Inside the Washington Press Club Dinner and "What a Party"
BY JANET DONOVAN
It's my Party Crowd surfing was the skill to have if you wanted to get up close and personal to the guest of honor at Terry McAuliffe's book launch on February 8th at the Park Hyatt Washington for What a Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals. That would be presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"When I first met the Clintons, I said to myself, 'That Clinton is going to be the president of The United States someday.' I was talking about Hillary," said McAuliffe, a former DNC chair. It's no wonder that the 1,000 guests bodyslammed into the ballroom turned the event into a mini crusade for the former First Lady as well as a celebration of his book and 50th birthday.
Despite being on The Washington Post and The New York Times' best-sellers lists, the sales pitch showed no sign of waning. "Let me tell you: You buy 100 copies, and you get invited to the next inauguration. We've got a whole plan: 200 books, you ride in a limo." "President Clinton read the galley: 'I loved it. Best book I ever read. It's better than the Bible.'"
Party pal and radio talk show host Bill Press said, "I just want to say that if you love politics, you'll love this book. It's about all the trouble you can get into and all the good you can do in politics."
"This ticket entitles you to one book" card holders included former Gore operative Donna Brazile; Hubert Humphrey's niece Ann Howard; the three Tom's - Quinn, McMillen and Boggs; the five McAuliffe offspring, BET Honcho Bob Johnson; Michael Jackson publicist Ramone Bain; the CNN gang - David Borman, Sam Fiest and Wolf Blitzer; Rudy Maxa; Stella Guerra; Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, plus nearly 1,000 others. What a party!
And the winner is? It was a toss up as to who reaped the most attention at The Washington Press Club Foundation's 63rd Annual Congressional Dinner on February 6th at the Ritz Carlton: Miss America Lauren Hansen or actress Daryl Hannah. Both topped the list, but the real winner was Hansen's tiara which made the rounds amongst male guests vying for a photo op.
The soireé, emceed by CBS's Bob Schieffer, was dedicated to veteran newswoman Helen Thomas, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her fight for women's equality in the newsroom.
After viewing a trip-down-memory-lane video of her journalistic career, it was clear Thomas has never been intimidated by anyone, including presidents. "I'm not there to please them or make them happy. I didn't go into this business to be loved. I went into this business knowing that it is important to question authority." And so she does.
"She expects answers," former press secretary Dee Dee Meyers said by satellite. Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. John Boehner served as the evening's honorary hosts.
"Having Senator Kennedy and Mr. Boehner here shows just how much our political landscape really has changed," Schieffer said. "Mr. Boehner's home state of Ohio was represented by Garfield, McKinley and Taft at The White House. Those were times they called Ohio the mother of Presidents. Well, if that's true, she must have had her tubes tied." Sen. Kennedy was also in a humorous mood.
"It's an honor to be here with John Boehner. Last summer, I dropped by his desk and he was doing a jigsaw puzzle. Six months later I stopped by again and he was still working on it. I said that six months is a long time to be working on the same puzzle. 'Not at all,' he said. 'Look here on the side of the box, it says 3-5 years."'
Enjoying the banter were Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Sens. Jim Webb and Debbie Stabenow and Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Charlie Rangel, Gabrielle Giffords and John Larson.
Guests made a beeline to Congressional Quarterly's after-party, featuring Christine the Beehive Queen Ohlman and the hit musical group from Broadways' Movin' Out.