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Posts Tagged ‘WHCA Dinner’

Hollywood on the Potomac- It’s NOT for the Little People

The Kardashians at the 2012 WHCA Dinner (Photo:AP)

The Kardashians at the 2012 WHCA Dinner (Photo:AP)

I vented  about this almost two years ago and there’s a growing chorus of respectable journalists like Tom Brokaw  who have vocally joined the cause.  Whatever the hell that function is that used to pass as the White House Correspondents Dinner is now so over the top, so disgusting in its opulence and crassness and such an incestuous and inappropriate coupling of the so-called independent media and those they are supposed to cover impartially- that it’s no wonder the public can’t stand either the blowhards who populate politics and Hollywood or the blowhards who cover them.

But as the Washington Post points out, the dirty little secret is that this dinner is actually about corporate interests. The celebrities are really the window dressing; the honey that attracts the corporations- i.e.- potential advertisers that populate the Washington Hilton dinner tables and after-parties as much as the so-called stars. Yes, cash-strapped news organizations that fire journalists every quarter, spend upwards of a quarter a million dollars a year without batting an eyelash in order to host a party that draws the stars that, in turn, draws the CEO’s and CFO’s and maybe, if they’re lucky, get a little money spent on banner ads and 60-second spots. There’s no way of knowing how much return there is on the investment. And no, you can’t blame media companies for trying to find funding- but this really has become an unseemly orgy of power, celebrity and money mongering.

Not that the celebrity portion of this is tasteful or measured in any way. For example, it was revealed this week that the White House Correspondent’s Association is threatening to sue a company over its use of the WHCA name to invite celebrities to its “gifting” suite on the night of the dinner. That’s right, a “gifting” suite. Bags of expensive swag only for the celebrities being invited by the various media companies. This is like the goodie bags they hand out at the Oscars. New this year and offered as yet another exhibit of the superficiality of this once fun and interesting event.

The point of this event used to be to give reporters an opportunity to invite their sources to a nice dinner where there would be humorous speeches by special guests as well as the President of the United States. It all changed in the 1980’s when then celebrity-of-the-moment, Fawn Hall, got an invite on the strength of being Oliver North’s secretary. Then the following year, Donna Rice of Gary Hart fame got an invite.  Now, media companies shell out 1st class airfare, hotel suites and cold, hard cash to get the buzziest celebs.

So as this celebration of incestuous trough feeding continues to morph into the grotesque, with Lindsey Lohan and the Kardashians supplanting the Donna Rices and Fawn Halls, let’s call this what it really is: the erection of more and more walls separating politicians, corporations, and the media from the public- the people who elect the pols, give corporations their profits and read, listen or watch the media. The little people are not welcome on this day except behind the rope lines to watch the preening on the red carpet.

The current President of the WHCA, Ed Henry of Fox News, justifies all of this decadence by pointing out that over $100,000 is raised to support needy kids hungry for scholarships. A good cause, indeed. But considering the money media companies spend to put on their parties and fly in their celebrities, really, 100K is chump change. It ought to be more like a cool million.  So here’s an idea, Ed.   For 100K, hold a friggin’ bake sale.   Hey- it’s all about the scholarships.  Right.

NOT Going to the WH Correspondents Dinner

I used to attend the White House Correspondents Association Dinner just about every year so I had some mixed emotions this year about, well- not caring anymore. I stayed home instead and made some kick-ass short ribs.

This dinner has morphed considerably through the years and from what I have read, seemed to have reached an entirely new phase last Saturday night. Officially gone now are the days when any schmuck in a tux or a schmuckette in a nice dress could simply walk into one of the dozens of news organization-sponsored pre-parties at the Washington Hilton. Now you need tickets to the pre-parties. Probably a good thing; it was getting to be an honest-to-goodness fire hazard.

I understand the roped-off area at the lower entrance to the Hilton that used to accommodate screaming fans was done away with. The pre and post party celebrations and cocktails extend for four days in what is now becoming WHCA week.

And the celebrity lists continue to grow. There have always been politically conscious Hollywood celebrities- but now all of them are making the coast-to-coast trip in their private jets. It’s the place to be seen. Ryan Seacrest, the Jonas brothers, Dennis Quaid, Ashley Judd, Queen Latifa, Michael Douglass, Justin Bieber, Jon Bon Jovi.

But the true mark of how Hollywood this dinner has become is the celebrity B-listers who have begun showing up. These are the celebrities that celebrity magazines tell us are celebrities but that we did not know were celebrities. Who ARE these people?

Gabourey Sidibe- People Magazine table
Tom Colicchio – People Magazine table
Mariska Hargitay- NBC Table
Ali Larter- Fox News table
Zach Galifianakis- Was rumored to have attended

Origins

Lore has it that everything changed for good back in the 1980’s when a journalist got inspired and invited Fawn Hall to the dinner; the attractive Oliver North aide who had just testified on Capitol Hill in the Iran-Contra scandal. Soon media organizations started competing with each other for the most scandalous guests and then the biggest celebrity guests, until the event finally became the Academy Awards-East.

Along the way, the Gridiron dinner pretty much died and the other big dinner which actually used to be at least as prestigious- the Radio Television Correspondents dinner- is now an after-thought.

Things change. The first fence was not installed at the White House until around 1900 when Teddy Roosevelt was President. And even then it was only about a foot high. Regular people used to actually picnic on the White House grounds. Now, of course, if you manage to get on the North Lawn with a picnic basket, you’ll be shot and killed.

So the White House Correspondent dinners I remember with the one-foot high fence around them are gone; really gone, gone.

There are reportedly members of the White House Press corps who look at this annual and growing celebrity invasion with a sense of alarm and are beginning to seriously wonder if the thing has gotten completely out of control. It certainly has a life of its own.

I think it’s here to stay. This is a celebrity-based culture and our President is a celebrity and the White House reporters who cover him are celebrities and Washington and Hollywood are now breeding and this is the baby that has been born.

Short Ribs

So while others drank and ogled and laughed at comedy delivered by Barack Obama and Jay Leno but written by ghost-writers; as people in tuxedos and formal dresses schemed to crash this after-party or that after-party- I cooked my first short ribs ever. They were awesome! I couldn’t believe I actually pulled that off. After roasting them slightly, you just let them sit in a a couple of cups of water or red wine and let them simmer slowly- like for an hour and a half.

The leftovers lasted right until Monday night when I finally got to You Tube and watched Obama and Leno tell their jokes. They were alright. But nowhere near as succulent as those short ribs.