The beautiful people. (James M. Thresher/TWP)

We really do. We pretend not to. There’s the old chestnut that D.C. is like Hollywood for ugly people. But then again so is Hollywood. They just have better lighting.

Hollywood loves depicting D.C., and the memories stuck with us.

Most of us are only here, as Politico’s Glenn Thrush noted, because we have fond and definite memories of the “West Wing.”

You can tell because we keep asking Martin Sheen for input on policy issues.

In fact, this is the problem.

Usually, to satisfy our itch to rub shoulders with the couture-sporting, well-coiffed, movie-star elite, we have to give the impression that they are Great Experts on Water Safety. “I’m doing a panel about the Future of Tigers,” you tell the members of your subcommittee.

“Oh,” one member pipes up. “You know who really knows about the future of tigers? Leonardo DiCaprio!”

Celebrities, it turns out, are the only people who Know What Really Happened In Sudan and if you need someone to explain microfinance, call Bono. Or Natalie Portman.

But it’s a strain.

So thank heavens for the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, where the pretense is dropped. This weekend is not about the issues. It’s Nerd Prom.

F. Scott Fitzgerald defined a debut as “the first time a young girl is seen drunk in public.” Prom is the same but for a whole crowd.

I harbor no special bitterness to the institution. Sure, I am here in the office tonight, not hobnobbing with the stars. But that’s all right. I have a lot of back episodes of “America’s Most Wanted” to catch up on. When I finally spot the Wedding Dress Attacker, it’ll be worth it!

Besides, what of celebrities? They’re just like us! But moisturized. I’ve seen footage of them shopping for formula.

The neat thing about the White House Correspondents’ dinner is that it offers all the fun of a Celebrity Visit to Washington, combined with all the fun of not having to hear the celebrity deliver a long speech about the value of clean water. Usually we try. We stifle the yawn. These are the conditions under which we must meet, we remind ourselves. This is an inconvenience that must be borne if we want to party with the glitterati, if that is the word I want. (I doubt it. Glitterati is seldom the word anyone wants.)

Until that one blissful evening when they are simply there.

And then they are gone.

That is part of the magic too. They get to leave. When Kal Penn actually stayed for a few years, he became anathema to everyone. “Why are you still here?” we asked. “Don’t you have a film to star in?” The longer you stay, the less a star you seem.

For a few days we bask in the reflected glow of flashbulbs. But in the end, we must stay, and they must depart.

Then it’s back to pretending Kim Kardashian is an expert in pharmaceutical policy.

Enjoy it while it lasts.