Woody Harrelson at the Google & Hollywood Reporter party. (Paul Morigi/GETTY IMAGES FOR HOLLYWOOD REPORTER)

Woody! Can we get a photo? A first-time guest this year at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the movie star agreed again and again, at a Friday night pre-party hosted by Google and the Hollywood Reporter; he playfully turned the tables on one group of fans, grabbing the iPhone to take a photo for them, not with them.

Did he realize that Saturday night was going to be like this times five? For a split second, a flash of surprise broke through the star’s usual mellow. But: “I guess I’ll just manage,” he drawled.

Suddenly, Allison Priebe Brooks, a local jewelry designer and socialite leaned in.

“Woody! Did you bring your bongos?” she squealed.


“I think you’re confusing me with Matthew McConaughey,” Harrelson said gently. “It’s okay. We’re like brothers.” [Update: Read more from WHCD Weekend: White House Correspondents’ parties: You can’t fight it, so just go with the flow (photos), 4/29/12]

He may have been the first truly marquee star to light up the masses at what promises to be an unusually showbiz-glutted weekend. Observation: The more A-listy the lineup (George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon, Daniel Day-Lewis, Diane Keaton, Kate Hudson, are among the expected guests), the less likely they are to take advantage of all the pre-game festivities.

The first big party of the weekend -- People and Time's Friday bash at the St. Regis — was packed to the rafters, but mostly with media and administration names: Valerie Jarrett, Kathleen Sibelius, Savannah Guthrie, Wolf Blitzer, Norah O'Donnell, Chris Wallace.

View Photo Gallery: Celebrities and media figures turned out for several events before the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

“It feels like a normal party!” Christina Sevilla, a D.C. policy type said approvingly. What, without all the Hollywood celebs? “Oh, it’s good to have a few sprinkled about!” she said.

The topic of conversation, as usual: The increasing difficulty that D.C. folk have getting seats at the big dinner, especially during an election year. “Campaign people take up more room,” noted a White House official (yes, he had a seat, at a cable-news host’s table): This year, media hosts have not just government sources to cultivate but those from the various campaigns.

Candice Crawford, NFL player Tony Romo, Renee Puente and actor Matthew Morrison at the Google & Hollywood Reporter party. (Paul Morigi/GETTY IMAGES FOR HOLLYWOOD REPOR)

Or were they. . . New Yorkers? A quick scan of the room at Atlantic Media owner David Bradley’s elegant dinner turned up a lot of corporate execs – out-of-towners with only loose connections to media or politics but who wanted a piece of what seems to them an accessibly glamorous event: Less political than an inauguration, more brainy than the Oscars. The dinner drew sponsors like CocaCola, GM, ExxonMobil, Siemens and Vegas's new Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Even the public-radio people were muscling in on the glitzy side of Correspondents’ weekend, with a “Friday Night Spin” party DJ’d by Beyonce’s younger sister Solange, at Gibson Guitar Center.

"NPR is known for many things---throwing parties is not one of them," the public broadcaster’s White House correspondent Ari Shapiro told us. It happened because two trustees thought NPR should have a bigger profile during WHCA weekend and underwrote the cost.

Model Kate Upton arrives at the Google and the Hollywood Reporter party. (JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)

But for another first-timer, it looked like the best party on earth. A radiant blonde woman in a demure blue frock was dancing her head off to a Michael Jackson tune. She was Kate Upton, 19, the outta-nowhere star of this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. In a rare spot of light near the velvet rope, she shimmied, she vamped, she vogued, like a young Marilyn Monroe. She didn’t seem to mind if anyone stared – and oh, they did.

View Photo Gallery: As the annual dinner approaches, a look back at past performers who have elicited big laughs and awkward silence, and the famous names who made their way to the celebrity-studded event.


Live updates from the Correspondents’ Dinner , 4/28/12

White House Correspondents’ dinner celebrity guests: A-list overload, red-carpet gridlock , 4/27/12

Oh, you again! Celebs repeat at WHCA dinner , 4/23/12

Lindsay Lohan to attend WHCA dinner (with her lawyer!). 4/24/12

Jimmy Kimmel picked as WHCA dinner host, 11/1/11