Celebri-spiral™: Enough Already

Our culture is in a celebri-spiral. We're conflicted over our ridiculous, growing celebrity culture consumption via magazines, websites, and TV shows. In 2007, my love/hate conflict made me take to the blog-o-sphere. All writing on this site © Dave Singleton 2009.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

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.
There's not much doubt that the brunch was more fun than the dinner itself, and not as charged. As I wrote in an earlier post, events like the WHCD are inherently conflicted.

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?”

Good question.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so Miss America may have been doing serious crime fighting on her Crackberry. This just in:

Miss America Helps Cops in Sex Sting
By SEAN MURPHY, Associated Press Writer

6 hours ago

OKLAHOMA CITY - Miss America can add crime fighter to her resume. Lauren Nelson recently went undercover with police in New York for a sting targeting sexual predators. Officers with Suffolk County's computer crimes unit created an online profile of a 14-year-old girl that included photographs of Nelson as a teenager.

"I got to chat online with the predators and made phone calls, too," Nelson said by phone from Atlantic City, N.J. "The Suffolk County Police Department was there the whole time."

The operation was filmed for a segment of "America's Most Wanted" that will air Saturday on Fox. Police spokesman Tim Motz said the operation was ongoing and declined to comment Tuesday evening.

At least four men were arrested and face charges, said Avery Mann, a spokesman for the show. Another six men agreed to meet Nelson, of Lawton, Okla., he said.

Nelson, 20, posed as a young teen online and went into chat rooms, where she said men would begin sending her instant messages asking her how old she was and where she lived.

"I would say I'm a 14-year-old female from Long Island. Sometimes they would say, 'You're too young, sorry,' which is exactly what needs to happen, but some would continue chatting.

"It would only take a matter of time before it got pretty explicit."

Nelson then arranged to meet the men at a home in Long Island, where police and camera crews were waiting.

"The story was that they knew I was 14, and I told them I was cutting school to meet with them," Nelson said. "I stood outside on the porch, and I would say, 'Hi' to them and wave them inside."

Once she entered the home with the suspect, Nelson said, she left the room, and police and "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh confronted the suspect.

"That part was very scary, but the police were all over the place," Nelson said. "I was nervous, of course, but it was a very controlled environment, very safe."

Art McMaster, president and CEO of the Miss America Organization, said he initially was hesitant about Nelson participating in the sting, but agreed after speaking with Nelson's father and the producers of "America's Most Wanted."

"We came to the agreement that as long as she was safe and wanted to do this, we'd be behind her," McMaster said.

Nelson, whose platform issue is Internet safety for children, said she was eager to participate.

"As many as we caught on that day, there are a lot more out there," she said. "It's nice to know that they were chatting with police officers and me rather than a 14- or 15-year-old girl."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 9:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just saw Miss America on TV talking about her predator traps! She was probably Crackberrying some perv while talking to you.

Thursday, April 26, 2007 11:24:00 AM  

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