“I feel about Washington the way my mother used to feel about me. She used to tell me: ‘I love you, I just hate the things you do,’” said David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s senior advisor.
It was Friday night on the rooftop at the W Hotel, at The New Yorker‘s first-ever party on the White House Correspondents Dinner weekend. Though The New York Times made a big stink two years ago about how it didn’t want anything to do with the dinner, this other venerable institution did not follow its lead. With Obama’s second year under way, and with David Remnick’s Obama book out, here was The New Yorker making itself a very visible part of the circus.
“I’m sorry! Did I cut you in line?” said Gayle King, Oprah’s best friend, to an Observer reporter at the bar.
“Do you want to meet Tony Romo?” Mr. Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, said in a hoarse voice to The Observer.
Rosario Dawson and Judd Apatow mingled with the likes of Jeffrey Toobin and Sy Hersh. Legal scholar Cass Sunstein literally swept Samantha Power off her feet until Mr. Sunstein lost his balance.
“I’m sorry!” said Ms. Power, as she nearly fell into Mr. Remnick.
Mr. Sunstein tried again and cradled Ms. Power, successfully. She laughed long and hard as they went toward the elevators.
“I can’t call him. I’m too nervous. I have his number, but I’m too nervous to call him,” Mr. Axelrod was saying nearby.
Who exactly was he too nervous to call, we asked?
“Sandy Koufax,” he said.
While we chatted with Mr. Axelrod, person after person came up to say hello.
“This is Carl Hulse of The New York Times, a friend of Rahm’s, and a friend of mine,” said Mr. Axelrod.
“Washington is a fucked-up town,” said Zach Galifianakis, the actor. “It’s a very odd existence, this hobnobbing and rubbing of shoulders. It’s kind of how TV shows are made.”
Kal Penn approached Mr. Galifianakis to ask if he’d be going to an after-party. A woman with Ms. Penn pointed at The Observer‘s tape recorder.
“Isn’t this an off-the-record party?” she said. “I see his recorder is on. I think it’s an off-the-record party.”
“It started out as a party,” said New Republic editor Franklin Foer to The Observer, discussing the spectacle that this weekend has become. “And then it became a party plus an after-party. And then it became a party plus an after-party plus a pre-party.”
Say, Mr. Remnick, why is The New Yorker having one of these pre-parties anyway?
“It’s no secret that magazines once in a while want to raise their head up for promotional reasons,” he said. “And there are times when you, as an editor, would love it to be some long-ago age when maybe just editing was enough when business is concerned.
“We don’t do much of it,” he continued. “It’s at the impetus of the business department.”
The fact that The New Yorker was even having a party was a topic of interest for the media set.
“I’m surprised [The New Yorker] is spending any money on it,” said Atlantic senior editor Corby Kummer. “It’s not like The New Yorker.”
Mr. Kummer was speaking to James Bennet, the Atlantic editor, hours earlier at Atlantic owner David Bradley’s house, where yet another pre-party was held.
“To spend money on a party?” said Mr. Bennet.
“Yeah,” said Mr. Kummer. “The New Yorker is trying to muscle in on the Atlantic territory. That’s the only reason anyone would do such a thing.”
Mr. Bennet and Mr. Kummer, along with several dozen people, were coming in from the driveway. In the past, Mr. Bradley has opened up his beautiful house near the Naval Observatory for parties like this one. But this time, the attendees crammed into a tiny front yard and a driveway, alongside two Audis. The sponsorship deal seemed obvious enough. We asked Mr. Bennet if the Correspondents Dinner—always a packed and crazy affair—seemed a little more insane this year.
“I was invited to a couple of places where I was told to bring the invitation, which actually is a change,” he said.
In previous years, parties on this weekend were free-for-alls. This year, clipboards were out, and lists were checked. IDs were asked for. There were threats all weekend of “off the record” parties. The New Yorker party, supposedly, was one of them. And then—of all places—the off-the-record threat hung over Tammy Haddad’s pre-dinner brunch.
“Everything under the tent is off limits,” warned an official guarding “press passes” to Ms. Haddad’s event.
Among reporters, there was a rumor circulating that Ms. Haddad wanted to put all reporters in a bullpen, away from the party.