Washington goes H’wood

WASHINGTON – For a brief shining moment this inaugural weekend, government officials and industry lobbyists rubbed shoulders with entertainment industry titans and Hollywood sirens.

It may only happen once every four years, but for three days, Washington, D.C., becomes one of the hottest entertainment towns in the world. During the inaugural festivities, more than 75,000 people will attend at least one of the 14 official balls or scores of other highbrow parties held to celebrate the official kickoff of President Clinton’s second term.

It’s big business of course. CBS paid in excess of $3 million for the broadcast rights to 53rd Presidential Inaugural Gala held Sunday at U.S. Air Arena. Tickets sold for as much as $3,000 for the presidential lovefest, which was to feature performers such as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, the Dave Matthews Band and Bernadette Peters.

CBS’ license fee will only put a small dent in the $30 million pricetag that the Presidential Inaugural Committee has placed on the weekend’s festivities. Almost all of the inaugural’s bills will be paid through the sale of tickets, souvenirs and commemorative license plates. The committee has even authorized QVC to hawk inaugural memorabilia.

A hot ticket

CBS may own the rights to the most widely watched presidential fete, but MTV teamed up with Conde Nast Publications to host the party with the most sought-after invitation. In 1992, MTV held a full-fledged ball that included musical performances, and tickets were scalped for as much as $1,000.

This year the MTV/Conde Nast party was still the hottest ticket, but the crowd was noticeably older and included Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone, Senator Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton. (The president did not show up.) The Saturday night party was held at Washington’s elegant Corcoran Art Gallery, where some of the most important pieces of art in the nation were carefully removed from the walls and replaced with video monitors. There were no live performances, and guests could even hear themselves over the musicvideos cranked from television monitors and speakers in every corner.

Bureaucrats arrive early

Among the first to arrive at the MTV/Conde Nast event were the Commerce Dept.’s chief communications policy wonk, Larry Irving, and Federal Communications Commission chief of staff Blair Levin. Over the next four hours they had the opportunity to rub elbows with the likes of model Beverly Johnson, Lauren Hutton and Kevin Spacey.

On Sunday night the Recording Industry Assn. of America and MCI hosted a party at Red Sage, a large downtown restaurant. RIAA hosted the event as part of its ongoing support of the Rock the Vote voter registration campaign. Among the expected guests were Sheryl Crow, Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds and Bob Weir. The RIAA also hosted a concert on Friday night featuring Better Than Ezra.

CBS hosted an inaugural party of its own at the U.S. Air Arena, shortly before the broadcast of the presidential gala, and NBC threw a shindig as well. ABC’s guest list was typical of all three, bringing together a diverse crowd that ranged from Washington mayor Marion Barry to Disney chairman Michael Eisner. Fox, perhaps betraying the political leanings of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, was the only major network that did not host an inaugural celebration.

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