By Danielle O'Steen Posted April 28, 2008, 5:59 PM EDT
Bloomberg L.P.'s Saturday-night White House Correspondents Association dinner party—arguably the second-most coveted after-party in town, after Vanity Fair's shindig—had one thing nailed down this year: the element of surprise. With all parties involved sworn to secrecy in the weeks leading up to the event, the 950 guests (up from last year’s 500, and wrangled by Tammy Haddad and Margaret Carlson) barely knew what to expect.
Headed by Bloomberg event planners Raquel Tudela and Mia Sakai, along with C.E.O. Lex Fenwick, the party filled up a series of tents (all raised 12 feet off the ground) around the Costa Rican embassy. One major hiccup was the pouring rain that began just before the doors opened, causing the temporary setup to become riddled with leaks. Though planners scrambled to fix the problem, by opening time a few drippy spots, patches of soaked carpet, and a dozen or so water-catching trash cans lingered—and much of the postparty chatter and news coverage questioned its choice of location.
The red-carpet entrance featured a large hanging crystal globe (rumored to be worth $32,000) and connected to a series of long and winding hallways, lit only by staggered pink neon lights, with echoing chants from Gregorian monks piped in. The hallways spilled into a pristine white room—complete with a wood frame roof and 23-foot ceilings—where DJ Jeffrey Tonnesen from New York mixed the chants with contemporary artists like Aphex Twin and Cornelius.
A hollow rectangular bar was the focal point of the front room, placed prominently in the center of the space and manned by a flurry of staffers from New York-based Model Bartenders (one of three sets of waiters hired for the evening). Modern details set a minimalist tone for the space, with white bleachers topped with maroon velvet cushions covering one wall, creating an instant peanut gallery once the room filled up.
Another area in the front room featured three giant LED screens, depicting American paintings, including Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. Throughout the evening, the wall morphed into a performance space for actors dressed as if taken directly from the painting. “The entertainers were meant to be characters who could have stepped out of those paintings, bringing the art to life,” Bloomberg spokesperson Judith Czelusniak explained in an email after the party. “Except for the Space-Age hostesses, that is,” she added, referring to the women dressed in skimpy space-age purple getups (or, “porn-stewardess costumes,” as Reliable Source described them). “They traveled here from Mars just to attend the Bloomberg party.”
To add another interactive element, two guests at a time could go behind the LED screen to watch the actors perform. Behind Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's Crossing the Delaware, for example, actors re-enacted the painting with a boat, lighting effects, and rain.
Another dark hallway—this one equipped with closed-circuit cameras that spied on the hopefuls waiting in line outside in the rain—opened up into a 1940s-era lounge. Sakai and Tudela designed the space, which they envisioned as part Casablanca, part bachelor pad. Brown velvet banquettes, green wood-grain walls, scattered Oriental rugs on black-and-white-tiled floors, and an eclectic mix of antique leather and upholstered seating accented the room, with a soundtrack by Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
Passed hors d’oeuvres from Design Cuisine Caterers featured a twist on some American classics, including hollow fried potatoes, mini petite filet sandwiches with hollandaise sauce, and mini brownies and half chocolate donuts for dessert.
Celebrities such as Pamela Anderson (who arrived on Senator John McCain’s Straight Talk Express bus with Cindy McCain) and Rupert Everett were present, as were Donatella Versace and Eric Dane. Though not every celebrity made the cut—according to Reliable Source, a rain-soaked Colin Firth and his wife left after they proved to be unrecognizable to the door staff.
Like last year, the fancy restrooms didn't disappoint (though many guests seemed tasked to find them). Cloaked in a pink tent, the unisex Porta Potties featured orange walls, tons of mirrors, and a retro checkered floor.