A ‘Cooler’ Place: Democratic Brokers Hail Obama’s Washington

WASHINGTON–The festivities have started early.

Even as young couples and groups of bleary-eyed friends emerged from the Dupont Circle metro stop with rolled up sleeping bags tied to their backpacks in preparation for the week-long party surrounding Barack Obama’s swearing in, black sedans and cabs began depositing some of the town’s powerbrokers at the nearby Fairfax Hotel on Massachusetts Avenue on Friday evening for a “Musical Celebration of the Inauguration.”

Sponsored by Washington Life magazine, whose latest edition amounts to a who’s who in the new Obama administration (“Collector’s Edition: Obamaland”) the party featured Nancy Pelosi, John Podesta and Warren Haynes, most famously of the Allman Brothers but also a regular performer with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead. But there were also heat-lamp-lighted food stations where men in tall, cylindrical white hats offered slabs of beef or racks of lamb with pin noir jus, or salmon in a lemon mignonette sauce. Purple lights projected slow-moving lava-lamp bubbles on the ceiling and crystal chandeliers, under which balding Washington powerbrokers accompanied by women with quaffed or frosted hair talked with balding, middle-aged rockers who wore what hair they had left in dreadlocks.

On a small stage between two heavily trafficked open bars, Soroush Richard Shehabi, the magazine’s CEO, introduced, at some length, the evening’s special guests. In the middle of his thanking of many, many people, whispered comments and conversations began percolating in the crowd. That murmur grew to pre-presentation levels after he put on his “policy wonk” hat and started talking about “our film about transforming the lives of homeless people.”

“Folks, just give me a second,” he said. “One second please.”

With the attention of the crowd regained, Shehabi started introducing Podesta. The lights on the stage turned the curtain behind him to a hunter green that seemed to be made from the same material as the floor-length skirt worn by Arianna Huffington, who floated around the room delivering whispers. The columnist E.J. Dionne bit into a dinner roll.

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