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PHOTOS: Hollywood in Washington for White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

9:54 AM, Apr 28, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (USA Today) -- What makes even an A-list celebrity jump up from their dinner table to snap a photo?

President Obama and the first lady, of course. Because at the roughly 3,000-person affair that is the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, which took place on Saturday, they are the night's biggest draw.

After food was served and an introductory video featuring Kevin Spacey in a spoof of House of Cards was presented, the president of the White House Correspondents' Association, Ed Henry, took to the podium. And then, finally, it was Obama's turn.

"I recognize that this job can take a toll on you. ... We borrowed one of Michelle's tricks," said Obama, as a photo of himself with Photoshopped bangs was displayed across the screens at the dinner.

It's a tradition for the sitting president to speak -- and usually be funny, or at least try -- at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.

"Maybe I have lost control. This whole controversy of Jay-Z going to Cuba. I got 99 problems and Jay-Z's one of them," joked Obama, referencing the rapper's lyrics.

"Speaking of presidents and legacies, I want to acknowledge Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, both of whom are here tonight," said Obama, introducing A spoof of Spielberg's next project,Obama, starring the Academy Award-winning actor. "Without him, I never could have played Joe Biden," said Tracy Morgan of Day-Lewis during the clip.

With the President as his opener, Conan O'Brien, the evening's headliner, had a tough act to follow. "It's an honor to share this stage with the president," began O'Brien. "We both went to Harvard, we both have two children, and we both told Joe Biden we didn't have any extra tickets to tonight's event," he jokes. The late-night TV host was among many other celebrity repeat attendees, having served as the dinner's host in 1995.

"My prior experience has taught me how these dinners work," said O'Brien. "If the president laughs, everyone laughs. And if the Fox News table laughs, a little girl has just fallen off her bike."

He also took a jab at print media, saying they "are here for two reasons: food and shelter."

O'Brien highlighted the fact that Obama has added many jobs during his presidency. "Since he was elected, the number of popes has doubled, and the number of late night hosts has tripled."

Celebrities descended upon the nation's capital in droves for the annual mix-and-mingle. It's the one weekend a year when Washington media turns itself upside down to entertain a cadre of glamorous guests, all clamoring for a chance to experience dinner with the Obamas -- and network to the max.

O'Brien was the headlining entertainment, but people-watching came in a close second.

Fans situated inside a cordoned-off area of the Washington Hilton were treated to starry sightings including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Poehler, Katy Perry, Michael J. Fox, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Olivia Wilde, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Spielberg, Matthew Perry, Tony Goldwyn and Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas. Korean pop star Psy, Australian comedian Rebel Wilson, who was host of the recent MTV Movie Awards, and Britain's Downton Abbey actress Michelle Dockery also attended.

The dinner, which is put on to raise money for journalism scholarships and honor the professional recipients of the WHCA's journalism awards, has turned into quite the see-and-be-seen affair. Stars come for the experience -- it's a chance to hobnob with fellow celebrities, political figures, other power players and yes, even journalists -- some who are celebrities in their own right.

USA TODAY's own guests include actresses Megan Hilty and Broadway star Josh Gad. And for first-timers, the event can be a bit overwhelming. "I don't remember going to any party in LA where I was sniffed by dogs," says Gad, who mingled with other celebs at a reception before the dinner. "This is my first time (at the dinner) and I'm excited to be here. ...I'm a big fan of the President's humor, and I can't wait to hear what he has to say."

Things turned into an impromptu class reunion when Smash star Hilty arrived. "We went to college together," explained Gad, as the two exchanged hugs and hellos. "Oh my gosh, I love your show!" exclaimed Hilty to the Book of Mormon star. "I love your show!" said Gad.

"It's a lot of fun to come and hang out with journalists and people of the media and politicians," said Kate Walsh, another guest of USA TODAY who has attended the dinner before. "We don't get to do that a lot in Hollywood. We always say D.C. is sort of like Hollywood for grownups. We get to look around and we get to 'ooh' and 'ahh.' We're fans too."

As for the evening's entertainment, Walsh says she and O'Brien "go way back. I love Conan. I used to do sketches on his show years ago when I lived in New York and was an up-and-coming actor."

Preparations for the dinner ran up until the last minute for some. ABC'sScandal star Kerry Washington tweeted about getting her fitting earlier in the day. "Just had my fitting with @Stephendatailor - my awesome go to tailor in DC! - getting EXCITED about tonight," she announced to followers.

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