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January 19, 2009

Hollywood Basks in Obama's Glow

Bono Spago’s must be empty. Hollywood has decamped to Washington.

So many A-list celebrities are in town for the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama that the Washington Post predicted red-carpet gridlock.
One event – the “We Are One” concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Sunday afternoon – drew so many stars that it was hard to pick a headliner. Bruce Springsteen. Bono. Stevie Wonder. Mary J. Blige. will.i.am. Josh Groban. Sheryl Crow. And those were just the musical folks. In speaking roles: Tom Hanks. Queen Latifah. Tiger Woods. Denzel Washington. Jamie Foxx. With Lincoln looking on, in the place where both Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and singer Marian Anderson made history, Beyonce led the crowd 500,000 in a moving rendition of “America the Beatiful.”
For tourists, seeing the celebrities takes a roadmap, and good walking shoes. Oprah is in town to tape her TV show, at the Kennedy Center Monday, where Aretha Franklin is also doing a free concert Monday. Jay-Z is playing “in concert on the eve of change” at the Warner Theater Monday. Dionne Warwick and Ludicrus are doing their own concerts at the Marriott Wardman in NW, where names like Diana Ross and Mohammed Ali were among the record 1,000 guests who checked in Saturday.
Wyclef Jean performs at the Green Inaugural Ball hosted by former Vice President Al Gore at the Mellon Auditorium. Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez and Tony Palana appeared at a Union Station Latina party and Spike Lee, Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Tucker headlined the “Root Ball” at the National Museum of American History. At the Ritz Carlton in the West End, LA’s Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, stars of the political stripe, attended the hot-ticket FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) Inaugural Fashion Show. The Creative Coalition, a social and political advocacy group founded in 1989 by Alec Baldwin, Christopher Reeve and Susan Sarandon, is hosing a $10,000-per-person, Hollywood-heavy inaugural ball Tuesday night at the new Harman Center. Not to be outdone, Arianna Huffington, doyenne of new media and no stranger to Washington as the former spouse of a former congressman, is throwing a huge bash at the Newseum Tuesday night bursting with marquee names, including Halle Berry, Ed Harris and Ron Howard.
During the presidential campaign, John McCain famously said that Barack Obama was a celebrity akin to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Hilton responded that she was “like, so ready to lead.” McCain’s jab was meant as an insult. But this week the comment looks prophetic.
Past presidents attracted a Hollywood crowd. Ronald Reagan, former president of the Screen Actors Guild, brought one with him. Bill Clinton gave celebrities the Lincoln bedroom, and made LA his favorite stop.
But Barack Obama is a game-changer in the history of politics and Hollywood. This time, it’s the celebrities who bask in his glamour, not the other way around. “This is our Olympics,” said Colleen Evans, a long-time observer of the Washington social scene who works for Marriott. “Only this time it will be a lot more star-studded than ever before.”
                                                                          - By Johanna Neuman


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