Lower star power at big night out

Nicole Kidman, Jessica Alba, Gerard Butler and Scarlett Johansson will be some of the rare A-list guests at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) dinner as the annual soiree takes on a decidedly more low-key tone.

While blockbuster movie actors and headline-grabbing guests — such as tabloid fixtures Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian — have frequented the festivities at the Washington Hilton Hotel in years past, this time around, fewer top-tier stars are slated to attend.

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Party planners and organizers cite several reasons: that celebrities had flocked to D.C. earlier this year for President Obama’s inauguration, a little second-term fatigue and that several news organizations just finished covering an expensive election, which cuts the budgets for receptions and high-profile guests.

But the move by many media outlets to dim the star wattage at the dinner, traditionally attended by the president, seems to sit just fine with WHCA President Ed Henry. The Fox News Channel correspondent remarked last week that he wants the event, which raises money for needy journalism students, to have a “less celebrity focus.”

Among the notable absences from guest lists this year is Daniel Day-Lewis, who won a Best Actor Oscar in February for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. Although he put in an appearance last year, a publicist confirmed to The Hill he won’t be touching down in the nation’s capital for the April 27 fete. 

Neither will past guest and fellow Academy Award winner Ben Affleck, whose film “Argo” won the Best Motion Picture award that first lady Michelle Obama presented from the White House. George Clooney is also a no, though he was considered one of last year’s most high-profile gets.



Saturday’s dinner — known affectionately among D.C. types as “nerd prom” — has evolved into Washington’s social event of the year, typically drawing in a large number of famous faces and several days worth of parties leading up to the big event.


Even though the ballroom can seat 3,000 guests — and it hits capacity — the tickets are exclusive. News organizations typically fight for as many of the seats as possible, and most come away unhappy with the number they’ve received.

But there seems to be less of a glam factor this year. While the parties start on the Thursday before the dinner and go through to post-dinner brunches on Sunday, the organizers of one of last year’s most coveted tickets aren’t holding an event this year.

Google and the Hollywood Reporter, which hosted a star-studded affair at the W hotel last year, are not teaming up again for a bash.

But there will still be plenty of parties to choose from, even if the eye candy is more journalists and politicians than actors and actresses.

The Hill will be hosting an invitation-only reception at the Turkish Embassy on Friday night. The newspaper is bringing Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) as its guests to the dinner.

Kidman, meanwhile, is the guest of Newsweek/The Daily Beast, as are Jeremy Renner, Olivia Munn, Harvey Weinstein and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

NPR is bringing Alba. Johansson is a guest of the Huffington Post, where she will be joined by Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.). Butler is attending with CNN, as are Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks.

Ashley Judd, who briefly considered a bid against Senate Minority Leader MitchMcConnell (R-KY.), will be at USA Today’s table.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will be breaking bread together at The Wall Street Journal’s tables. Also joining the newspaper will be former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D). 

Barbara Streisand is reportedly attending with Bloomberg News, as are “House of Cards” stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

Other notable attendees include: Thomson Reuters’s guest Kathleen Turner; Time magazine’s invitees, “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Steven Spielberg; and “Homeland” actress Claire Danes, who will be seated at the CBS table.

Obama will address dinner-goers, and comedian Conan O’Brien is the master of ceremonies. O’Brien, a native of Boston, is familiar with going before the star-studded crowd after a national tragedy.

O’Brien first addressed the dinner in 1995, shortly after the bombing in Oklahoma City.