No dessert for Obama

Correspondents Association to give funds to charity

NEW YORK -- Would you invite President Barack Obama to dinner and not serve him dessert? The White House Correspondents Association has.

Attendees at Saturday's annual WHCA dinner will get no dessert, the funds being given instead to a local homeless shelter.

In addition, the WHCA, which holds the event to raise money for scholarships and other needs, is giving away its largest scholarship amount ever, at $130,000, according to Steve Scully of C-SPAN, a WHCA board member.

"Because of the economy, we are cognizant of the situation in every industry, we are all dealing with the current economic climate," said Scully. "We want the dinner to reflect that."

But despite the financial realities, the star-studded event still retains the glamour of both Washington power elite and Hollywood red carpet with the likes of Demi Moore, Tyra Banks, Sting, Jon Bon Jovi, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Ben Affleck, and hero pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger among the guests. (A longer list is posted below.)

The $200-per-ticket price tag remains the same as last year and demand for tickets is as high as ever, Scully said. "Last year, we had to give back [payments for] 500 tickets. This year it is more than that."

The New York Times, which instituted a policy several years ago of declining the dinner, will again not attend, Scully said. He had no information on other groups that have pulled out, but said many have reduced their ticket amounts to save money. The annual Bloomberg after-party, in the past the most exclusive ticket, is being scaled back.

Scully said the money saved from the lack of dessert will be part of a $23,000 donation from the association to the So Others May Eat, or SOME, organization of Washington, D.C., which offers food, shelter and other services to the homeless.

Wanda Sykes, following in the footsteps of Stephen Colbert, Craig Ferguson and Rich Little, is the entertainer.

But Obama's remarks and any surprise presentations he might have planned for his first WHCA gathering remain "the best-kept secret in Washington," according to Scully. In the past, surprises involving the president have ranged from George W. Bush appearing with an impersonator to his wife, Laura Bush, shoving him aside and taking the mic, much to the delight of the crowd.

The event, which begins at 8 p.m., will be broadcast on C-SPAN. More information and video clips from past dinners can be found at the WHCA site, WHCA.net.
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