- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2007

You had to be there

Securing coveted invitations to exclusive before and after parties bracketing Saturday’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner is just as important as the event itself for many guests. Jockeying for admittance to the private bashes was fiercer than ever this year, according to many who were (or weren’t) given the nod.

Festivities started Friday at People magazine’s cocktail fete at IndeBleu, where “High School” heartthrob Zac Efron and “Project Runway” in-house coach Tim Gunn were seen cozying up to local talent invited by Sandra Westphal People magazine’s Washington bureau chief.

Saturday afternoon’s double-tented picnic hosted by MSNBC producer Tammy Haddad, BizBash’s David Adler and political consultant Alex Castellanos (among others) was the place to chin-wag with actress Morgan Fairchild amid a sea of top New York and Washington media honchos — if you got there before the valet parkers shut down operations and closed off the street, that is. Lesson learned: arrive at Tammy’s early or you may not arrive at all.

The legendary Bloomberg Bash retained its status as the top “must-attend” post-dinner soiree, with a long line of beleaguered wanna-be’s still trying to get past name checkers well after midnight. The list was supposedly winnowed down to a mere 500 — but that probably meant 500-at-any-one-time, judging by the crowd squeezed inside a pavilion erected next to the Embassy of Costa Rica on S Street Northwest. (Rumor had it that the embassy tried to buy the structure outright.) Cute models and waiters were bussed in especially from New York to add luster to the scene, which included acres of dreamily floating white “cloud” material overhead, plush lounge seating, stage lighting, live reggae music and a steady river of exotic cocktails and top-label French champagne. Topics du soir: comedian Rich Little’s “bomb” performance and Karl Rove’s “voices raised, finger-pointing” (according to one Clinton administration veteran) dust-up with singer Sheryl Crow and “Inconvenient Truth” producer Laurie David about global warming.

Fewer folks coupled with a heavy duty guest list ensured a relaxed atmosphere at Vanity Fair’s comeback party, where iconoclast writer Chris Hitchens and his wife, Carol Blue welcomed guests to their spacious Columbia Road apartment along with co-hosts Todd Purdom and Dee Dee Myers.

Embattled World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz (sans girlfriend) seemed to be relaxing in the laid-back crowd of diplomats (Britain’s Sir David Manning and Yemen’s Abdulwahab Al-Hajjri) and journalists (Andrea Mitchell, Andrew Sullivan, Michael Barone, Jay Carney, David Corn, Leon Wieseltier, Leslie and Andrew Cockburn). Justice Antonin Scalia felt so at ease that he engaged in a lengthy (and highly unusual) conversation about the Supreme Court’s recent partial-birth abortion decision with tattooed author and former “Wonkette” columnist Ana Maria Cox in a quiet corner for much of the night.

New arts award

Scott Reynolds Nelson, author of “Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry, The Untold Story of an American Legend,” has won the inaugural National Award for Arts Writing.

The award is given by the Arts Club of Washington in recognition of excellence in writing about the arts for a broad audience. The $15,000 prize was established by longtime Arts Club memberJeannie S. Marfield in honor of Florence Berryman and Helen Wharton.

Judges for the 2006 Award were novelist and NPR book critic Alan Cheuse, former poet laureate Rita Dove, and novelist Joyce Carol Oates. The judges’ decision was announced at a reception Thursday and the winning author will give a public reading, with live music, at the club on May 22 at 7 p.m. Admission to the public reading is free.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from staff and wire reports.

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