Mercury’s in retrograde, Baghdad is falling (again), but Joe Biden is here, in the foyer of the French ambassador’s mansion, and so are platters of doughnuts on a bed of Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms. Vive l’Amerique!
Biden, fresh off his first and last White House Correspondents’ Association dinner as veep, was all smiles and hugs and handshakes, but he never made it into the maze of parlors, halls and anterooms, which were stuffed with the most random assortment of power players: GOP strategist Steve Schmidt conspiring with “Homeland” star Damian Lewis, distractingly short Jared Leto breezing by International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and a real queen (Rania of Jordan) mingling alongside a fake queen (Helen Mirren, who politely declined your selfie because she was simply tired of taking them, thank you).
The Vanity Fair-Bloomberg News after-party, hosted by Graydon Carter and Michael R. Bloomberg, was a much livelier event than the one preceding it: a cramped and dolorous affair of duck confit and petite filet in the gut of the Washington Hilton. But even in the drizzle, everything in this 1910 Tudor Revival residence on tony Kalorama Road NW was plush and glowing.
Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes took a timeout on a raspberry-colored settee by a rain-streaked front window.
“We just this year got an au pair!” said an old white guy, who looked important, under an oil portrait of another white guy, the Marquis de Lafayette.
Off the tented terrace, Obama’s right-hand woman, Valerie Jarrett, strode into the incandescent glow of Vanity Fair’s makeshift portrait studio, where a crew triggered theatrical fog, flipped on a couple of fans and flung silver confetti into the air for effect. Earlier in the evening, protesters shouted outside the Hilton: “Aleppo is burning while the media is watching!”
Take heart, sons and daughters of the revolution! Bernie Sanders did not wear a tuxedo to the dinner, and he did not attend this party of millionaires and billionaires, who were getting drunk amid artwork from Versailles.
“It’s my favorite party of the year,” Hillary Clinton confidante Huma Abedin said to the French ambassador, Gérard Araud.
“F--- the White House correspondents’ dinner,” Hillary Clinton said in 2011, according to Mark Leibovich’s book, “This Town.”
The dinner. Painful! The clogged escalators, the perfumed body odor, the dark night of resistance. Joy Behar had to pass the time by playing solitaire on her iPhone at her table. But it was a reason to have parties afterward, so let us continue.
Ironically, a fight erupted at the U.S. Institute of Peace. A Fox News reporter and a Huffington Post reporter exchanged blows there during MSNBC’s after-party, for reasons that are surely petty. “Maybe he should think about his life choices,” the HuffPo guy said of his foe. Shouldn’t we all?
There was a string quartet at the Onion’s party at the Newseum. There were also cardboard cutouts of Biden, a slide show of Biden photos on every TV and an ice sculpture of Biden riding a motorcycle. There was a bowl of condoms in the bathroom with a handwritten note — on stationery from the Pussycat Saloon in Winnemucca, Nev. — that read:
Grab a couple of these and meet me at Number One Observatory Circle for some hot and heavy action. — Diamond Joe
Diamond Joe didn’t show at the Onion’s party. (That would have been something.) He stayed for a solid hour at the French ambassador’s, though, where the parlor game — sorry, salon game — was guessing which Castro twin was which. The congressman? The secretary of housing and urban development? Did we just step on the toes of the future vice president? We may never know.
Gayle King was looking for somebody. Oprah’s not here, dear. Everyone else seemed to be looking for the “Broad City” chicks, because they were probably having more fun (and they probably had spare weed).
All over the place: Bryan Cranston, Connie Britton, Tom Hiddleston, Michelle Dockery, Megyn Kelly, Rachel McAdams, Ed Burns and Christy Turlington Burns, who must be the best-looking late-40-somethings on the planet.
The Pelosis. Poor Reince Priebus. The Obama faithful, for one last go-round: John F. Kerry, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Shaun Donovan, Tina Tchen, Reggie Love, Ashton Carter.
Neve Campbell and another woman were comparing iPhone photos of their children. The back of Sela Ward’s white dress had a mesmerizing gold zipper. There was a preponderance of models and of Leon Wieseltier’s hair.
Gay Talese, in a pink-striped shirt, voyeured from a corner of the foyer.
There was a barbecue buffet with Carolina vinegar and Tennessee mesquite sauce.
The music evolved from Sinatra to Prince and Bowie, but no one danced. Then, after 2 a.m., mophead “Glee” star Darren Criss sat at the piano in the salon d’hiver and banged out “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Seasons of Love,” the song from “Rent,” which opened on Broadway 20 years ago this week. The dregs of the party wailed along, though they were pitifully rusty on the lyrics.
How do you measure/measure a year?
(In drone hits? In delegates? In Trump fits? In flutes of bubbly?)
“I know a city that glories in its marvelous zoo,” wrote Daniel Berrigan, the activist Jesuit priest who died hours earlier in the Bronx at 94. “The animals seem not so much content . . . as resigned.”
In the 3 o’clock hour in Woodley Park, the birds chirping at the approaching dawn, David Brock’s after-after-party was getting weird. Guests kept calling the lefty political operative’s house “the white palace.” There were drawings of Bill Clinton on the walls. There was a 20-foot painting of a naked woman near the entrance. There was a table with shot glasses of Johnnie Walker, black and green labels. A spiral staircase led to a second level with shrimp and another spiral staircase led to a third level with a bed heaped with pillows and people. One man on the staircase wondered aloud whether the party would turn into, you know, a party.
“Not until 7 a.m.,” said his companion, which is both too late and too early, especially in Washington, especially without Diamond Joe, especially as Aleppo burns.
Helena Andrews, Jessica Contrera, Emily Heil, Maura Judkis, Roxanne Roberts and Ben Terris contributed to this report.