It may have been cool and collected inside the White House Correspondents’ Dinner at the Hilton Hotel on Saturday night, but as a red carpet reporter covering the event for the first time I can tell you it was pure mayhem before and after. From an appearance by Lindsay Lohan to an MIA George Clooney, here’s what I saw and what I learned:
1. Get there early.
Apparently, there’s no such thing as on-time to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner red carpet. If you’re on-time, you’re already late. At least that’s what I realized when I showed up to the Hilton Hotel at 4:30p.m. (the call-time), only to learn that some camera crews had been standing outside the doors since 11a.m (!).
2. Don’t expect to see the president.
I probably should have known better than to think President Obama would walk the red carpet last night (I even had questions prepared!), but I hoped to at least catch a glimpse of him on his way into the venue. Instead, all I got was a close-up view of what I can only assume was his motorcade as it pulled up outside.
3. George Clooney might be a ninja.
You know the only other person nearly as difficult to spot as the President? George Clooney. Though there was a lot of anticipation in the press pit surrounding his arrival, Clooney managed to evade the red carpet entirely.
4. OK, so you won’t see Clooney (or the president), but you’ll see everyone else.
It’s the one event where no one flakes after RSVP’ing yes. Everyone from Kim Kardashian to Viola Davis smiled for the cameras last night. Even Lindsay Lohan showed up—though the only time I saw her doing press was when she jumped in while Kim was doing an on-camera interview.
5. Don’t leave!
Though there were initially a flood of celebrities entering the venue, when the dinner got underway at around 7:30 p.m. the commotion outside came to a halt. At that time, most of the camera crews packed their equipment and headed out. A few of us stuck around however and got to catch Aziz Ansari, Martha Stewart, and Rachel Zoe and her husband — who all took the time to do a few quick interviews before heading into the event.
6. Trust the teenage girl next to you.
Uber-excited teen fans can be very helpful in these situations because their super I-have-a-celebrity-crush sense allows them to spot famous faces early. For instance, I would have missed a preggers Reese Witherspoon had it not been for a group of young girls who begged her for a photo as she was rushing toward the exit (to her credit, she obliged).