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Saturday night marked the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner—often referred to as “Washington’s Prom”—where D.C. met Hollywood and celebrities rubbed shoulders with politicos while bouncing between the various media-sponsored events. Near the top of the list was Capitol File’s fourth annual dinner after-party, which kicked off at 10 p.m. at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and fought for the attention of the evening’s A-listers.
“The most important decor for the White House Correspondents' dinner after-party is who’s in the room,” said Jayne Sandman, Capitol File’s former associate publisher, who now runs her own event company, Brand Matters. “We were looking for elegant but clean and simple. Being at the Corcoran, you already have this great white marble and this gorgeous backdrop in this regal setting.”
Sandman, who worked with André Wells (for the third year) on the decor, took a cue from the museum’s first-floor orange walls and flooded the space with orange lighting and drapery. Standing tables and low, square lounge sofas topped with orange and white pillows dotted the venue’s perimeter, allowing room for the 600 guests. “This has become a very popular party and the attendance has risen,” said Wells. “So we were moving out furniture at the last minute to adapt to the space. When you’re working with a museum like this, you have to be careful about positioning certain things.”
Sandman and Wells carefully blocked the museum’s front entrance with Capitol File branding, forcing celebrities to wade through the pool of photographers and the step-and-repeat. The positioning allowed guests full view of Owen Wilson, Padma Lakshmi, Eva Longoria Parker (with two huge bodyguards), dinner M.C. Wanda Sykes, and other stars as they arrived. On the second floor, in the maroon velvet-draped Qatar Airways lounge (complete with flight attendants serving dates on silver platters), White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was seen chatting with Christian Slater in one of several roped-off V.I.P. areas.
The planners also made sure two banquet tables filled with dessert offerings were easily accessible, as the White House Correspondents' Association excluded dessert from this year’s dinner. “Normally we set up a pretty even mix between savory and sweet, but we made a concerted effort to up the desserts and put them very close to the door so when guests first walked in they were greeted with desserts,” said Sandman.
Highlights from Occasions Caterers' menu included chocolate mousse in glass flutes with candied orange peel and a chocolate straw, passion fruit and raspberry tartlets, bite-sized lemon cheesecakes, and a New Orleans-style bananas foster station. For those seeking savories, staffers also passed Maker's Mark- and pineapple-glazed shrimps, olive and goat cheese beignets, and fava bean, English pea and pecorino crostini.
Occasions incorporated Maker’s Mark bourbon into the eats to pair with the liquor sponsor’s designated bars around the event. Six stations touted six local bartenders offering original bourbon concoctions. Brian Zipin of Central Michel Richard put forth a Maker’s Mark citrus Manhattan, while Gina Chersevani of PS 7's whipped up the frothy, strawberry-tinged No Cone Cocktail.
With cocktails in hand, most guests gravitated towards the BET-sponsored dance floor, with a glowing white DJ booth featuring DJ D-Nice and Special Surprise DJ Biz Markie, who spun hip-hop and crowd-pleasing dance favorites past 2 a.m. Even at that point, the energy was palpable.
“The new administration has fueled the excitement,” said Sandman. “And the reality is that people have been sitting for the last four hours, so when they get out of the dinner, they just want to come here and party.”