By Betsy Rothstein - 01/21/09 11:52 AM EST
Movie star Susan Sarandon compared President Obama to Jesus. Broadway and film actor Alan Cumming thought of him more like Mahatma Gandhi.
“He is a community organizer like Jesus was,” Sarandon said Tuesday night on the bright blue carpet leading into the Creative Coalition’s 2009 Ball at the Harman Center for the Arts in Chinatown. “And now, we’re a community and he can organize us.”
Cumming was mesmerized with Obama. “He’s like Gandhi or something,” he said. “He’s got that powerful, soulful thing in him.”
Sarandon and Cumming were among the many stars in Washington for Obama’s Inauguration. All seemed star-struck by the new president, and several expressed pleasure that former President Bush’s term was over.
Actor Matthew Modine sneaked by reporters, going in the wrong direction of the carpet. What was his favorite part of the day?
“My favorite part of every day is waking up,” he said, grinning broadly.
Minutes later, he was back with a different favorite moment: “When Joe Biden took the oath of office and Dick Cheney was gone.” (He could be heard repeating this line as he moved down the carpet, this time in the proper direction.)
Hours before the stars arrived, the scene on the blue carpet leading into the ball was already getting contentious. Part of the problem was the stars were late.
Reporters, broadcasters and their camera crews were all vying for the best spot on the carpet from which to greet them as they passed by in their tuxedos and glittery gowns.
They crammed together and tempers inevitably began to flare. At one point a cameraman and a broadcaster nearly came to blows because the cameraman, tuckered out by the long wait, had set his camera on the floor.
“You know it’s dangerous to put it on the floor,” the broadcaster taunted. For several moments, the two men’s faces grew close as they eyed each other angrily.
On the carpet, Chris Harrison, host of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” remarked that, “Hollywood is all over themselves trying to be a part of it [Inauguration].”
Actress Anne Hathaway, decked in a long red sleeveless frilly gown, was among the first stars to make her way down the carpet.
Journalists began screaming at her, “Anne! Anne! Anne!” trying to get her to turn their way.
She answered questions politely and appeared unfazed by the clamor for a look or a word from her.
“I was there at the Mall,” Hathaway explained with a bright smile. “[It was] the feeling of millions of people all there sending positive energy and having hope together.”
Stand-up comedian Jeffrey Ross lightened the mood by commenting as much on the frigid weather as on the mood of the day. “I got the chills literally and figuratively,” he said. “I was hanging off a ledge on a stairway. Some cop made me move.”
Ross said he wants President Obama to install a basketball hoop in the White House. “The audacity of hoops,” he cracked. “That’ll be the name of the court.”
Comedian Wendie Malick (formerly of TV’s now-defunct “Just Shoot Me”) said her family was getting behind Obama.
“I was so happy I made it through [Inauguration] without wimping out,” she said. “You really did feel like you were part of a transformational moment. Even my family, who [are] conservative Republicans, are getting behind this guy.”
Ellen Burstyn was one of the shyer actresses to pass through. Dressed in a long, multi-colored velvet earth-tone gown, she stood as far away from reporters as possible, but still answered questions.
Her favorite moment of the day came when Obama was sworn into office. “It’s the end of a shameful history of our relationship to African-Americans,” Burstyn said.
Burstyn and Tim Daly (of ABC’s “Private Practice”) were together. “I took the sweetest picture of you today,” Daly told Burstyn. “You looked up with your mittens and you looked like a kid.”
Philip Block, a fashion stylist, stood out for both his suit — a dark maroon with a maroon bowtie — and his personality. He was by far the most flamboyant personality on the carpet. “I spent today on my couch,” he said. “I went from the bed to the couch. I didn’t want to be cold and uncomfortable. I knew it would be a tearful moment and I didn’t want my tears to freeze.”
Actress Alfre Woodard got right to the point when it was her turn to speak. “I think we might finally grow up as a nation,” she said.