Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Huffington Post Ball

Oh my where to begin? The logistics were confusing, full of unknowns and long long lists. I asked to go even though I was warned against it, just because I figured even if it was a horrible experience it would be memorable and very different from my usual evening routine of "You're 6 years old! Why are you still arguing with me about brushing your teeth?!?!?" followed by passing out in front of The Real Housewives of Orange County. I knew I'd be standing in the cold and hoped I'd see Sting and Sheryl Crow.

Just as I was about to leave the house Natasha doubled over in pain and quietly wimpered about her tummy hurting. I decided to hope it was gas and not a severe intestinal virus and forced her in the car so Dave could drop me at the Metro. As soon as I got downtown I started furiously texting Dave to ask about Natasha's condition. Mommy guilt is hard to shake off. Of course she was fine and even able to eat Chinese food.

The Metro quickly deposits me downtown and I walked two blocks to the Newseum, passing by massive barricades protecting Pennsylvania Avenue and thousands more still on the backs of 18-wheelers waiting to be set up. The Capitol glistened as always in the background. The Newseum was beautiful and rather majestic in kind of a high-tech way. A bunch of us got our magic "Huffington Post Event Staff" plastic badges and headed to the main floor. I found a moment to explore the Newseum a bit, as after three years of living here I've never been. I keep meaning to go there for "date night" but haven't yet. I walked past the stage and hear a roadie say, "Sting's guitar ok." While scanning 50 years of Pulitzer Prize winning photograps I heared some music start and assume it's still the band. Then I walk back over to see Will.I.Am and Sting hovering over a mic. I walked right up to the stage certain someone wasgoing to tell me to bug off, but instead I was able to stand right in front of them as they performed Union. I decideed right then that if nothing else happened but I saw that performance the night was worth it. About 20 people were standing around, camera phones pointed towards Sting and Will.I.Am, me included. It's sort of an odd feeling to walk right up to someone and take their picture without asking, but obviously this is as common as breathing for these people and they just keep performing.

Jamie Lee Curtis arrived early. There was no one in the VIP coat check so she hoisted herself over the desk and started hanging up her own coat. Betsey saw this and ran over saying, "You don't have to do that." and tried to help. Jamie Lee then put her arm around Betsey and said, "He won. I can hang up my own #$%^@#$ coat." Jamie Lee started hanging up some other coats and Betsey darted around getting someone stationed there and then Jamie Lee hoisted herself back over the desk again.

In a few minutes the volunteers and paid staff gathered and started getting briefed. I went out into the cold not feeling fully briefed and becoming acutely aware of my inexperience in large events management. Security is trickier than it looks and this event was anticipated to have 3000 people, including some A-list stars. I spend most of the night telling people they can't get in without either a purple wristband or their name on the list. It's very odd to be the one with authority. And the rules of who could get in and who couldn't were very strange and fluid. There was a huge list, maybe 50 pages of tiny print that I couldn't see and couldn't flip through as my fingers were so frozen they stopped reacting to my brain's instructions. But lots of people had text messages from Arianna or emails that they had printed out that said, "Just come and go past security." I guessed these emails were legit, but how did I know? Did they count? You could kind of tell when people were telling the truth, but there were just way too many people. Eventually the fire marshall made us stop letting people in for a while. At any rate, I was doing VIP Pull, which meant to pull VIPs out of the front and escort them to the red carpet. There was one door, but some how I missed some of them. I did see Chris Dodd, Claire McCaskel, Chris Matthews, Ashton and Demi (I said 'hi' to Ashton), Don King, Dustin Hoffman, Hayden Paniterri, Martha Stewart, Arianna Huffington, David Shuster, Hilary Rosen. Larry David walked right down the red carpet pulling items out of a big McDonalds bag. I guess he's exactly what you see on the show! Somehow I missed Ben Afleck! I can't even remember them all. We talked to M.C. Hammer for a minute. He was so happy to have his photo taken and gave a grin like he'd never been photographed before. At the end I went in to see the concert. I missed the begining of Sheryl Crow somehow but did hear one song and all of Sting's set. Will.I.Am is pretty impressive. Just starts rapping off some nonsense about how we're quick.

The other super-impressive person is Arianna herself. I didn't talk to her of course but she looked completely elegant and regal, and the ball was so impressive. It was a tribute to new technologies with thousands of people twittering, a blogging station of two laptops set up near the stage, live video streams, you name it. And the Newseum is a really neat venue with a huge atrium, people lining the stairs, an open floor below - it's several floors of partying space, all brand-new and techie-looking glass and steel construction. All the Washington glitterati were impressed with themselves for having been invited. It was such a scene of ego.

While watching the concert some waiters started bringing around snacks. Now at this point between my "new lifestyle" otherwise known as a diet, and the fact that it was almost 2am I was STARVING. I ate anything they brought me. This included a strange combination of cut up sausage breakfast sandwiches, elegant smoked salmon on toasts, and illogically, chunks of rice krispie treats stuck onto a stick. These were particuarly stale, so as people were leaving in their elegant gowns they looked massively silly awkwardly chomping on these surprisingly crunchy snacks.

My low point may have been when I started giving lip to Rick Schroeder. I didn't recognize him and was giving him a hard time for not having a purple band. Luckily someone stopped me pretty quickly. How could I have been rude to the boy from Silver Spoons?? But really that was the trick the whole time. You are trying to balance letting in some smooth-looking crasher with not insulting a semi-famous person. And everyone starts to look vaguely familiar after a while.

At the end my back was shooting in pain. We were all exhausted and freezing. Ashley Judd left her Ugg clogs at the table. We all stumbled home on the Metro. When we got to the apartment we were staying at, at 2am, the streets were filled and chaotic. It was like Mardi Gras but cold. So unbelievable. Crowds of people chanting Obama and generally partying.

We stumbled to bed, me on a small but extremely comfy couch. I woke up in the same exact position I fell asleep in.....
Will try and find all the photos off my iphone.

No comments:

Post a Comment