Hollywood Meets Washington at Correspondents’ Dinner


(courtesy: ndn)

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — Hollywood met Washington Saturday at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

As celebrities mixed and mingled with Washington’s elite and powerful, it was tough to figure who was more in awe of whom — but in the early running, Hollywood seemed pretty awestruck with Washington.

**See photos of some of the guests on the red carpet at the bottom of this page**

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer squired actress Diane Lane to the event.

Asked which has the most fascination for the other, Lane did not hesitate to answer.

“I would say Hollywood with the political world, certainly lately,” Lane told CNN during a red carpet interview. “It’s just a free-for-all in terms of being inspired,” she continued, “there’s so much controversy (in Washington) all the time. So it’s a lot to cook with in the kitchen of Hollywood.”

For his part, Blitzer said, “I love Hollywood. I love motion pictures and I love Washington. I love politics. I love everything. … I want it all.”

Like many of the celebrities attending the event, which is often referred into Washington circles as “nerd prom,” Lane confessed to being starstruck — especially with the night’s main attraction.

“I’m going to be so starstruck tonight with all of the politicians that I’m going to finally get to see in person but I’m most excited because I do believe I have an opportunity to meet Mr. and Mrs. Obama tonight so I’m just beside myself,” the actress said.

Obama aide Valerie Jarrett told CNN she’s read the President’s prepared remarks for the event but wouldn’t spill any White House secrets about the big speech on the red carpet.

“I’m not going to get ahead of him,” Jarrett said. “All I can tell you is that it’s quite amusing and, of course, he has perfect timing.”

“I can’t wait to see him deliver it,” she added.

Although the night is typically a light-hearted affair full of jokes, food, and posing for photos, discussion of serious news intruded on the red carpet.

News legend Barbara Walters spoke to CNN about her exclusive interview with V. Stiviano, the woman at the center of the racial scandal that has embroiled L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

“I think she wanted to do it,” Walters told CNN when asked how she landed a sit-down with Stiviano, “I think she wanted to be heard. I think she feels there have been a lot of bad things said about her and this was her chance to show that she was intelligent.”

“I think it was very important for her to have people know her,” Walters added, “She was wearing the visor so that people wouldn’t really see her. Now she felt that she wanted to speak up.”

The annual event, which has attracted a substantial Hollywood contingent since Bill Clinton was President in the early 1990s, is taking place this year at a time when politically themed shows — ABC’s “Scandal,” HBO’s “Veep” and Netflix’s “House of Cards” — are prevalent in popular culture.

CNN Political Commentator Ben Ferguson summed up how the annual event seemed to upend pop culture’s normal pecking order.

“This is the only place where Wolf Blitzer can actually be the hot ticket for a Hollywood star. . . This is like revenge of every guy who ever went and studied hard in college,” Ferguson said. “In what world does this happen?”

As to whether partisanship gets stirred up, S.E. Cupp of CNN’s “Crossfire” said, “Actually, tonight we’ve decided to put politics aside, laugh at our own expense, rib each other, and just have a good night.” Cupp said she would be sharing a table with her fellow co-hosts of the bipartisan political debate program. “And we’ve decided to all get along tonight,” Cupp told CNN anchor Don Lemon.

“That’s what this is all about,” CNN Political Analyst John Avlon said of the rare truce between the hosts on the left and the right of program. “There’s so much humor in politics but you wouldn’t know it because people don’t laugh at it,” said CNN Political Analyst John Avlon, “so it’s a good night for that.”

“This is Hollywood for ugly people,” Avlon added, using a familiar description Washingtonians often use to describe their city.

Cupp observed that “Hollywood and politics have this weird, symbiotic relationship.” She learned that actor Jeff Goldblum is “a huge news fanatic” who was “thrilled to be here and meeting people like us, which is weird.”

“You’ve got a lot of people in Hollywood who are political nerds,” Avlon said.

Avlon added that the relationship between Hollywood and Washington can be a good thing. “We’ve learned in recent years that when Hollywood stars decide to genuinely devote themselves to a specific cause, it can really amplify public attention and that can actually be a very powerful thing.”

Avlon said Capitol Hill hearings organized by lawmakers on important domestic or international topics may get little attention, but not when Hollywood A-listers come to Washington to testify about causes close to their hearts.

“So there is actually a constructive aspect to that cross-pollination (between Hollywood and Washington),” he said.

Also spotted on the red carpet by CNN before the dinner began: “Scandal’s” Tony Goldwyn, Scott Foley, Joe Morton, Bellamy Young and Dan Bucatinsky; Sens. Charles Schumer, D-New York, and John McCain, R-Arizona; Attorney General Eric Holder; Cynthia Nixon; Patrick Stewart; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Washington “fixer” Judy Smith; Tim Tebow; Frida Pinto; IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde; Katie Couric; Richard Marx and the Winklevoss twins. Also in attendance were CNN’s Jim Acosta, Michelle Kosinski, Dana Bash and Brianna Keilar.

The annual event is a fundraiser for “scholarships for aspiring journalists and awards recognizing excellence in the (journalism) profession,” according to the website of the White House Correspondents’ Association, the organization that sponsors the dinner.

The WHCA, which is celebrating its centennial this year, “works to maintain independent news media coverage of the president, advocating for access, handling logistics for pools of reporters who stay close to the president and those who travel with him, and providing scholarships to journalism students,” the website says. The annual dinner began in 1920.


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