It’s the most wonderful time of the year for a White House reporter, when the rich, powerful, and celebrated express their deep appreciation for the work we do. Who knew Jessica Simpson was a White House briefing junkie? The 2014 White House Correspondents’ Dinner (aka “Nerdprom”) was a hotter ticket than ever, but we’ve got your front row seat to the happenings before, during, and after this year’s Nerdprom.
Before I get to that, though, if you’re one of those people who like to whinge about the dinner being some kind of assault on the very fabric of journalism, please accept this prepaid calling card, and call someone who cares. This year marks the 100th anniversary of a White House Correspondents’ Association whose members have done great work, not-so-great work, and downright harmful work, but I defy anyone to explain how a fancy dinner had anything to do with any of it. I will give a shit about this complaint when someone gets around to giving a shit about faked emails.
I’m going to tell the narrative of the evening in the photo captions, but let me set it up for you a little bit. Nerdprom unfolds in several stages, beginning with my own unfashionably early arrival at around 4 o’clock every year. This gives me the chance to get the lay of the land, scope out the protests like this 2011 DumpDTrump protest of The Donald) for anything interesting, and maybe pregame it at the hotel bar. It’s also a chance to catch up with my fellow early journalists, like orientation at summer camp.
Next come the pre-parties, where celebrities and journalists partake of open bar, finger food, and photo ops. The pre-receptions are sponsored by various organizations, but once you get past the velvet rope, you can go to all of them. On the way in to the receptions is the red carpet, where absolute madness ensues whenever a couture-clad celeb walks in (or me).
After about an hour of that, everyone begins to navigate a Fort Lee-sized human traffic jam to get into the dinner. After the dinner, it’s a mad dash for cabs to the various pre-parties, with accompanying traffic clusterfuckery. I’ve always had a great system for avoiding this, because I drive to the dinner, and I park my car by the Italian Embassy, about a mile away from the Hinckley Hilton, and walk from there. The MSNBC after-party is at the embassy, so after the dinner, it’s a short walk, and then, at the end of the night, I cruise on out in my Dodge Caravan while celebrities wait for an endless queue of cabs and limos.
This year, though, MSNBC’s party was clear across town, so it didn’t work out quite as well, but I bounced halfway through Joel McHale’s set to beat the traffic. Yes, I’m that guy.
The after-parties are the real hot ticket at the WHCD, and the subject of pretty much all of the pre-dinner conversation. I used to try to hit multiple after-parties and in-room mixers, but MSNBC throws such an insanely awesome bash that it’s really not necessary (to be honest, the extra travel time was also cutting into my drinking time).
There was one other extremely popular topic of conversation at this year’s WHCD, and that was my massive cell phone. I have an HTC One Max, which has a screen the size of a small tablet, for which my chops are constantly subject to busting. Saturday night was no different. Literally everyone I met had some shit to say about my phone. So, I’m at the dinner, and I’m heading down to the stage to take a picture of Major Garrett and April Ryan, and this guy walking the other way is giving me the eyeball, and I’m like “What, is this, like, Secret Service, or… Oh, shit, is that Hank from Breaking Bad?”
It was Hank from Breaking Bad (Dean Norris), and as he’s passing me, he keeps eyeballing me, and I’m like, what the fuck? Do I smell like meth? Is my hat too Heisenberg-y? Then, after he passes me, completely unnerved, I realize he was staring at my giant-assed phone. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
My phone did have one defender, in the incomparable Joy-Ann Reid. She’s got a Samsung Galaxy that’s not quite the behemoth that mine is, so we bonded over a cruel world that just won’t accept people with large phones. I think I speak for both of us when I say “Who the hell talks on a phone anymore, anyway? Just try watching Netflix on an iPhone!”
Speaking of Joy Reid, I didn’t take a lot of video this year, but before we get to the photos, here’s a short clip of Joy leading former Rick Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley and others in a spot-on Electric Slide at the MSNBC party, just to give you a sense of the vibe. And this wasn’t even on the dance floor:
And with that, here’s my photo essay on Nerdprom 2014.