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"My dinner with Hillary"

Namedropping Alert: This party report (from April of 1994) is full of self-serving namedropping. You were warned.

Well, I sure can't figure what I was doing at this party. I mean if you were a mere member of the house of representatives, you wouldn't even make it to the list of the more famous names here.

It started for me as a day of 3 presidents. The day before, Richard Nixon had died, and things were still solemn enough that nobody had started bidding on the jukebox franchise next to his grave yet. In the afternoon, I went to Arlington National Cemetary, and visited the grave of John F. Kennedy, which of course has become a tourist attraction rather than a grave. Then it was off to have dinner with Bill Clinton.

While it was billed as a dinner with the President, it was really very large. More like Bill, Hillary and 2500 of their intimate friends. Officially it's the White House Correspondents Association dinner, but it seems to be one of the "in" Washington run-the-country crowd parties of the year. (Like I said, what was I doing there? Well, as a newspaper publisher and Reuters client, I was there as their guest. A customer perk.)

As I was walking to the metal detectors, a man behind me in line said, "You know, the most powerful people in the world are in this room tonight, and I don't just mean the head table." Well, in one sense that's right, depending on how much power you attribute to newspaper publishers and newspaper chain owners.

At the head table of course were Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as Al Gore and Tipper. Al Franken who would do the roast, and various famous White House correspondents filled out that table. Looking at the guest list, the tables on the floor held, aside from vast numbers of reporters and publishers and other news people, seveal of the Cabinet, a couple of dozen senators, governors of a variety of states (mostly east coast), mayors, White House and other major government staffers, Supreme Court Justices, and those various members of the house of representatives.

Press and government made sense of course, but for reasons I couldn't fathom (except glitz) the room was also populated with Hollywood stars and other celebs. I even saw the likes of Nancy Kerrigan on the guest list (though I didn't run into her). If the area around my table was any indication, it was stars galore, though most of their names were not on the guest list. One or two tables away from me sat people like Kirk Douglas, Jack Palance, Tom Selleck, (who writes for the National Review and thus had an excuse to be there) and Sarah Jessica Parker and her boyfriend Matthew Broderick, (Parker is the sort who touches you while she talks to you so I'm not washing that arm.) Jack Vilante (head of the MPAA) rounded out the famous movie folk sitting near me, but of course many others walked by, ranging from Ed Koch to George Stephanopolis. I also saw Jimmy Stewart and Richard Dreyfuss in the distance. People I didn't see are too many to name.

And I was in the cheap seats! Who knows what you saw up there by the head table. There was too much of a throng around Bill Clinton, so I didn't go up to the head table, though some from my table did. There were 250 tables.

There weren't many west coast or computer people there, other than the Reuters guests such as myself, and the Hollywood people. I did note Manzi and Ovitz at tables closer than mine. The chairman of QVC was there as well. Because Reuters sells to many in the online biz, that was the source of folks from Prodigy and other net companies.

At parties afterwards in the hotel, I ran into the likes of James Brady (and Tom Sellick again) and spoke for a while with Ruth Westheimer, who is only about 4' tall, and very friendly. (She holds your hand while you talk to her.)

It was interesting to see all these non-media stars getting fawned over by the press and government people, who should be used to celebrity, or so you would think. I guess Clinton brings these folks out. But I have to say I'm probably more comfortable being a larger fish in a small pond than a tiny fish in this pond, at least for now.

I don't know if you'll run it again, but C-span showed the event. Franken made some good fun of the President, and I'm not sure he liked it all (or likes the press very much right now) but he got back some licks of his own. Or at least his writers did. I think Hillary is better at pretending to laugh at jokes about her than Bill is at pretending to laugh at jokes about him. Franken said that in order to avoid offending people, he cleared all material through Tipper. Thus, whenever a joke bombed, he glared at Tipper to blame her.

Clinton had four pieces of advice for future politicians:

Don't loan money.
Don't borrow money.
Don't make money.
Don't lose money.

Franken said that he had done a favour for Hillary and she couldn't pay him but she agreed to invest $1,000 for him. He couldn't say what happened but just wanted to say he was very pleased with the results. That was the first of the whitewater jokes, and I don't think Bill Clinton really liked them.

All in all, quite the most amazing party I've attended.