Outside the French ambassador’s home the people of Washington, D.C., mobbed John Legend as if the city had never before seen a star. David Arquette walked out of the gates and met bunches of fans clutching outdated head shots and fresh sharpies. David Byrne emerged, and a man broke into a sprint, holding in his grip Speaking in Tongues, the Talking Heads record, hoping the singer would sign it.
With the erasure of Osama bin Laden hours away, D.C. fixated itself on this slight glimpse of fame—it was nighttime and the end of the weekend of the White House Correspondents Dinner.
“Bristol Palin!” Wolf Blitzer said to The Observer as they both leaned against the cracked marble bar-top. People and Time had wrapped the ceremonial first party of the weekend, long forewarned to be the last chance to experience something other than drunkenness or pre-brunch hangover.
When approached earlier, Ms. Palin refused to talk about two things: whom she wanted to meet at the dinner, and the president’s birth certificate.
“Is she still here?” Mr. Blitzer asked.
“I’m looking for celebrities but I’m really bad at spotting them,” he said. “National-security-type figures, foreign leaders, yes. Celebrities, I’m not particularly good at. But I’ll find some.”
Over at the W for The New Yorker’s party, David Remnick stood looking out the window next to Sean Penn, a contributor to the Huffington Post.
“Evidently, that’s the Treasury Building,” Mr. Penn said. He was pointing to the building draped in yellow glow that houses the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The Washington Monument shot up behind it.
“David Remnick is a fantastic writer,” Jon Hamm told The Observer.
Standing by the sushi platters, the man who plays Don Draper pointed to The Observer’s tweed jacket. The Observer glanced down at his sleeves and fraying elbow patches.
“That Rag & Bone?” the actor asked.
The reporter had purchased the item for a few dollars at a thrift store in the South.
“No,” he said.
“Shit’s great, man,” Mr. Hamm said.
Next was a party co-hosted by The Atlantic and that magazine’s peer institution, the Web site Funny or Die.
ON SATURDAY THE CORRIDOR beneath the Washington Hilton stuffed a publication in each of its identical rooms. A tired Samantha Ronson spun at Reuters, purply-eyed, headed back to New York after. Andy Samberg posted up at the bar at CNN. Arianna Huffington kissed friends on the cheek. Tina Brown and her handlers beelined toward the dinner, her bob of porcelain hair glossy as ever. CNBC’s Jim Cramer tried to pluck a beer from a bar after closing time and went Mad Money on the man slinging drinks at the Reuters booze kiosk until he relented.
Mayor Bloomberg lingered near Steve Buscemi.
“What’s the main difference between Washington and our city?” The Observer asked.
“Talk to Stu Loeser, my press secretary!” the mayor yelled back at him. “What part of that don’t you understand?”
The Observer smiled and, upon recognizing that sneer, missed New York City.
Mr. Blitzer had apparently learned how to spot celebrities.
“Oh, Wolf’s my date,” said Mila Kunis. “He’s showing me around.”
He had other fans, too.
“I hear that Wolf Blitzer is somewhere around,” Scarlett Johansson told The Observer. “I would really love to meet him.”
But Ms. Johansson was taken. The Washington press corps had been abuzz over the rumors that she’s dating Mr. Penn, an occasional freelancer for The Nation.
At a party hosted by MSNBC, The Observer had Rachel Maddow mix a French 75, went to the Johnnie Walker Cigar Tent for whiskey and a smoke and saw Elliot Spitzer walk in. Then he left to watch the autograph seekers at the enormous mansion.
The next morning, The Observer woke needing coffee and walked five blocks, a long search for something omnipresent in his home city, but soon found a cup and a Sunday Times. A man he’d seen just hours before exited the Hilton, slowed down and politely approached. He knew this man: thin cheeks warped inward like old balsawood, oversize head, live-wire shock of white hair.
Then came a question that has never been uttered in New York.
“Where did you manage to find that coffee?” the Talking Heads singer said.
Mr. Byrne, you were always right. Home is where I want to be.
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