appearance at Saturday morning’s Garden Brunch, co-hosted by Tammy Haddad, Jean Case and more. Questlove will be DJing a party thrown by the Hill, and Samantha Bee will once again throw her “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” event on Friday night. And “House of Cards” actor Michael Kelly is coming back to host Capitol File’s Saturday night soiree.
In the dinner’s heyday under the Obama administration, celebrities were everywhere: applying lipstick in the bathroom or shouldering guests out of the way to order drinks at the bar. Steven Spielberg, himself an attendee, said the 2014 dinner would “probably be my last. It’s getting really hectic.”
Things seem to be more his speed nowadays. Pre-parties that would bring major star power, such as annual bashes from Creative Coalition, Bloomberg/Vanity Fair and People/Time, have been axed. Emails from publicists boasting which A-listers are sitting at their organizations’ tables inside the dinner venue now essentially cease to exist.
The majority of the boldfacers you can expect to see this year will be network talent, such as MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle, and D.C.'s own version of the celebrity: members of Congress, from Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) to Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.).
correction: An earlier version of this article said the Garden Brunch is on Sunday morning. The brunch takes place on Saturday. The story has been corrected.