They may govern the free world’s leading nation and regulate the globe’s biggest economy, but when it comes to celebrities, Washingtonians are as starstruck as folks from Des Moines. That’s why the annual White House Correspondents’ dinner has assumed an outsized importance on the capitol social calendar and one of the reasons many locals are feeling let down by this year’s dearth of A-list actors and film figures.
Apart from Robert De Niro, who is promoting a documentary on his artist father, there will only be a smattering of high-wattage names at Saturday night’s edition of the annual event. A number of those involved with the dinner told the Washington Post this week that reduction in the number of celebrity guests is deliberate, reflecting a desire to put the evening’s focus back on the journalists who cover the White House.
However, one Hollywood insider, who asked not to be identified, tells The Hollywood Reporter that the lack of swoon-worthy A-list movie stars shows that the lure of the event “has faded dramatically.”
According to the source, “there are way too many A-listers who have had pretty weird experiences at the dinner. A lot of the people who have gone say they’ll never do it again. The room is so crowded. It’s uncontrolled. There’s no limit to the number of people trying to get photos and autographs — and there’s no way to hide from it. It’s like the stars are animals in a cage. People go crazy when they see them. They act like a bunch of kids at the Kids’ Choice Awards.”
Publicists tell their clients that it’s OK to attend the dinner — especially if they want publicity for a project — but that they should be wary. This is a crowd that gropes and grabs. A few years ago, one drunken guest actually bared her breasts to Ben Affleck as he was walking to the men’s restroom. (That was the last time he attended the dinner.) And it’s not just the megastars who get the unwanted attention, which often comes from the correspondents’ dates.