Forget Obama, we're hoping to see Gossip Boys
At the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner -- the "nerd prom" -- Hollywood celebrities mix with the politically powerful.
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The black-tie event is, strictly speaking, a fundraiser for journalism scholarships and a chance to honor reporters for their work. But we all know what’s really going on. It’s the one chance all year that Washington -- affectionately known as Hollywood for ugly people -- gets to rub shoulders with real Hollywood.
This year, with certified celebrities of our own occupying the White House, the anticipation has never been higher. The stars are coming out in force, and Barack and Michelle Obama are obliging by showing up (after skipping the Gridiron press dinner in March). The president will do a standup, and maybe show a video, and Mrs. Obama will present the scholarships.
For weeks, breathless reports have been pouring in on who’s coming -- Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, Eva Longoria Parker, Tyra Banks, Jon Bon Jovi, and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, to name a few.
Stand-up comedian and actress Wanda Sykes will perform. Real life heroes -- Capt. Richard Phillips and Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger -- will be there. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was going to come, but flooding is keeping her at home, so husband Todd is taking her place. The list goes on and on. Some news organizations, mainly the TV networks, work really hard to snag the most glamorous or newsworthy guests.
News industry in financial free-fall? Indeed, some papers have cut back on the $200-a-pop tickets. But demand for the 2,000 tickets is unprecedented, the organizers say.
In another bow to the economy, the WHCA is giving away more scholarship money than ever, $130,000. It’s also skipping dessert -- no chocolate mousse! -- and is instead making a donation of $23,000 to the organization So Others Might Eat, which helps the homeless.
Then there are the critics, who believe the dinner is all about inappropriate schmoozing between the media and the government figures they cover, and has turned into a grotesque display of slobbering over the beautiful and famous. Indeed, The New York Times doesn’t come to this and other press dinners anymore.