The Hill's party kicks off WHCD weekend
The Hill got the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner weekend off to a glamorous start, kicking off the countdown to the annual soiree Friday with a star-studded bash at the Embassy of Canada in downtown Washington.
A flurry of Hollywood heavyweights — “Nashville” star Connie Britton, “Elementary’s” Lucy Liu, Constance Zimmer of “House of Cards” fame, and “The Following’s” Connie Nielsen ­­— joined The Hill’s Jimmy Finkelstein, Chairman of News Communications, parent company of The Hill, his wife, CNN Tonight Editorial Producer Pamela Gross, as well as lawmakers, VIPs and journalists, at the exclusive gathering co-hosted by the Embassy of Canada and the Emmy Award-winning entertainment news program “Extra.”
Guests could be seen and heard going gaga over celebrities and media personalities, catching up with friends and buzzing about the inner workings of Washington. When asked who she was rooting for in the 2016 presidential race, Britton told The Hill it was “too early to say,” before quickly adding with a smile, “Come on Hillary — let’s go, let’s go!”
While there were plenty of recognizable faces, “House of Cards” star Michael Kelly, who plays a staffer and confidant to a fictional President Frank Underwood, revealed he sometimes gets confused for another famous political operative. “People probably say I look like James Carville,” the actor said.
It wasn’t the only case of mistaken identity: Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) disclosed that he has his own D.C. doppelganger: “I have been mistaken in the past for Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Warning signs flash for Lindsey Graham in South Carolina Majority of voters say Trump should not nominate a Supreme Court justice: poll MORE,” Clay said, before clarifying, “but I’m not him.”
Worlds collided at the celebration, in more ways than one. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, was seen hugging former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. And typically buttoned-up Washingtonians were swarming actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, known as “Jaime Lannister” on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” when he entered the embassy.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Steele, his predecessor, ended up on the rooftop patio together for a "fun" moment, Steele told The Hill. 
"Bombay Gin, straight-up," Steele said. 
Also spotlighted at the party was Washington-based chef and "Top Chef" star Spike Mendelsohn, who told The Hill he recently relocated within the city and is enjoying his new digs. 
"This party has fast become the must-attend event of the White House Correspondents' weekend," said Bob Cusack, editor in chief of The Hill. "We salute all of the great reporters at the White House but more importantly, we celebrate the First Amendment and the freedom of the press."
The high-profile crowd of hundreds sipped the Canadian beers Molson and Labatt, along with Heineken and Corona, provided by the Beer Institute. Guests were also treated to a Montreal smoked meat station, lobster rolls and two specialty cocktails crafted by Mendelsohn — a “Salted Caramel Crown Royal Shake” and a “Bardo Sling.”
Partygoers were welcomed to the festivities by a VIP red carpet hosted by “Extra” correspondent A.J. Calloway, a photo booth and a unique personal greeter: a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, commonly referred to as a “mountie.” 
Despite the Canadian touches, The Hill's exclusive gathering on the eve of the April 25 Correspondents’ dinner was pure “Washington,” with sweeping views of the Capitol dome and Washington Monument seen from the Ambassador’s terrace.
Among the long list of notables: Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier, CNN’s Don Lemon, “Today” co-host Tamron Hall, Fox News Channel senior White House correspondent Ed Henry, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, Fox News Channel “Media Buzz” host Howard Kurtz, Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer, Fox News Channel’s Peter Doocy, Fox News Channel’s Jennifer Griffin, CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, Fox News Channel’s Monica Crowley, CNN White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski and Fox News Channel’s Bill Hemmer.
Jesse Byrnes contributed.
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- Updated at 6:44 a.m.