The Fix

Wolfowitz has words with Franken, Hemmer gets rejected and Jennifer Love Hewitt's a mane attraction at the Beltway-meets-Hollywood-B-list bacchanal.

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Salon didn’t go down for Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner and its corresponding exclusive Bloomberg-sponsored after-party this year, so instead we relied on the eyewitness reports of trusted spies who attended the annual gala, where the most powerful people in the country rub shoulders with entertainment powerhouses like Dr. Ruth, Jason Priestley and Richard Belzer.

This year’s kitsch-a-thon, though, sounds like it was far more somber than in the past. President Bush cracked no jokes at the dinner, instead honoring journalists who were killed in the line of duty in Iraq. (For a serviceable news report of the event, read this.) No one, it seems, was in much of a clowning mood. Take the exchange we heard about between comedian/smartass Al Franken and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz:

Franken: “Clinton’s military did pretty well in Iraq, huh?”

Wolfowitz: “Fuck you.”

But still, the B-list showed up, in all of its faded and potential glory, prompting a flurry of unexcited reports from our jaded confidants.

The Bachelor and the Bachelorette appearances. Reports one: “Trista is a tiny person and she seemed very enamored with Ryan.” Reports another: “The Bachelor [Andrew Firestone] had this Adam Ant-style spiky hair circa 1981.”

Jennifer Love Hewitt prompted a number of conflicting reports. Says one: “No one was talking to Jennifer Love Hewitt. She seemed very out of her element. She was at a table with some ‘West Wing’ people. She didn’t look like she was having fun. She was wearing this strangely muted gold dress that wasn’t very flattering.” Reports another: “I thought her hair looked pretty.” Reports another: “She had these spirally curls in the back of her head at the dinner. But at the party, they were gone.”

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At the (anti-smoking New York Mayor Mike) Bloomberg News party, the place to be was apparently the balcony, where Joe Pantoliano held court, and where everyone could light up with impunity.

That was, those who made it into the party. As usual, pretty, blank-eyed, 20-something drones guarded the front door with their party lists, and this year both CNN’s Bill Hemmer and MSNBC’s Bill Press were initially turned away before pals inside successfully lobbied to get them in. Hemmer apparently recovered nicely, says another spy: “Bill Hemmer from CNN was walking around like he was the stud of the night.” (This may come as crushing news to the Bill Hemmer fan club , by the way.)

Other observations: NBC correspondent Campbell Brown “looked very hot in a white suit.” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was “slithering around the Bloomberg party in a form-fitting sparkly dress. Very kittenish.” Gossip Matt Drudge was seen “wearing his special white fedora.” “Lucky” star John Corbett, who escorted Bo Derek, wore “ridiculous glasses — he looked like a cross between Bono and the Red Baron.” Supermodel Giselle Bundchen wore “a simple black dress with buttons up the back.” “West Wing” stars Richard Schiff and Bradley Whitford (Toby and Josh) wandered around “with serious expressions on their faces, approaching different officials” and looking as though they might “really believe they are important power brokers.” Jerry Springer seemed “surprisingly shy.” Priestley is reportedly “very short.” Dr. Ruth appears to be “getting shorter.”

There weren’t even any gift bags at the Bloomberg party. That meant none of the not-so-subtle stocking stuffers of previous years — like the blinders (er, I mean “sleep masks”) or vibrators (oops, I mean “neck massagers”) that went right over the heads of the eager political reporters, who could be seen leaving the party with several bags stuffed under each arm. Maybe Bloomberg just felt like being frugal. Or maybe, since he was finally elected last November, he didn’t see the need to even metaphorically hoodwink or screw anybody this year.

Kerry Lauerman contributed to the Fix.

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Karen Croft is the editor of Salon Sex.

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