Every time I run into a celebrity, which is not very often, I am struck by how physically small he or she is. Maybe it’s because I sometimes get caught up in that celebrity-worship culture– People magazine, E! News, the Academy Awards– which glorifies them to the point where you expect them to tower over you with vampire-like glittering skin if you ever meet them in person. Then you see them and they’re, like, small and frail-looking, and always wearing too much makeup and hairspray.
Saturday was the White House Correspondents Dinner, or, as the media calls it, “Nerd Prom.” It’s basically a big circle-jerk in which journalists, politicians and celebrities get together to reassure each other of how big and important they are. I didn’t get invited to the actual dinner, where one of my co-workers was seated at a table next to Scarlett Johansson (pictured above), because I am definitely not important enough for all that. But I did score an invitation to the ABC News pre-party at the Hilton. I thought this was pretty cool, since I had never been invited to anything like this before, so I dragged my poor boyfriend out of the library where he was studying for his law school exams and forced him to put on a suit and walk the red carpet with me.
When I say there was a red carpet, I mean that literally. We walked past throngs of spectators and photographers on an actual red carpet to get to this random news party in an ugly, nondescript conference room filled with politicians and celebrities in formal attire. And cheese trays.
My boyfriend grew up in NYC with a mother who works in media, so he has been to the actual Correspondents Dinner before, has been dragged to tons of similar events in the past, and isn’t really impressed by the scene at all. But he was a very good sport about it, because I grew up in Opelousas, Louisiana, and can think of nothing cooler than reaching for a cube of cheese and bumping elbows with that secretary chick from Mad Men.
So the evening went like this:
Me: Omigod, is that Cynthia Nixon from Sex and the City?! She looks so small!
Him (mildly amused): Look, that’s Rahm Emanuel over there talking to the Attorney General.
Me: Oh neat. Omigod, is that Ashley Judd?
Him: Look, George Stephanopoulos, six o’clock.
Him: Look down.
Me (standing on my tiptoes so I can look straight down into the crowd): Oh, there he is. Whoa, he’s a dwarf.
Him: Yea, he’s teeny.
Me: Hey, who’s that tall chick? Is that Kathryn Bigelow?
Him: I don’t know.
Me: Omigod, Katie Couric just touched my arm.
Sen. Scott Brown (stuffing his face with cheese): You guys look great tonight, you having fun?
Him (nodding politely): Senator.
Me: Omigod, Scott Brown just touched my arm!
Him: …cool babe. Wanna get outta here and get some sushi?
Admittedly, while it was briefly cool to play “Spot the Celeb,” I was really unimpressed by them as a whole. The only person I saw who was actually more beautiful in person than I expected was Rosario Dawson, who is just stunning. The rest of them looked like normal people who had been chipped away at by a team of beauty professionals all day. They looked uncomfortable, and they couldn’t walk two feet without somebody trying to take a picture with them.
My point is, I think it’s really grounding to go to an event like this every once in a while. I got to leave the party in anonymity, kick my shoes off and walk home barefoot when I got tired. They had a gaggle of fans and photographers everywhere they went, and no matter how uncomfortable or bored they got, they had to keep up this appearance of being fabulous and fun. Many of them can’t go anywhere without a “security team,” and they are forced to make small talk with every non-genuine kiss-ass who approaches them. The whole thing just seems exhausting, doesn’t it?