• Saturday, May 3, 2014 6:07 PM

    Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has a favorite WH Reporter

    “Oh, well I’m all the way out in Los Angeles. But I’d have to say Olivier Knox of Yahoo News.”

    - L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti when asked by a TV reporter to name his favorite White House correspondent this weekend in Washington, D.C. Mr. Mayor, we’d have to agree.

    (Photo via middlebury.edu)

  • Saturday, May 3, 2014 1:31 PM

    Helping George Clooney escape from the White House Correspondents' Dinner (and other stories)

    By Daniel Klaidman, Deputy Editor, Yahoo! News

    Tonight, I am returning to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner after a four-year hiatus. I am psyched. I know it’s fashionable — almost de rigueur — to bemoan the dreaded dinner as a celebrity-soaked suck-up fest — the dark apotheosis of Washington access journalism. And I’ll admit there are aspects of the event that put the Fourth Estate in not a great light, though not all of us diminish our dignity by chasing after lesser members of the Kardashian family.  

    Still, for me the dinner is irresistible as cultural anthropology, an opportunity to observe the often hilarious, sometimes surreal interactions between distinct tribal archetypes, including the-inside-the-beltway striver, the over-the-top reality TV star and the more buttoned-up corporate executive.

    To wit, here are three of my favorite vignettes from dinners past:  

    • There was the time that a couple of young White House aides fairly pushed an inebriated woman into my arms and beseeched me to get her home safely. We rode up a packed elevator to the street level of the Washington Hilton with the usual odd assortment of dinner guests, including the British ambassador and a tiny woman of a certain age whose face was instantly recognizable but one that I could not place. Until she turned to the woman I was with and said in a thick central European accent, “Congratulations. When are you due?” Putting the accent and the face together I realized it was Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the noted TV sex therapist. The only problem was that my soused charge was not pregnant. She snarled at Dr. Ruth, but fortunately the elevator door opened before things got too ugly. To this day I have no idea who the woman was, but she made it home safely.  
    • Another time, I found myself at the Vanity Fair after-party with a group of scribes doing bourbon shots with Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide. It was the run-up to the Iraq War and Libby was ordering the rounds of libations at the bar. This was great, I thought to myself: Libby, all liquored up, would accidentally reveal some critical piece of information about the administration’s war plans. But people like Libby don’t ascend to positions of power by being sloppy and undisciplined. He only imbibed every other round — and stayed fully in control. A couple of years later at a restaurant in New York during the 2004 Republican Convention, the waiter arrived with a shot of whiskey for me. ”Compliments of the gentleman,” he said, pointing across the room. It was Libby. I sent the waiter back with two shots.  
    • And then there was the time I was pressed into duty by one of my Newsweek colleagues to help George Clooney elude the paparazzi and obsessed fans after the dinner. As we beat a path out of the ballroom, thick clusters of people materialized in front of Clooney, thrusting pen ad paper in his hands for autographs, pleading to get their pictures taken with him. He graciously stopped a few times, but then suggested we accelerate our pace. Still, frenzied young women managed to press notes in his hand in a ritualized choreography that suggested both Clooney and his admirers had done this many times before. Soon we were cruising through secret passageways, past unmarked doors and in and out of a vast basement kitchen, where workers stopped what they were doing and just stared. We found a service exit to the hotel and Clooney calmly called his driver.  He got into the limo and disappeared into the night.

  • Saturday, May 3, 2014 11:30 AM

    Highlights of past White House Correspondents Dinners

    By Olivier Knox, Chief Washington Correspondent, Yahoo! News

    • There’s a semi-secret game among the more mischief-minded White House correspondents. While everyone is running around trying to get pictures of themselves WITH celebrities, these reporters go around trying to get photos BY celebrities. The game is, of course, to get the best possible photo credit. The all-time best one, in my opinion, was achieved by Bill McQuillen, then of Bloomberg News, who got a photo of himself with Katie Holmes. Photo Credit: Tom Cruise.
    • "The Colbert Year" always comes up in any long conversation about the dinner. My favorite memory of that controversial monologue was a riff about newly retired generals criticizing the Bush administration. Colbert’s joke solution was to never let them retire. One of my guests that year was an Army lieutenant colonel who had just returned from 15 months in Iraq at the worst point of the war. I wish I could have somehow bottled his belly laugh. It made my night.
    • I can’t name names for this one. One year, I ran into a college friend of mine who was up for a very sensitive and very senior government post. Fortified by a few glasses of wine, we decided to get a picture with Pam Anderson. She could not have been more charming, even though we were probably the 267th photo request to interrupt her dinner. We took the picture, which unavoidably featured her plunging neckline. My friend saw the picture, grinned, suddenly frowned, and leaned forward with an earnest, quiet request: “Please don’t post that anywhere until after I’m confirmed.” Only in Washington!