WASHINGTON, D.C. Stinging from criticism it had become too focused on celebrities, this year's White House Correspondents' Association dinner and the surrounding parties rebranded to focus more on Washington personalities and philanthropy.
The actual dinner in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton featured a tweak to protocol, with President Obama walking to the podium to DJ Khaled's song “All I Do Is Win.” “How do you like my new entrance music?” Obama asked. “Rush Limbaugh warned you about this—second term, baby.” Ed Henry of Fox News, the president of the association, took on criticism that the event had lost its focus, reminding attendees that the dinner raises money for scholarships. First Lady Michelle Obama helped hand out the awards, and Henry noted that headliner Conan O'Brien donated his $10,000 fee for the evening to the scholarship fund—the first entertainer at the dinner to do so.
Henry also brought up the gifting suite from GBK and the Creative Coalition, a new element to the weekend's activities that drew a cease-and-desist letter from the association for mentioning its name in press releases. “That may be the norm at an Oscars party,” he said, “but our dinner has to be about scholarships, not swag.”
The “Thank You Lounge” went on as planned Friday and Saturday at the Loews Madison Hotel. With about a dozen vendors, the event was smaller than what GBK delivers around major award shows, and GBK founder Gavin Keilly said he wasn't sure if the event would return. “I have to see how it goes. I'm so disappointed this turned into a negative bashing of my business because it was always coming from a good place,” Keilly told BizBash, noting that profits from the lounge would benefit the Creative Coalition.
The weekend's major events still had a sheen of Hollywood glamour, although many of the celebrities in attendance work on projects connected to Washington: Kevin Spacey and the cast of the political drama House of Cards, D.C.-set Scandal's Kerry Washington, Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Veep, and Fred Armisen, who has portrayed President Obama on Saturday Night Live. Other events sought to incorporate a philanthropic bent, such as MSNBC's after-party, which had staff from the One Fund taking donations for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The stars came as guests of media brands that hosted events throughout the long weekend. Media brands used their own trademarks—from The New Yorker's iconic cartoons to People's “Sexiest Man Alive” cover—as event decor and focused on adding tech-focused elements like digital signage.
Here are photos from the weekend's biggest events including parties from Politico, Vanity Fair, BuzzFeed, the 20th anniversary of the garden brunch hosted by Tammy Haddad, and others.