“That is … a room with the door closed,” an efficient girl with a clipboard told New York at the annual Tammy Haddad garden brunch preceding the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Every once in a while that closed door would open and a high-powered brunch guest would be allowed to slip in — we were sure we spotted Valerie Jarret entering at one point.
Who merited their own room when cabinet secretaries, top advisers, and supermodels were mingling out in the open, gamely smiling for pictures with various fancypants Washington brunch civilians? (Really, there were lots of fancy pants, and a certain number of them were salmon pink.) Had Michelle Obama come by for brunch? Joe Biden? Was this where Steve Schmidt and Woody Harrelson — newfound blood brothers — were hanging out? No: The room contained Greta Van Susteren and her ward for the weekend, Lindsay Lohan.
Later, at the Hilton Washington, we walked into a restroom where Van Susteren was discussing a plan of action with a small gaggle of young women. “Do you have Kim’s purse?” one asked. “Okay, you walk in front, and we”ll kind of go to the side of her.” “Should we hold her ticket?” At their center, silently fixated on her image in the mirror and oddly intent on applying and reapplying bright pink lipstick outside the natural contours of her lips, was Lohan in a funereal black taffeta dress, barely paying attention to the plan to create a movable barricade around her.
At the dinner that night, Jimmy Kimmel took just one pot-shot at Lohan, saving his real fire for low-hanging fruit: Chris Christie fat jokes, a Barbara Walters lisp jab, a couple Obama-is-a-weird-sounding-name lines, and a bunch of Secret Service jokes. He said Marcus Bachmann was gayer than Cameron, the heavyset guy from Modern Family; Eric Stonestreet, who plays Cameron, stood up and waved, the picture of good-naturedly taking it in stride. “Jimmy e-mailed me and asked if I was cool with it,” Stonestreet told us later.
The broader, YouTube-ready jokes in Kimmel’s routine seemed a bit mean-spirited — Babs, who probably didn’t get a warning e-mail, sure didn’t look happy in her reaction shot. Kimmel blamed the jokes that got the most shocked reactions on Jake Tapper, who did feed him at least a couple, a Tapper pal told us later.
Obama himself poked some fun at some predictable targets: Gingrich, for being in the race. Himself, for eating dog. Romney, for driving dog. We wondered if David Axelrod, who loves a good Seamus Romney joke, had anything to do with that bit. Earlier that day, we’d asked him, per his own needling tweets, whether it’s fair to say that Democrats are the party of sass these days. “I think the guys on the other side would take the ‘S’ away, but that’s the nature of politics,” he said.”We’re a feisty bunch and so are they.” But as for his opponents’ efforts thus far on the feisty front, Axelrod wasn’t terribly impressed. “I would encourage them to spend all their resources on those kinds of communications, which will move absolutely no one but which will amuse their donors,” he said.
Obama served up a barbed line about the Huffington Post’s habit of aggregating others’ work that drew a sharp intake of breath from the print- and TV-reporter-stuffed crowd, but Times media critic David Carr thought Arianna might actually be gloating. “There couldn’t be any more serious validation than that you’re worthy of being made fun of, and yes, it’s an old joke about the Huffington Post, but it remains true,” he told New York. “They’ve got the Pulitzer to show now, too. I’m guessing she loved every second of it.” When we saw Huffington at a party later that evening, swarmed by well-wishers and effusively greeting Colin Powell, we suspected he was right.
New York watched part of the evening’s broadcast inside a room at the Hilton with other youngish media types, where there was much discussion of after-party crashing strategies. Later, at the Vanity Fair party at the French Embassy, crashing didn’t go well for the Huntsman sisters, two thirds of whom weren’t on this year’s pared-down list. The sisters tried to explain that they were a certifiable Thing, to no avail, then walked off upset into the rain. Uggie the Dog got in, and posed for pictures with an excited Reese Witherspoon, a moment that might just have been the ultimate in what America finds cute.
Inside, the cater waiters were all wearing guyliner, manscara, and white jackets; one explained that it was very Vanity Fair, or so everyone kept telling him. It was definitely very Duran Duran. Rachel Zoe told us she dressed only herself for the event, and didn’t pick out her outfit until one in the morning. She couldn’t name a single politico who dressed well, with the exception of “obviously” the “perfect” Michelle Obama. Mayor Bloomberg chatted with Mayor Emanuel; we overheard the word “Gaga” and wondered why Bloomie insists so on kissing and telling. (Later, we left the party at the same time as Rahm, who had a bodyguard carrying his umbrella for him, in the manner of a emperor or pharaoh, which the Chicago mayorship might just be the modern equivalent of.)
Kate Hudson and Kate Upton found their way to the porch for a smoke; a sixtysomething man in a tuxedo smoking a cigar literally leered at Upton’s behind, as if out of central casting for Dirty Old Man. Near one of the bars, Paul Rudd and Gayle King chatted about the high degree of difficulty involved in Obama’s and Kimmel’s performances; everyone agreed that they’d killed, but who would have said otherwise? “Why would I answer that?” said Aziz Ansari when we wondered whom he thought had killed more. “I thought they both did fantastic.” It was, of course, a very political answer.
This post has been edited since first publication.