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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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In defense of this event, aside from its charitable aspect, one can certainly argue that the possibility of grabbing a little face time with top Obama aides -- hello David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel -- is worth the price of admission, especially to news organizations that don’t normally enjoy that kind of access.

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Another ethical question comes up over the issue of who news organizations treat to tickets. On Friday, Marketplace radio reported that Newsweek invited the CEO of drug company AstraZeneca, which spent $7 million on ads in the magazine last year.

“But tomorrow night he'll not only get the chance to mingle with celebrities like Natalie Portman,” said reporter Steve Henn. “He'll also get an opportunity to bend the ear of cabinet secretaries like [Treasury Secretary] Tim Geithner and Attorney General Eric Holder. And in Washington that kind of access is priceless.”

The WHCA has been holding these dinners since 1920, but the modern era of notorious invitees began in 1987, when the late Michael Kelly invited Fawn Hall, of Iran-contra document-shredding fame. The next year, Mr. Kelly invited Donna Rice, the onetime girlfriend of former senator and presidential aspirant Gary Hart.

By now, the battle for bold-face guests has become an arms race, with invitations going out even before the date of the dinner is known.

Without Sarah Palin, who was invited by Fox News, this year’s dinner will be the poorer. Maybe Alberto Gonzales, the controversial former attorney general and a guest of the Houston Chronicle, will say something worth a Tweet or two.

As for The Christian Science Monitor, we’re keeping it low-key. In recent years we haven't gone at all, but this year yours truly will be there, just to wave the flag.

We’ll be on the lookout for Axelrod and Emanuel, but my date -- my 16-year-old daughter (whose ticket is an early birthday present from her mom) -- has a different target: Ed Westwick and Chace Crawford. If you’ve ever seen the show “Gossip Girl,” you’ll know why.

Update, Sunday morning:  We did find Ed Westwick ("Chuck Bass"). He posed for pix, and then we graciously let him get back to his dinner.  No luck with Chace Crawford ("Nate Archibald").