DC has a lot of balls — when President-Elect Barack Obama gets sworn into office on January 20, the town will host more inaugural balls than ever before. Since election day, planners have been scrambling for space and wrangling talent. Meanwhile, Beltway Bandits (local business owners, not the politicians) are welcoming visitors with outrageous price gouging. Want to rent a hotel conference room for a bash? One day it’s $20,000, the next it’s $40,000. “Everyone knows that people are getting desperate,” one event planner says. “And because the economy’s so bad, the events industry has been hit very, very hard. The inaugural is kind of the one shot the events industry has to help make up for December and what we think will be a bad spring.”
You can fork over $100,000 for the formal Inaugural Ball, or you can hit up one of the hundreds of informal bashes in hotels, homes, museums, and drafty government mausoleums. First out of the gates was the Creative Coalition, which has always thrown amazing parties during the Sundance Film Festival. The party guest list already boasts some decent Hollywood marquee names, including Ann Hathaway, Spike Lee, and Susan Sarandon.
“Hollywood is coming to Washington,” gloats another planner. “People looking to rub elbows with the stars will pay for that privilege. They might get to do shots with Alec Baldwin.”
Space is tight. Even Oprah is still looking for a venue. “In the scrum for inaugural party locations, event planners are racing against time and competition to score a spot for Jan. 20, putting down cash on the spot, no discussions, when they find a place that fits, and showing up unannounced to tour the facility and sign contracts on the dotted line.”
Star Jones and Chris Tucker will be hosting an event. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation will use the occasion to celebrate Senator Ted Kennedy at their party. Cool CSI actor Hill Harper, a former law school classmate of Obama, will host an after-hours bash. Look for John Legend, Bruce Springsteen, Obama Girl Amber Ettinger, Mary J. Blige, Melissa Etheridge, and of course the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, who has found himself literally swept up in the Obama craze after the remaining members played fundraiser gigs (yours truly covered the last show). For weary Republicans killing time before they ankle down, there’s Texas State Society Black Tie & Boots bash and the scary-sounding Armed Forces Inaugural Ball. Personally, I’ll be catching up with Bob Weir and spending quality time with my friends over at the sleek and spacious Mandarin Hotel at Hawaii’s inaugural party. Leis!
Finally, something for the kids. MTV makes me cringe, but of course the greedy sucks want to cash in on the Obama gravy train. The net’s bash will be at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and feature yet-to-be-named “leading artists, celebrities and government officials.” “Over the last year and culminating in this election, we have seen a groundswell of engagement and a refreshed spirit of activism from young people,” MTV general manager Stephen Friedman says. “We want to celebrate young people across the nation who are answering the call and working to make changes in their communities and beyond.” And it will be simulcast live so we all can see Gideon Yago throwing up Jagermeister.