Hollywood’s giddy love affair with the White House and Capitol Hill is over for another year, after a weekend in which President Obama and the stars of politics rubbed elbows with the celebrities of film, TV and sports.
The weekend’s stars were Joel McHale, the acerbic “Talk Soup” star picked to host the festivities, President Obama and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who was a ubiquitous presence at the parties, breakfasts and the main event — a dinner marking the 100th anniversary of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
That’s not to say they were all winners.
McHale’s jokes at the expense of ObamaCare, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonWatergate reporter on Russia: 'I’ve been saying for a while there’s a coverup going on' White House distances Trump from Manafort FBI has info suggesting coordination between Trump aides, Russia: report MORE, among others, received a mixed reception from an over-packed house at the Washington Hilton.
Several uncomfortable murmurs could be heard in the crowd as McHale joked about how the night, like Christie’s presidential prospects, would be over quickly and whether it would be appropriate to give grandfather-to-be Bill ClintonBill ClintonWe must act now and pass the American Health Care Act Trump's message: Russia First or America First? Senate Democrats should grill Judge Gorsuch on antitrust. Here's how. MORE a cigar.
“Newsroom” star Olivia Munn said McHale “killed it” on Twitter, but some of the other online reviews were considerably less kind. People magazine’s critic called it a mess and compared it to Seth McFarlane’s disastrous hosting of the Oscars.
DeadlineHollywood.com opined that the comic actor “stumbled and stuttered through a routine that got more moans and groans from the packed Washington Hilton ballroom than laughs.”
President Obama’s speech won better reviews, as did a video sketch in which Louis-Dreyfus, playing her fictional vice presidential character from “Veep,” palled around with real-life Vice President Biden. [READ OBAMA's REMARKS.]
The two wrote positive headlines for Biden in The Washington Post and The Hill, got tattoos with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and were caught eating ice cream in the White House by a disapproving first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaFor Democrats, no clear leader Obama reportedly spending a month in French Polynesia Biden names favorite bromance meme with Obama MORE — who stole a scoop herself after kicking the two out of the kitchen, and then justified herself by noting there were raisins in it.
Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerFreedom Caucus leader: Despite changes, healthcare bill doesn't have the votes Debt ceiling returns, creating new headache for GOP Letters: Congress, raise the debt limit now MORE (R-Ohio) poked fun at himself, too, telling Louis-Dreyfus he was too busy to attend the dinner as he watched the “panda cam” from his office.
The video encapsulated the annual weekend in Washington, during which Hollywood takes over the Capitol and reporters, politicians, and administration and Capitol Hill staffers rush out to take selfies with the stars.
The frivolity has earned the dinner some criticism, with many questioning the appropriateness of an event that exemplifies a coziness between journalists and the people they cover. The New York Times has boycotted the dinner for several years and NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw has been among those raising concerns.
This year, some critics, including bestselling author of This Town Mark Leibovich, set up shop for a discussion about media ethics in the Hilton on the night of the dinner. But, tellingly, no one else showed up. “Well, maybe next year we’ll get someone,” Leibovich tweeted.
The number of parties that take place across the weekend has multiplied.
The Hill’s party, held in conjunction with “Entertainment Tonight” at the Canadian Embassy in downtown Washington, drew stars, including actress and model Brooklyn Decker, “Scandal” actress Darby Stanchfield and former “American Idol” contestant Katharine McPhee.
Among the lawmakers who were there were Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinRNC drops six-figure ad buy for Supreme Court, healthcare fight Repeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate Putting coal profits ahead of coal miners MORE (D-W.Va.) and Roy BluntRoy BluntTop Dems prep for future while out of the spotlight Overnight Healthcare: Pressure mounts for changes to GOP ObamaCare bill Pressure mounts for changes to ObamaCare bill MORE (R-Mo.), and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.).
The Hill party also drew a number of high-profile media figures, including ABC News’s Claire Shipman (accompanied by her husband, White House press secretary Jay Carney), and Ed Henry, Greta Van Susteren and Brett Baier, all of Fox News Channel.
The weekend threw up plenty of celebrity gossip and somewhat incongruous moments.
Backstage at the Hilton on the night of the dinner, “Duck Dynasty” stars Willie and Korie Robertson posed for photos close to Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate Dem senator: House Intel chairman may have revealed classified info US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer MORE (D-Ore.). When Wyden was asked if he too would try to get photos with the duo, he laughed and said, “I’m going to pass on the selfies tonight.”
At a party hosted by Netflix and Google on Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) complimented Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThis obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all Sharron Angle to challenge GOP rep in Nevada Fox's Watters asks Trump whom he would fire: Baldwin, Schumer or Zucker MORE (D-Nev.), with a reference to Kevin Spacey’s character in “House of Cards.”
“Harry Reid is awesome. He’s a master at work, and he is on the level,”
Pelosi said. “I don’t think [Frank] Underwood is on the level, [although] I love Kevin Spacey.”
Another “House of Cards” star showed up at the Creative Coalition’s dinner. Constance Zimmer, who plays White House correspondent Janine Skorsky told The Hill, “I got to tell you, I love representing you guys. I love representing real people.”
While the weekend is a generally light-hearted affair, serious politics in the broadest sense is never entirely off the table.
Reggie Love, the former Duke University basketball player who went on to serve as “body man” for President Obama, endorsed the NBA’s approach to the recent racist comments by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Love told The Hill that Commissioner Adam Silver had “delivered the right message.”
“Glee” actor Matthew Morrison enthused about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency during a Friday night party hosted by his manager, Eric Podwall.
“Individually and as a family, they are such an amazing unit,” Morrison told The Hill, referring to the Clintons. “I’m a huge fan of Bill Clinton, and I think having [Hillary] as president and having him in her corner is going to be a huge thing for us.”
“Star Trek” actor Sir Patrick Stewart is also firmly in the Clinton camp, though, as a British citizen, he is not eligible to vote in U.S. elections.
“I have been for a long time a really big supporter of Hillary. I think she’s outstanding,” Stewart said.
Some big stars who have attended dinners in the past, such as George Clooney and Scarlett Johansson, weren’t in town this year.
But there were still plenty of celebrities to see, including actresses Lupita Nyong’o, Mindy Kaling, Sofia Vergara and Taylor Schilling, and NFL stars Richard Sherman and Tim Tebow.
Stars from shows about Washington, which have become increasingly popular in recent years, were also all about town.
Most of the cast of “Veep,” showed up, along with the stars of “Scandal” and “House of Cards,” three shows that highlight how Washington’s obsession with Hollywood is increasingly a mutual affair.