Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Delect Connect Goes to Washington (Part II): Ballin'

The Root's logo displays on the ceiling of the Smithsonian.

This station closes at 12," the Metro employee announced as we exited the station at the Smithsonian stop.

"Okay, so that means we need to leave at 11," Jeannine said to my sister and me. I agreed, even though it was a little after 9 o'clock on Sunday night and my gut warned that less than two hours at The Root Inaugural Ball would be less than fulfilling.

We peered at the map outside the station, trying to figure out where the Smithsonian we needed to be at was located (who knew there was more than one?). A helpful woman pointed out the Smithsonian Museum of American History across the National Mall about a block away. Jeannine groaned. Her new sexy black stilettos were already kicking her behind.

We trudged the path across the Mall, a lit and towering Washington Monument on our left, dark jumbotrons and lonely barricades set up on our right. It was quiet, a contradiction to the thousands who were in that space just hours earlier for the inaugural opening ceremony.

My poor homegirl was limping. My sister and I took up either side and the three of us huddled to the entrance of the museum. I wore a black knee-length dress (purchased that morning, along with other items of clothing since I had to leave my luggage in Florida), borrowed coat, and borrowed shoes. Fashionista friends advised me that in cold climates you don't dress for the weather (i.e., to be warm), you wear what you would normally wear; just rock a big coat to fight the freeze.

Cars lined up for complimentary valet in front of the Smithsonian. Men donning tuxedoes and women in floor-length coats strode up the sidewalk. By the time we entered the museum, Jeannine had summoned up enough swag to bring sexy back for an encore.

We checked our coats immediately inside the door. To the far right, a red carpet lined the wall. "Is that…Samuel L. Jackson?" I muttered aloud. We ventured closer, and sure enough, it was the bad mother--shut yo' mouth--himself. Jackson sported his trademark Kangol and appeared to be wearing the same fit from the We Are One concert earlier that day. He stopped to interview with AJ (formerly of 106 & Park) of Extra, who was working in the press area with his camera man.

AJ Calloway interviewing Samuel L. Jackson on the red carpet.

We made our way up the clear, lit stairs to the second level where hundreds of doozied up attendees sipped cocktails, chatted, and swayed to the music; several more peered down from the museum’s third level. While I didn't recognize any of the sparkly and spit-shined at the time, there was no telling what facet of entertainment or media some of these folks represented.

Between the first and second levels of the Smithsonian.

We hit up a bar table (ahem, “open” bar, that is…), where I requested one of the night's bubbly-laden specialty drinks, Hpnotiq and champagne, served in a blue-sugar rimmed flute.

The buffet tables boasted light--but continuous--fare of crab cakes, pot stickers, shish kabobs and the like, and later on tiny cakes and pies. I picked up something new every time I passed by.
We found an available table off the main floor, near one of the exhibits. Jeannine rested her feet as we nibbled and sipped on PomObamas and various other fancy beverages.

Jeannine enjoys a PomObama.

[Delect Inject: Virtually every restaurant in the city boasted some form of Obama Burger or “BarackStar Martini” or first family platter. ]

After a bit of chatting with folks near our table, I decided I needed to network; and I especially needed to find the members of the Root staff that I recognized only by email signatures. I strolled back to the main floor where I spotted Henry Louis Gates Jr., editor-in-chief of The Root, making his rounds with Chris Tucker.

Cheesin' a lil' too hard with Chris Tucker.

I ventured downstairs. T.D. Jakes was in the lobby and Tatiana Ali worked the red carpet. I still couldn’t find who I was looking for so I headed back up to the party.

Tatiana Ali on the red carpet.

I ran into Danielle, a girl I knew from Delray who interned with the Root. She vowed to introduce me to everyone as soon as they appeared. It was after 11. I decided to partake of the open bar once again, then I would go tell Jeannine and my sister that I needed to stick around and, you know, handle some business.

I glimpsed in my peripheral a bespectacled blur racing towards the stairs. “Jeannine!” I called, leaving the drink line.

“It’s after 11. The station’s about to close. It’s time to go.”

Ah, it wasn’t Jeannine but her evil twin, My Feet Hurt and You Got 4 Seconds to Figure Out What the Hell You’re Going to Do Before I Bounce.

“I’m gonna stay. Y’all go head,” I said, not concerned about navigating my way back to Bethesda, Maryland from downtown DC in the wee hours of the morning.

“Okay,” Jeannine said, turning on her heels, possibly leaving skid marks on the Smithsonian floor.

My sister rolled up, electing to stay as well. We reconvened at the drink line.

I eventually completed my mission. Biz Markie didn’t take charge of the DJ booth until around midnight. My sister and I danced, and the curse of Jeannine’s shoes had found its way to the borrowed pair I wore of hers.

We checked out the third level and chilled outside the VIP area. Samuel L. Jackson had just taken a photo with someone and was at the home stretch towards the guarded VIP.

“Just one more?” my sister asked as Jackson attempted to pass by. He sighed.

“C’mon, it’ll be quick,” I said. “I’ll even take it myself.”

Jackson muttered something under his breath, but like a good sport, acquiesced.

Mr. Jackson
“Thank you!” we cooed as he fled behind the curtains of VIP, where I later discovered Oprah was hiding out at some point.

We found out later that the Smithsonian station was not the only station that closed at midnight, but to our surprise, the entire Metro shut down at midnight. Yes, the weekend before the largest inauguration in American history. Go figure. We griped about the nonsensicalness of it, but my sister learned how to hail a cab while I propped up my throbbing feet.

My sister and I with radio host Tom Joyner.

Tom Joyner and wife Donna Richardson-Joyner mingle amongst the crowd.

Even Abe Lincoln rolled in! (and these are actual people, not wax...)

Natalie Portman and Tatiana Ali.

(View more pictures from The Root Inaugural Ball...I didn't know half these people were there!)


Ballin’ (the following night)


“Tonight is the niiiiight. You make me a wuhmuuuun…”

The old school vocals of Betty Wright rocked the crowd at the Florida PAC Ball, hosted by Congresswoman Corrine Brown at the Grand Hyatt in downtown DC. Headlined by go-go pioneer Chuck Brown, the ball’s attendees were mostly Florida politicians and those with hook-ups to them (like us).

We two-stepped, ate fresh pasta and roast beef, and sipped on more open bar offerings. Jeannine sported more comfortable shoes, and was in a better mood. The Metro ran until 2 am-- inauguration hours.

My sister and I with songstress Betty Wright.

Top Orlando law enforcement heads Jerry and Val Demmings.

Fellow NABJ member Kenya Woodard and Star 94.5 radio personality Monica May.

National Geographic Explorer host Lisa Ling attended another ball at the Grand Hyatt.

And while neither one of the balls we were fortunate to attend were "official" balls (i.e., Barack didn't roll through), attending these star-studded events were the perfect precursors to the big day.

(check out Part III)


spchrist said...'m jealous...I didn't go to any balls because I didn't think they would be worth it. I wanted to party with the regular people and that i did.

Oh your "Fashionista friends" are going to get you pneumonia or some type of cold you can't get rid of dressing like that. lol. Dress for the weather.

Delect said...

I hear you. Had I not been invited, I certainly wasn't going to pay to attend any balls...

...and it's easy for you, as a man, to say "dress for the weather." Y'all can wear suits and ties and be cute and warm. What would I look like with a long-sleeved, floor-length, turtleneck gown on???