Tick tock of the Dinner

The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is Washington’s version of the Oscars. The annual gathering blends the political and Hollywood worlds. The following account of what has expanded into a weekend of hyper-networking gives some idea of the maelstrom of festivities.


PEOPLE MAGAZINE PARTY party — Friday night
 
7:01 p.m. — Actor Tim Daly (“Private Practice”) working his way through the crowd. “I’m trying to say hi to Ann Compton,” he said.

7:16 p.m. — Tammy Haddad hands her card to Meghan McCain and asks: “Are you coming to my brunch tomorrow?”

7:19 p.m. — A reporter trying to identify a celebrity: “I’m going to go into the bathroom and Google him.”

7:43 p.m. — Actor Richard Schiff (“The West Wing”), being told the McCain Straight Talk Express will be taking guests from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to the Bloomberg Party: “I’ve already been on it.” “The West Wing” used the bus in one episode. Asked what it looked like, he said: “A bus.”

8:10 p.m. — CNN’s Ed Henry still hasn’t received his invitation to the John King/Dana Bash wedding.


TAMMY HADDAD'S BRUNCH — Saturday Afternoon

12:38 p.m. — MSNBC’s David Gregory strolling hand in hand with his wife down the block to the party.

12:46 p.m. — Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) says, “I’ve got to get out of this sun. I’m gonna melt.” A guest asks, “You’re not used to this?” He says, “Yeah, and I’m used to air conditioning, too.” Haddad remarks, “It’s a party so hot Charlie Crist is going to be there!”

12:56 p.m. — Crist and Debbie Dingell talk Michigan and Florida.

12:57 p.m. — Actress Morgan Fairchild sips a glass of water with a lemon wedge. She is a vision in a long-sleeved orange T-shirt, wide bronze belt and khaki pants. She says she has not yet endorsed anyone for president.

1:55 p.m. — Mark Penn, still regarded as a good behind-the-scenes guy, is handed a camera to snap a group photo.

1:59 p.m. — Bloomberg’s Tim Burger is double-fisted with drinks.

2:03 p.m.  — Burger drops both.


THE BIG DINNER:

5:32 p.m.  — G. Gordon Liddy walks into the Hilton lobby bar.

5:45 p.m. — Miss USA arrives and signs autographs.

6:13 p.m. — Things are beginning to move — a woman spills red wine all over a cocktail table at the Newsweek pre-party.

6:17 p.m. — Someone else tips and nearly spills a 3-foot-tall vase full of water and flowers at National Journal’s pre-party. Partygoers scream out.

6:30 p.m. — A tray of glasses crashes to the ground at the N.J. party. Eyes turn but no one screams.

6:34 p.m. — Greta Van Susteren walks the red carpet in black pants, a white shirt and a black blazer. After getting photographed, she talks technology with photographers.

6:35 p.m. — Newt Gingrich walks the red carpet, doesn’t stop for photos.

6:37 p.m. — Martha Stewart and “American Idol” castoff Michael Johns make small talk on the red carpet. (Lots of squeals.)

6:39 p.m. — Stewart admits she doesn’t know who designed her dress, adding, “I should’ve looked, shouldn’t I? I’m going to be in big trouble.”
6:39 p.m. — Late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson boards the escalator down to the pre-parties with the Marine Corps Band in tow.

6:40 p.m. — Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas sits on a table alone at the base of the stairs of the Hilton.

6:40 p.m. — CNN’s Larry King walks by.

6:41 p.m. — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) walks down the red carpet, virtually unnoticed. (No squeals.)

6:42 p.m. — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) enters the hotel in a cobalt-blue Vera Wang dress.

6:45 p.m. — House Government and Oversight Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) mills about the Newsweek party. “I have the hardest time recognizing the stars, and they are my constituents,” he laments. Pamela Anderson is around but Waxman says, “I won’t recognize her with clothes on.” A nanosecond later, he adds, “Bathing suits, I’m used to seeing her in bathing suits.”

6:47 p.m. — Morgan Fairchild walks the red carpet, wearing an aquamarine vintage Halston dress.

6:51 p.m. — Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) Straight Talk Express pulls up to the hotel entrance.

6:50 p.m. — Actor Aaron Eckhart (“Thank You for Smoking”) mingles at the Newsweek party. “I’m endorsing myself tonight,” he says when asked whom he’s supporting for president. Asked if he likes the political scene or Hollywood, he says, “I prefer sports.”

6:53 p.m. — “Saturday Night Live” cast member Will Forte reveals his presidential pick — off the record.

6:55 p.m. — MTV starlet Lauren Conrad plays coy when asked whom she’s supporting. “I’m keeping it to myself,” she says. “I’m supporting everyone to vote, though.”

6:59 p.m. — Padma Lakshmi, host of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” says she’s not going to judge the night’s food harshly. “I think I’m going to just enjoy the party.” Lakshmi is wearing a turquoise Christian LaCroix gown.

7 p.m. — MSNBC producers pose for pictures with celebrity blogger Perez Hilton.

7:02 p.m. — “Desperate Housewives” star Marcia Cross walks the red carpet, while NBC’s Andrea Mitchell sneaks in behind her.

7:04 p.m. — McCain’s daughter, Meghan, enters but is whisked down the red carpet by handlers.

7:04 p.m. — Asked whom he’s supporting for president, actor Philip John Clapp, better known as Johnny Knoxville, at the Newsweek party, says he’s supporting George Dickel. “He spoke to me,” Knoxville says. (Dickel is a brand of Tennessee whiskey.)

7:20 p.m. — Miss USA’s yellow dress gets caught in an escalator.

7:26 p.m. — Two women gawk as Martha Stewart works the crowd at the Newsweek party. “She looks pretty good,” one says. “She does,” her friend says. “I like her. She looks nice.”

7:33 p.m. — A gentleman with a golden gong comes through the Newsweek party urging guests to go into the dinner.

7:34 p.m. — Andrea Mitchell blocks the doorway while chatting with other dinner attendees.

7:37 p.m. — Perez Hilton, in a black Diesel outfit, heads to the pre-parties.

7:41 p.m. — Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, told that she looks very elegant in her long brown gown, says she has no idea who made it. “It’s just a dress, I have no idea,” she says.

7:42 p.m. — Another MTV starlet, Heidi Montag, walks the red carpet in a Chloe dress with her on-again, off-again boyfriend Spencer Pratt. “Of course,” Pratt replied when asked if the couple would speak to estranged friend and “The Hills” co-star Lauren Conrad this evening.

7:45 p.m. — Former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) deflects a question about whether he will be McCain’s running mate.

7:45 p.m. — CBS’s Katie Couric, in a long, sleeveless lavender gown, chats with former Rep. Tom McMillen (D-Md.), who, at 6 feet, 11 inches tall, towers over her. Asked how she feels about her rumored departure from CBS News, she says, “See ya later!”

7:47 p.m. — A gaggle of girls want pictures with actress Rosario Dawson, who is in a cool lime-green dress by Monique Lhuillier. Dawson says she wore the dress because she knew no one else would have it here tonight: “My boyfriend says it looks like pea soup.” Asked if she has a presidential favorite, she says, “Yes, definitely — but not publicly.”

7:50 p.m. — CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour mingles at a pre-party near the pool.

8 p.m. — Dennis Hof, owner of the Bunny Ranch and star of HBO’s “Cat House,” hangs around the hotel lobby. He’s a clear Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) supporter, saying, “I’m for women’s rights. Women have been oppressed for a thousand years. The Bunny Ranch is behind Hillary!”

8:25 p.m. — Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner walk up to the hotel’s main entrance virtually unnoticed. Garner, in an Oscar de la Renta dress, says she doubts she and her husband will hit the after-parties. “They’re late,” she says. Affleck, when asked if he’s still considering a run for office, demurs. “You know what? This is a nasty business,” he says.

The couple are not afflicted by lack of attention on their way to the CBS table. Quite the opposite. They take 45 minutes to cross the room. The table is besieged. Affleck tries to talk with other guests but is constantly interrupted. A scavenging young woman steals his place card.

9 p.m. — Singer Ashlee Simpson is overheard saying her “fiance got her into politics.” Simpson’s fiance is Pete Wentz, a member of the band Fall Out Boy.

9:30 p.m. — Actor Eric Dane says he is backing “a Democrat” for president and is getting nervous that the primary remains undecided.

10:17 pm — Ferguson, the evening’s entertainer, gives a shout out to The Hill newspaper for an interview that appeared in the paper last week. (We’ll forgive him for poking fun at first, referring to us as “The Mount” rather than The Hill.)

10:53 p.m. — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), in a light-blue Nicole Miller dress, yawns and checks her BlackBerry while waiting in the lobby. She is going to the Bloomberg after-party.

10:59 p.m. — The Jonas Brothers, clutching the suit jacket of their linebacker-sized bodyguard, escape through the lobby.

11:23 p.m. — Morgan Fairchild asks Gingrich to pose for a photo with her. Gingrich’s wife, Calista, says to the actress, “Nice to meet you! I’m Calista. You’re Morgan Fairchild, right?”

11:25 p.m. — Recording artist Will.i.am leaves for the Bloomberg party.

11-ish — Craig Ferguson arrives with his fiancee, Megan, at Capitol File’s after-party at the Newseum. He goes to the VIP section and talks for about five minutes, tells one partygoer, “I am too old for this,” then leaves with Megan and her brother, Ian.

11:10 p.m. — Colin Firth, angry about the crowds and the rain, leaves the Bloomberg party.

11:48 p.m. — Morgan Fairchild walks into Capitol File’s party while Justin Timberlake’s smash hit “SexyBack” is playing.

11:50 p.m. — Tim Daly chats at the Capitol File shindig. He says he’s an avid Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) supporter, but looks forward to a convention-floor fight. When told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants to wrap it up before the convention, he remarked, “She can stay home. Everyone else can come.”

12:02 a.m. — Lobbyist Dan Berger is one of many men blown away by Fairchild. He jokes: “She’s like 85 and she’s hot.”

12:15 a.m. — Pamela Anderson is mobbed by young men at the Bloomberg party.