In Pacific Standard this week, Mr. Scheinman collects a “joyously incomplete oral history” of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Some teasers, below.
Congressional Reporter, Time; Formerly Bloomberg News
One year, I think it was 2003, I was at a table with Jesse Palmer, a football player who was the forthcoming Bachelor, and Anne Kruger, the longtime No. 2 at the International Monetary Fund. Kruger clearly didn’t watch much television and had never heard of the show. It was beyond entertaining to watch Palmer try and explain the premise of the show to a woman old enough to be his mother. Kruger clearly felt that Palmer must be desperate if he was resorting to appearing on a TV show to find true love. She offered to introduce him to her two nieces.
Reuters Media Correspondent; Former Columnist and Editor, Washington City Paper
What I recall is spending most of my time with my friends and enemies from the Washington Times, a publication whose owner, convicted felon Reverend Sun Myung Moon, I tortured frequently in my press column. I introduced myself to the paper’s editor, Arnaud de Borchgrave, and his wife, and attempted a few pleasantries. Arnaud, sounding like Jeremy Irons, looked up to me—he’s an adorable 5’3″ or something—and waved slowly with the back of his hand and said, “Yes, Alexandra, do meet Jack Shafer, he fills his publication with lies,” drawing out the last word like a Bond villain.
I was never prouder of City Paper.
Reporter, Washington Post’s Weekend Section
The WHCD pre-parties often feel like a celebrity petting zoo, but that’s never been more apparent than when an animal upstaged all of the other guests. It will be hard to top the 2012 appearance of Uggie, the dog from The Artist, who walked the red carpet in a teeny little tuxedo and turned everyone’s Twitter feeds into mush.
Senior Editor, Complex
My favorite moment was when Eleanor Clift got an entire plate of room temperature butter spilled on her in the Hay Adams penthouse during some brunch we ended up at the next day. We’re not talking, like, a single pad of butter, but the Hindenberg disaster of butter. She was just staring at it in horror until someone from the catering staff came to help wipe her down. I made no attempt to hide the fact that I found this funny and told Kat [Stoeffel] if it didn’t make our piece none of this was worth it (aside from the emails she got from Bill Keller and Dean Baquet, which remain priceless). When we found out Osama bin Laden was killed that night my first thought was, “I really hope this doesn’t mean the Eleanor Clift butter thing will never be read.” Alas, the forces of good won out.
White House Correspondent
In 2004, Ben Affleck was the star guest everyone was trying to cozy up to. At the Bloomberg after party, he was holding court with a bunch of political journalists. The hour was late and much alcohol had been imbibed by all. Affleck was appalled that a couple of the journalists were not planning to vote in the 2004 election. He offered to drive them to the polls himself. The journalists declined, saying they did vote in municipal and state elections, just not on a federal level given that these were the politicians they covered every day. Affleck scoffed at the notion of impartiality: It’s easy, he said, to keep your personal and professional lives separate. Really? Replied one of the journalists, so that movie with did with Jennifer Lopez,Gigli, you managed to keep that strictly professional, huh? Affleck started to defend himself when suddenly a female voice interceded: “Mr. Affleck will no longer be answering questions tonight.” It was his publicist, who’d been standing behind him the whole time. She ushered him out of the party and that was that.
“Scenes From the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: Testimonials from two decades of D.C.’s weirdest night”: Pacific Standard (5/2/14)