Friday, January 23, 2009

Paid to Party goes to Washington

At the last minute last week, I decided to brave frigid temperatures and millions of people to return to my hometown for the presidential inauguration.

With silver tickets in hand on Tuesday, my sister and I bundled up and trudged from Adams Morgan, past the rows of memorabilia-hawking vendors, through the Third Street Tunnel (clear by the time we got there) and finally down to the National Mall -- where we hit a sea of people crowding in front of the now-infamous Silver Gates.

We were among thousands who waited hours to move just 25 feet before giving up at 11:15 and hailing a cab in time to catch the swearing-in on TV.

At least we were warm.

But the bust of the morning was quickly vindicated that night when we donned our gowns and headed to the hottest ball in town -- the Neighborhood Ball. As disorganized as the morning was, the folks running the balls at the Washington Convention Center (where about 40,000 others were also attending parties) ran a tight ship, setting volunteers in place from blocks away who accurately directed us first to security (a mere five-minute wait), then to the coat check and finally up to Hall D where ABC was busily getting the ballroom ready for its live broadcast. (The JCC should take notes for the next inauguration.)

The hottest accessories for the night came courtesy of Runway to Change. Ladies who wore long-johns and sneakers under their dresses to guard against the cold used canvas Obama bags by Tory Burch and Diane Von Furstenberg to store their party shoes.

Inside, the hall was decked in blue carpet, American flags and giant screens emblazoned with the stars and stripes. The atmosphere was electric as ABC tested cameras, pulled people on stage to fill shots and Nick Cannon got the crowd warmed up, promising that the Obamas were on their way.

The show started promptly at 8 with (is he everywhere these days?) performing "New Day." Mary J. Blige performed "Just Fine" shortly after, and my sister and I were just feet from the stage where we could marvel at the height of her Christian Louboutin heels. Mariah Carey -- surprisingly petite in person -- sang a weak (for her) rendition of "Hero," followed by a performance from Maroon 5.

But the highlight of the night, which made the morning a distant memory, was when Beyonce (who's even more beautiful in person) took to a podium just four feet from our vantage point and serenaded the Obamas with "At Last" for their first dance of the night.

My head practically fell off as it swiveled from Beyonce to my right and the Obamas on my left.

And after President Obama proclaimed they had "nine more balls to go to" to the groans of the audience, the show quickly continued with performances from Alicia Keys, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Ray Romano, Faith Hill and Shakira.

My only regret was that the ball was much more of an MTV-like concert than a legitimate inaugural party -- so from the Neighborhood Ball we headed to experience a real bash, the Google/YouTube party at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.

White gauzy curtains decked the soaring ceilings, white leather benches and glowing white food stands provided relief to party-weary guests, while others played Wii in the game room. Celebrities like Richard Branson, Ashleigh Banfield, Ben Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix, Jessica Alba and Sarah Silverman mingled with regular folk before retiring to a curtained-off VIP section. Meanwhile, where the crowd at the Neighborhood Ball merely gawked at the star-studded lineup, guests of Google danced their butts off as a DJ spun an eclectic mix of pop music.

It was the perfect party to end the surreal night.


Anonymous said...

Gee... thanks Sarah... um.. guess you got "PAID" to write about what we all watched 3 days ago or attended ourselves - 3 DAYS AGO! How about doing what the Observer pays you to do and start posting information about our Queen City and the events going on here?

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:39:

Take a look at the past year of Sarah's blog posts and they're all about our Queen City and the events going on here.

Give her a break.

sip said...

great experience for you sarah. i would have LOVED to have gone to the neighborhood ball! lucky girl!

Anonymous said...

Did you see the performance of Beyounce's husband, Jay-Z, in DC that night? Jay-Z was in the VIP section at the inauguration just hours earlier. That night he was on a white hate rant. Pretty pathetic, and rather racist. See the link below:

Why can't the media show the real Jay-Z and Beyounce. If this was Faith Hill & Tim McGraw their careers would be over.

Anonymous said...

More power to ya... didn't go... didn't watch... didn't care... next.

Anonymous said...

yeah this is all great and all if it was paid to party in dc. This is CLT so why don't you stay in town and do your job. Your very replaceable in this economy.

Robert Gibbs said...

I think it's OK for Sarah to write about one of the year's biggest parties in the U.S., even if it isn't in Charlotte.

We're ALL replaceable in this economy.

Raul said...

Why all the haters on Sarah experiencing one of the biggest events in our nation's history and sharing it with her hometown readers. I think it's pretty cool. You almost sound envious of her opportunity to "score" tickets and mingle with celebs. By the way, Beyonce looked ridiculously gorgeous that night.

barkomomma said...

Given the choice between Sarah and Tonya, I'd have paid to keep Tonya home.

Anonymous said...

I think the Neighborhood Ball ranks somewhere between 8 and 9 billionith on the list of biggest events in our nation's history.

Anonymous said...

Damn people are bitter. Keep up the good work Sarah.