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What you get when you mix Darth Vader, John Dingell and that cute kid duo from ‘Nashville’

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi always like to make an entrance. And Sunday night’s annual Ford’s Theatre gala — like a community theater variety show if your “community” is the nation’s capital — was no different. About two minutes before showtime, the California congresswoman strutted to her front-row seat in a sleek white lace pantsuit. With mere seconds left before host Scott Bakula (yes, that Scott Bakula) took the stage, somehow Pelosi (D) still found time shake half a dozen hands. This is how Washington does a night at the thea-tah.

On Sunday the theatre where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 awarded its “Lincoln medal” to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest serving member of congress in history, and actor James Earl Jones, whose voice you may recognize from the original “Star Wars” trilogy or “The Lion King,” depending on what decade you were born in.

Dingell, who was introduced by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, began with a nod to his wife, Debbie, “I would like to congratulate myself for marrying her.”

Jones, who was introduced by actress and director Debbie Allen, made the word “Michigander” sound like a noble rank.

The night is one part variety shtick mixed with two parts awards ceremony and a helping of cheese poured over that. The closing number, a telethon-worthy version of “America the Beautiful,” complete with a Betsy Ross flag dropping from the rafters, was a bit much even for this crowd filled with D.C. VIPs like Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), national security adviser Susan Rice, Pelosi and “other distinguished members of congress.”

Still watching Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tap his feet to Bakula’s rendition of Pharrell’s “Happy” (yes, he wore that hat) nicely summed up a night where Washington met Hollywood (sort of) without crashing Instagram with a million “Look who I found their way to the bathroom!” humble brag selfies with stars. Although anything with the adorable duo, Lennon and Maisy Stella, real life siblings who play sisters Maddy and Daphne on “Nashville,” would have been forgiven. No matter how many times they perform “Ho Hey,” that song just can’t get old.

One of the few reminders that most of the crowd worked for the same company came from Jones, who said in his acceptance speech that actors pinpoint the common human experience, find a way to work together with respect and solve problems. Sound like a familiar job description?

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Helena Andrews-Dyer is the co-author of The Reliable Source. Follow her on Twitter @helena_andrews, and send your hot tips, sightings, and gossip to



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Emily Heil · June 23, 2014

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