April 22, 2007: Saturday Brunch with Tammy and the Stars
Dynamic Tammy Haddad, producer for the Chris Matthew Hardball show, and David Adler, my old friend and founder of the burgeoning BizBash empire, threw a 10th annual brunch before the White House Correspondents Dinner.
The backdrop was a sea of actors and news/entertainment figures like Ann Curry, David Gregory, Tim Daly, and Kerry Washington. It was a great time, but surreal, which is also the best way to describe the dinner itself. Politicos, Media, and Celebrities (in the very broadest use of the word) converge on the Washington Hilton to mix, mingle, see the President, and basically roast the town.
Some of the highlights:
- Standing in line for the bathroom with Miss America and her grandmotherly handler, who made a point of saying to me, "Hi, who are you? What do you do?" As soon as I responded, she said in the loudest voice I have heard in years, "Meet Miss America!" I shook Miss A.'s lovely, well-manicured hand, asked her a scintillating and unique question ("What are you enjoying most about your travels?"), and listened to her response, which centered around helping needy kids through the Children's Miracle Network. Duh. Did you think she'd say, "Hanging at Lindsay's cribs and kicking it with hot soap opera studs?" I watched this same pattern repeat as Miss A. circled the buffet line, trying to eat in peace and secretly play with her Crackberry as she deflected typical beauty-contestant-banal questions.
- Reconnecting with David, who I've known for twenty years, since we ran around Washington together after I graduated from UVA.
- Asking the very charming and gracious Tiki Barber how the first week of his new job as Today Show correspondent went, given that he spent it covering the Virginia Tech shootings. His responses were what you'd expect, but hearing them firsthand was bizarre. I kept thinking that I should stand back to take him in better, as I would from a TV.
- Talking with David's father, Warren Adler, a sharp, prolific writer of 29 books including The War of the Roses. It was fun hearing him expound on publishing, current trends, and how fickle an industry it is.
Of course, I wanted to ask some of the news stars if events like the White House correspondents dinner feel strange; maybe too much mixing and mingling that cuts into the doggedness with which they are entrusted to pursue important political stories? But I didn't. The brunch was a great party of mostly media reconnecting, not intersecting with the political subjects they cover. So the balance was much different than the dinner.
I heard from friends who attended that emcee Rich Little wasn't funny. But honestly, it's just not a funny time in America right now. Last year, Stephen Colbert's skewering was too close to home, literally, with the President a few feet away scowling at The Daily Show star as he ripped in W's administration. This year, Rich played it safe, and it sounds like it was appropriate, which, of course, bores the audience to tears.
In true celebri-spiral fashion, the major press of this dinner is always reserved for the timeliest celebrity, which as we all know, has nothing to do with cultural contribution, art, or anything else of note. This year, in a crowd that included Jane Fonda, Teri Hatcher, James Denton, and a few others, recent American Idol castoff Sanjaya stole the spotlight, much like Ozzy Osbourne did in 2002, the last time I attended.
According to The Hill's fun recap, even veteran photogs grappled with this one as the off key 17-year-old was swarmed by flash bulbs at the Time magazine party:
A man who has just taken his picture remarks, “It’s retarded. Why am I getting a picture of this guy?”