- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2009

Before the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner began Saturday night, things got heated up at the myriad receptions hosted by various news organizations present for the event.

The humidity of the evening coupled with the body heat caused quite the heat wave in the Washington Hilton. Everyone fled the lobby and high-tailed it to the CNN reception area downstairs where the air conditioning was cranked up.

The heat didn’t seem to bother crooner Darius Rucker, of Hootie & the Blowfish fame, who was a guest of The Washington Times at the paper’s pre-party.

He explained to us that as a South Carolinian, he’s used to humidity.

“Leaving,” quipped the Geoffrey Beene attired Glenn Beck, formerly of CNN and now the new host of Fox’s “Glenn Beck Show,” when asked what he was doing at his former employer’s party.

We guess he preferred the heat upstairs to the cold stares of his former colleagues.

We caught up with MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann, who took some time out of from his brow wiping to tell us why he was in the lair of the competition. “I was looking for any place cool that’s cool,” he explained with a grin.

We thought maybe the arrival of his archenemies Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity might add to the chilliness in the air, but Mr. Olbermann quickly pointed out “they aren’t here.”

Apparently, he had done some advanced checking.

Mr. Olberman, outfitted in a Hickey Freeman tux, told us he normally rents a tuxedo “because I try to avoid these things like the bubonic plague.”

Also, in the room we chatted up Mr. Olbermann’s NBC colleague David Shuster who said his Hugo Boss tuxedo was new, “but I am wearing my dress shoes I bought for my wedding two years ago.”

We spotted Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, on his way into the room with his daughter Gillian on his arm as his dinner date. He seemed reticent to reveal his sartorial choice for the evening but finally said “It’s Armani.”

Ditto for Diana Taylor, the elegant girlfriend of New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who whispered, “It’s Ralph Lauren.”

You would have thought they were wearing AIG as a label.

Some not ashamed of their duds included Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele who proudly told us he was wearing Gucci, and Fox News’ Major Garrett and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, both in good old-fashioned Brooks Brothers.

Mr. Garrett seemed taken aback when queried with the question, “Who are you wearing?”

“I have never been asked that question before,” he said.

Same for Todd Palin, husband of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was flanked by his hosts for the evening Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren and her lawyer husband John Coale.

“It’s from Alaska,” replied Alaska’s first dude with a puzzled look in his eyes.

At the pre-receptions we also spotted Jon Bon Jovi, Ricky Schroeder, Ashton Kutcher, and Kyle MacLachlan.

Who was the nicest guest, according to Hilton front doorman Edmund Erskine?

Stevie Wonder.”

A good cause

It wasn’t just all parties all the time for some celebs. Actor Goldie Hawn was in town May 7 to stump for her cause on Capitol Hill. G2 caught up with her to learn more about her agenda. Ms. Hawn’s nonprofit, the Hawn Foundation, was established to help children by providing them with the tool of mindfulness.

The mindfulness program is called “MindUp” and is being leveraged across the United States and Canada to enable children to operate in cope with stress and improve academic performance. Ms. Hawn was honored with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Special Recognition Award for her service.

When asked whether she would be sticking around for the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, Ms. Hawn replied, “I’m heading home to be with the whole family for Mother’s Day.” Let’s hope is was a mindful one.

A greater meaning

Helping others was foremost on the mind of actor Christian Slater who we bumped into Saturday night. He told us he is deeply involved in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to encourage young people to stay in school.

Mr. Slater explained that he was a high school dropout because of his acting career eclipsing his education as a teenager, but later completed his GED and wants other teenagers to learn from his mistake.

Mr. Slater, who says “I’ve pretty much always been a Democrat, and a fan of Bill Clinton,” says that politics has greater meaning to him now that he’s the father of two.

He has special interest in Middle Eastern affairs, and plans a trip in the near future.

And at the bar …

Meghan McCain was standing barside with her hairstylist-in-chief Josh Rupley at the Funny or Die party at L2 club Friday night. When asked whether she was having a good time, she shrugged, “It’s OK,” but was amused by chants of “White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner 2009!” among partygoers.

We also caught up with Kevin Bacon at L2. This was Mr. Bacon’s first White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner weekend in Washington. Asked for his take on the festivities, he replied, “So far, so good.”

Speaking of bars, we had an interesting encounter with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at the bar of the Capitol File after-party Saturday night.

Our questions to Mr. Emanuel were thwarted by a burly security guard, who we later learned was part of his Secret Service detail.

“You were being much too aggressive. He has been trying to get a drink all night,” said the guard.

We didn’t hold his bar-hogging against him. After all, he may have needed a drink after another rough day at the office.

Also, at the Cap File party we saw Owen Wilson, CNN “American Morning” anchor Kiran Chetry in a stunning Carmen Marc Valvo tangerine gown and her rival Fox News “America’s Newsroom” anchor Bill Hemmer.

Mr. Hemmer congratulated us on our scoop about the pregnancy of his colleague Megyn Kelly, and told us we get first dibs on news about the dreamy bachelor’s love life.

On Kalorama Road

To share costs in this era of news business belt-tightening, Vanity Fair and Bloomberg joined forces to co-host an exclusive after-party at the French ambassador’s residence — and if this is austerity, who needs opulence?

This was the kind of affair where guests took the short walk from the Washington Hilton to the Kalorama Road party site just a few blocks away in their limos.

Sentinels of selectivity vigilantly screened out crashers at the front gate — oops, NBC’s Chuck Todd has been shorn of members of his entourage, but, phew, Richard Belzer of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” is waved in with posse intact — as a fine stream of celebrity from the worlds of politics, media, entertainment and fashion filtered onto the 10-acre grounds, into the historic mansion and out to a back terrace ringed by softly backlit trees.

Inside, Owen Wilson perfunctorily confirmed that yes, it was his first White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner and, yes, he’d be shooting a new film in D.C. starting in six months, before being distracted — “Hi, Natalie …” — by an exquisite Natalie Portman as she swept through the high-ceilinged foyer on her way out.

Other guests at VF-Bloomberg included David Axelrod, Bradley Cooper, Katie Couric, Rahm Emmanuel, Eric Holder, Valerie Jarrett, Carole King, Steve Kroft, Mike Myers, Susan Rice, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Narciso Rodriguez, Desiree Rogers, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Daniel Wattenberg

To contact Stephanie Green and Elizabeth Glover with a tip or to request event coverage, please e-mail undercover@washingtontimes.com.

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