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November 24, 2014

Nerd Prom Recap: Familiarity Breeds ‘Meh’

Is the thrill gone?

The Hollywood petting zoo made it back to Washington this past weekend, but to be honest, the whole town seemed a little tired. And the Washington/Hollywood two-in-one punch seemed a little underwhelmed with each other this time around.

This might be because Hollywood and D.C. have seen an awful lot of each other over the past year. Beginning at Nerd Prom 2012, the two have hung out at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, were intertwined during the 2012 elections, and then convened again for a week of festivities surrounding President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Washington even popped by Hollywood’s very own prom season (Golden Globes, Academy Awards) with its own royalty: President Bill Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama, respectively.

So it’s no wonder that by the time this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner week came around, familiarity perhaps bred a shrug of the shoulder. 

Friday Night

The New Republic held its office-warming party and got visits from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Reps. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Dan Maffei, D-N.Y.

Pelosi then made her way to dinner and drinks at National Journal/Atlantic owner David Bradley’s home. Also in attendance: Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington was spotted leaving after drinks to make her way to another exclusive dinner, this one hosted by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Later that night, the National Journal/Atlantic folks held a bigger soiree  at the Powerhouse in Georgetown.

The party also featured Gill and Jill Bumby, aka The Bumbys. The New York duo is anonymous and they hand out “Fair and Honest Appraisals of Your Appearance” in simple typewritten notes replete with a 1 to 10 numerical rating.

The venue was gorgeous, the drinks copious and guests were having a blast … until the toilets stopped working. One guest told us he ran out, relieved himself in the ally and then ran back in. HOH bypassed standing in line for the loo and headed to the next party.

We passed the Roto-Rooter guys coming to the rescue as we left.

Next up: The Very Secret Funny or Die party held at Hogo. The windows of the rum-tastic bar and restaurant were blacked out. The guests moved through several layers of bar before coming into the back room, which was filled to overflowing with celebrities, including cast members from “House of Cards,” “Homeland,” “Mad Men,” “Downton Abbey,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Chasing the Hill” and “Portlandia.”

Saturday

The day kicked off with the PR maven Tammy Haddad’s annual Garden Brunch. This year was the 20th anniversary of the brunch, and the guest list had been pared down since the previous year. The venue was still packed, but gone were the Kardashians, Lindsay Lohan-types and the Washington Kastles mascot.

And the brunch was better for it. One of the best things we saw was “Daily Show” correspondent Aasif Mandvi get all excited to snag a picture with HOH favorite MC Hammer. Mandvi’s “Daily Show” colleague John Oliver was also at the brunch.

Perhaps the most interesting moment in the brunch was when WHCA chieftain Ed Henry was lauding the large contributions to the journalist scholarship fund, which he seems to use as a shield for the criticism the dinner’s spectacle attracts.

According to Henry, the scholarship is important because there are “a lot of needy journalism students, a lot of which are at Howard.” Howard University is located in Washington D.C. It is a historically black, highly respected university.

Miss America 2013, Mallory Hagan, also talked up the Miss America scholarship program. She said that she considers herself “an intelligent, well-spoken, accomplished woman” and credits the Miss America pageant’s scholarship program for helping her be that way.

The pre-parties were a blur, and much has been said about the BuzzFeed barbecue at the Jack Rose Dining Saloon. The BuzzFeed crew was overrun with people trying to get into the party.

Our favorite moment of the evening was when C-SPAN cut away from the Nerd Prom to show footage of the line trying to get into BuzzFeed. Later they showed both events in split-screen. This made the BuzzFeed crowd happy.

Another notable moment came during the dinner when Washington’s favorite fake congressman surprised diners.

The fictional House Majority Whip Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) was joined by several pols and journos in a short video broadcast at the dinner.

The video poked a little bit of fun at D.C. and its denizens, but there was at least one moment pregnant with subtext.

At one point in the video, Spacey’s Underwood calls BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith to offer two tickets to the WHCA dinner. Smith, shown chilling at a barbecue and manning the keg, declines Underwood’s offer.

For those keeping score at home, in real life, Smith and the rest of the BuzzFeeders didn’t get a table at the dinner, which is why they threw their buzzier party down the street at Jack Rose.

In a meta-media moment Smith was on the phone from Jack Rose, talking to C-SPAN moments before he was shown in the video talking on the phone about the WHCA dinner at the WHCA dinner.

The BuzzFeed kids succeeding in making their point: Don’t underestimate them, D.C.

We imagine that at least one person from the White House Correspondents’ Association faked a smile or a chuckle about the video.

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