COLUMNS

Guess Who’s Coming to the White House Correspondents Dinner

  • Capital Connections ®
  • |
  • April 30, 1999

by Karen Feld

Canadian film makers got a boost in Washington at Filmfest D.C. when Montreal director Francois Girard kicked off the annual event. The award-winning Canadian, who directed “Red Violin,” said he doesn’t play violin because “it’s too hard” but he’s “passionate” about piano.

Aline Chrétien, wife of the Canadian Prime Minister, joined U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s vivacious wife, Tipper, and NATO, diplomatic, and congressional spouses for tea at Belgian Ambassador Alex Reyn’s residence Saturday afternoon in support of the Race for the Cure. The group concerns itself with breast cancer education, screening and awareness.

We’re not only seeing a new breed of First Lady and congressional spouse, but diplomatic spouses now have their own careers separate from that of their husbands as well. When President Clinton hosts an “official” White House dinner for Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi Monday evening, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Tom Foley and his wife, Heather will be on hand. Mrs. Foley has created quite a stir in diplomatic circles. In addition to her role as diplomatic spouse, she’s working for a Japanese think tank backed by Sumitomo Corp. The U.S. State Department has ruled that her role passes muster as long as the Ambassador doesn’t participate in activities involving them. Mrs. Foley established her role as a career woman when her husband was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. She served as his trusted administrative assistant for many years. The role of diplomatic spouse as merely hostess is quickly disappearing at American embassies throughout the world.

In recent years it’s been no secret that the White House press corps cozies up to their sources. Nothing glorifies that more than the annual White House Correspondents Dinner coming up this weekend. President Clinton will roast the press that covers his every move. He’s a warm-up act for Grammy-winning vocalist Aretha Franklin. News organizations have invited not only Cabinet Secretaries and Senators as their guests to this star-studded dinner, but also Larry Flynt, Susan McDougal, President Clinton’s personal secretary Betty Currie, scandal producer Lucianne Goldberg, and Tom Selleck. John Kennedy Jr. will represent George Magazine. Monica Lewinsky declined the invitation. Members of the press shmooze with VIPs at crowded pre and post dinner receptions. Paula Jones was the star attraction at last years glitzy dinner which led the New York Times to boycott the event this time around.

Tom Selleck was also the guest at the 52nd Annual Horatio Alger Awards, a who’s who of distinguished Americans with humble beginnings including Sen. Bob Dole, Gen. Colin Powell, Quincy Jones, Henry Kissinger and a host of Fortune 500 CEOs. These titans of industry, politics and entertainment partied at the Supreme Court, Library of Congress and the State Department. Recently retired hockey star Wayne Gretzky made a surprise visit to the awards dinner to see fellow Canadian, composer David Foster, entertain. Foster drew enthusiastic applause when he said he hopes to become a U.S. citizen within the next year.

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