The White House Correspondent's dinner this past weekend was amazing. If you took the Oscars, the Grammys, a convention of the MSM's pundits and anchors AND Obama's inauguration it would basically describe the crowd. I was honored to be there, invited by my friend and a true LGBT community treasure, journalist Ellen Ratner. Here are some random thoughts and observations, since so much has already been said.
While walking into the pre-reception with my friend another great LGBT community member, Dr. Jack Drescher, I told him my picture policy: people I respect. That means out LGBT people only and our allies. It was a but overwhelming to see Sting, Rev. Al Sharpton, Whoopi Goldberg, Keith Olbermann, Bill O'Reilly and Bon Jovi on one area, surreal almost. I have been around plenty of celebrity wattage but this was a blinding experience. It was great to see some of our communities best and brightest - Phil Wilson, Deb Price and her wife Joyce Murdoch, Jonathan Capehart - the crowd (as insanely filled with politicians, journalists and celebs that is was) really looked like America.
First stop was the Newsweek pre-reception. I got to meet Jon Meacham, who is an incredible journalist and works for a publication that respects our community and cover it well. I got my picture taken. Then on to a few other pre-receptions. Best pre-dinner moment was thanking George Lukas at the CNN reception that he made my adolescence much more bearable and one of my best memories was seeing Star Wars with my Dad after standing on line for hours. They had CNN live on the screens and nobody knew who the hell was on air - they were all at the dinner! And Keith Olbermann is ten feet tall, I had no idea. I also got to chat with George Stephanopoulus, who I love and who interviewed me on Good Morning America about Anne Heche (it's on youtube), which resulted in my reconnecting with Leah. So him I owe big time, and I let him know it.
The dinner itself? Well, like every Obama-focused event it was running very late (for those watching C-SPAN is was excruciating I was told), but the good thing is that there is no program during the actual meal to you can schmooze. Which I did. Had a great conversation with DC City Council Jack Evans about marriage equality. Had a different kind of conversation with local anchor Doug McElway about his attacking my friend and activist Mike Rogers on his show last week. Took some close-up shots of Barack, Helen Thomas (another hero) and then, out of the corner of my eye, spied Mariska Hargitay. Met her once at the GLAAD awards and I am a huge fan. Said hello, chatted a bit - she is a gracious, smart ally to our community - and then asked for a picture. I have lost many Facebook friends since, but it was worth it.
Finally, the program began and it was like riding a roller coaster. The President was hilarious and has a good back-up job if this current one doesn't work out. I'm not saying he was Jon Stewart, but he was damn funny. He even made that joke about Iowa and marriage. This was bittersweet. He delivered that line with more conviction and clarity than his comms people do when asked about marriage equality, so we laughed and then sighed. Ironically, the openly lesbian comic did not make ONE gay-related joke. Personally, I think Wanda Sykes could have come up with something to take a huge chink out of the new mythology that African-American people are inherently more homophobic.
But I will say when she made the joke about waterboarding my table was tempted to go a few tables over and grab Alberto Gonzales and a glass of water and make a point. We behaved.
All in all, it was an excredible experience, it is not often that you see the most powerful people on our government have to walk around the press like because the kid from iCarly is getting her picture taken.