WHCD Party Report: The Dinner
II. Dinner/Competitive Mingling (7:30PM-10:45PM)
Through the metal detectors! Good news: Low table numbers do not correlate with good table placement. (I.e., best tables are in the 40s and the low hundreds.) Bad news: The only remotely famous person sitting within eavesdropping distance of our table is Frank Luntz, who spends practically the entire dinner elsewhere anyway. One can, however, see Bill Kristol's forehead from here.
Dinner itself: eh.
Run to ladies, forget ticket necessary for re-entry (signs everywhere remind guests of this, but the Australian white wine has been flowing freely), security guard hands me some random ticket left on the table. That was waaaay too easy.
Spot Kristol and the Weekly Standard's next generation Hitchens, Matt Labash, on the landing. Overheard: "You may disagree with the man, but he gives great meeting." I think Kristol is blushing.
Overheard: "I was about 20 feet away from Rumsfeld last week and, well, I don't want to kill those guys, I just want to punch them really hard in the face."
At any given moment, half the seats in the room are empty. It's not table-hopping so much as aggressive, extreme table slaloming. (With moguls!) There are awards being presented. For what? To whom? Let me check my program. Oooh, there's the seating chart! Where's Vincent?
- "People don't leave. It's rude."
"But the walking and the talking?"
"But they're not leaving."
Today's reporters are the most shameless starfuckers since the Plaster Casters. Anyone above famous-for-D.C. standards is manhandled and manuevered into more digital camera still photo shoots than make up a Wallace and Grommit movie. Meg, Serena, Jessica Lynch, some guy from "The Bachelor," assorted Apprentices: none of them will be eating tonight (lucky them). . . All legit celebs gets this treatment except the night's only truly A-list celeb, Affleck. (More jowly and shorter in person, btw.) He spends the entire evening relatively unmolested. One theory: He's sharing a table with Colin Powell, whose career at this point is giving off enough toxic fumes to qualify for pre-emptive invasion.
Franken sighting. (J. suggests I stop keeping track.)
Constant refrain: "So, we'll catch up later. . . You're going to the Bloomberg party, right?" (This said mainly to advertise speakers' own spot on the guest list, one assumes.)
Someone threatens to introduce me to Mark Halperin. Run away!
Everyone asked to sit down.
Self-promotional film by Correspondents' Association. Clips/still from newscasts going back to FDR. Many, many, many jokes at the expense of the long-suffering longevity of WH correspondent Helen Thomas. Main thrust of film: We are so goddamn important it's killing us. Subtext: We are so goddamn good at our jobs we scare the shit out of this president, who is a pussy. Disproportionate number of clips from last April's conference. Medium-level but distinct applause at the appearance of WP's adorable Mike Allen (who may have just received an award, it's unclear). Not-very-well-stifled laughter at Bush's response.
Bush's speech. Content analyzed at length in other venues. More interesting: Response from the floor. You can tell where the Fox table is by where the applause starts at each mention of "brave fighting men" or whatever.
Leno's speech. Am totally ready to just make an early run for the after-party, am in fact getting out of seat to gather wrap, when he hits with greetings to "esteemed members of the press -- and USA Today." Palpable sense of relief/glee in the room: "He's telling jokes just for us!" Best bits reheared elsewhere, notable reactions:
- • Geraldo jokes go over very well.
• Dean gets a small standing O from some table in the asteroid ring when he stands up to acknowledge "Crazy Howard" TV sale joke.
• Audible gasp at Karl Rove-selling-useless-crap joke.
Am informed later that Chris Heinz remained ostentatiously stone-faced for any Kerry joke.
Yay! Over! Literally run into Kissinger in mad dash to coat check. Low center of gravity keeps him upright.