Breaking news (silly corporate names division)

Inaugural ball sponsors apparently took their sponsorship very seriously.

Published January 21, 2009 6:26PM (EST)

Two urgent updates came flying into my e-mail this morning, each with the priority set to "high." It's a busy day in Washington, after all; the Obama administration is settling in behind the controls of the executive branch, Congress is getting to work, the Supreme Court is preparing for oral arguments on the inevitable lawsuit over whether John Roberts' verbal stumbles yesterday mean Barack Obama isn't actually president.

But these updates actually had little to do with any of that. Instead, they came from the publicists for the Creative Coalition's inaugural ball last night. Or, rather, as the first update reminded reporters we're supposed to call it, "The Creative Coalition 2009 Inaugural Ball presented by Pepsi." Evidently some of the coverage of the party left out the important corporate sponsorship. (See, for example,Washingtonian magazine's write-up, or the Washington Post's version, or Entertainment Tonight's; actually, it seems like no one gave Pepsi any props.) The phrasing of the e-mail actually made it seem like the real, formal official name of the ball was "The Creative Coalition 2009 Inaugural Ball presented by Pepsi with a performance by Elvis Costello, with special guest appearance by Sting and Sam Moore," since that's how the release listed the "what" section of a little info box about the ball.

This isn't a laughing matter to the publicists, of course; Obama's swearing in drew the type of star power to Washington that normally only sets foot here, gingerly, for the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and celebrities stuck around town a lot longer. (I think you could still spot Ben Affleck somewhere on the streets today, if you just looked for a building with a long line of people clamoring to get into it.) There's not much point in sponsoring a big, fancy affair if you can't get your name in all the coverage, though it seems unlikely anyone reading about the night was going to start drinking Pepsi just because they threw a party that Sting played at.

And, as if to underscore how serious the whole thing was, a few minutes later, the ball's press shop churned out another release -- this one, clearly, even more urgent than the one before. "Please add Star Jones to list of celebs who attended," it said. So, Ms. Jones, consider yourself added, to a list that includes (for the record) Scarlett Johansson, Marisa Tomei, Samuel L. Jackson, Jalen Rose, Buzz Aldrin (not usually an "Us Weekly" type of boldface name) as well as, as the release says, "and more."

Now back to your regularly scheduled political news, already in progress.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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