Curse of the D.C. Swamp Creatures

The crowd cheered for that loud and long.

“Pretty harsh!” said James Bennett, editor of The Atlantic and formerly a Washington reporter for The Times. “I was a little surprised by the applause. Yeah. I actually looked around—it was one of those cases where the journalists, I think, weren’t exactly applauding but the guests were. I think there was some solidarity, but?”

There was some solidarity, but it wasn’t in the room. The New Yorker hasn’t purchased a table in years. And! The Washington Post’s star reporter Dana Milbank had said at Tammy Haddad’s brunch that he’d be delivering a speech on “the sad decline of the smoke-filled room” at a cigar party in Virginia rather than attend the dinner.

So there.

“In the final year of a second-term president, there isn’t much buzz,” said Time’s managing editor, Rick Stengel, who did attend. Has it lost its buzz entirely? “A little bit,” he said. “I don’t know—you decide.”

O.K., we will. The Hills stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt stayed for the whole dinner, and the pimp, Dennis Hof, was right there again. More clients here, he said, than back at Tammy’s. Mr. Hof said he road-tests each member of his staff. So there were connections.

Larry King sneezed, and snot flew. Mr. Corn left in a Mercedes with Ms. Fairchild. When asked about her expertise on the Iraq war, Ms. Fairchild said, “I don’t know if I’m an expert, but I certainly have an interest.” She shut the door to one side of the car; Mr. Corn hopped in the other. “That’s about all you’re ever gonna get from Morgan Fairchild,” said Mr. Corn knowingly.

At least someone was thinking about the war.

 

“IT’S NOT JUST a swan song for Bush,” said MSNBC’s David Shuster. “Because of the cutbacks and because of all the investment in politics, after the election time, it’s going to be a bad hangover. The media is going to have to take a cold shower. So I think everybody is enjoying the party and enjoying the fact that you have a job now while it lasts. Because starting with the new administration, lord knows what the news business is going to look like.”

Mr. Shuster was standing with his wife, Julianna Goldman, at the Bloomberg LP after-party. In her capacity as a political reporter with Bloomberg News, Ms. Goldman said she had done her part of filling up the acreage of tables at the dinner. Her date for the night had been celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, who was crammed into an all-Diesel outfit. (“Salman Rushdie came over to say hi too. WTF????” Perez would later recount on his blog.)

The rain outside was leaking in, inside the mazy, just-constructed hallways of the Bloomberg after-party, at the Costa Rican embassy. Drip! “Right into my tits!” said CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

“Good night, Christiane!” said Tammy Haddad.

“I did have a conversation with Pete Wentz from Fallout Boy?” said Glamour editor Cindi Leive, her first year at the dinner, speaking of Ashlee Simpson’s date. “You know when you go to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, you’re thinking Newt Gingrich, Ralph Reed, Pete Wentz from Fallout Boy. But he was really nice,” she said. “He was attracted to my range of vision ’cause he wanted to talk to Padma Lakshmi, because apparently he watches her show and he’s learned a lot about reductions from it.”

“It’s an odd combination of C-Span meets Entertainment Tonight,” said Newsweek editor Jon Meacham.

Around 1 a.m,, Condé Nast group president David Carey and Portfolio’s publisher William Li and writers Dana Thomas and Matt Cooper were out back in the smoking area. “All right, ready to go to the Hitch?” Mr. Cooper asked a liquor lobbyist.

Olivia Wilde, looking much less tan and blond and Californian than in her days playing Alex Kelly on The O.C., stood by the bar, which was manned by about a dozen New York boy models. Salman Rushdie hovered a foot or so away, looking on with lust. Ms. Wilde is the daughter of political journalists Leslie and Andrew Cockburn. She said that back in the day, as a young lass, her parents had dragged her to all the Christopher Hitchens parties and the like. Now, she was returning as a Hollywood starlet, no longer the youngest person in the room.

Mr. Rushdie inched in closer. Who was the most interesting person he had met at the party? “Why, this girl right here,” he said, draping his arm around Ms. Wilde’s waist.

What did Ms. Wilde and Mr. Rushdie think of the current crop of White House correspondents? Did they have a favorite? “No,” said Mr. Rushdie.

“Sad, isn’t it?” said Ms. Wilde. She excused herself to have a word with Kal Penn.

“Candy Crowley,” Mr. Rushdie ventured belatedly. He said he had once been a guest alongside CNN’s Ms. Crowley on Bill Maher’s show. Candy Crowley is
good!

Curse of the D.C. Swamp Creatures