How strangely we celebrate democracy.
Over the past weekend, a slew of inaugural luncheons, balls, and parties kicked off President Barack Obama's second term. Most were held in awkward convention halls or spaces not suited for the event. The state society galas appeared to be competing to see who could make their state look most strange. Gaffes were made. Mics didn't work. The food was terrible, and the drink lines were unbearably long. But mostly, the kind of uncomfortable things you might expect to happen when thousands of tourists, politicians, and celebrities are piled into one space did happen.
Whoever booked Lupe Fiasco for inauguration, for one, may no longer have a job today. The rapper, who has previously called Obama "the biggest terrorist" because of the president's use of drone strikes overseas, voiced similar opinions when he performed at the StartUp RockOn inauguration party Sunday night. After attendees spent an uncomfortable 30 minutes listening to Lupe repeat the same lines of an anti-war, anti-Obama song over and over again, organizers finally pulled him off stage.
The next evening, Kesha confirmed that edgy celebrities and Washington don't always mix well. Throughout her set at the Recording Industry Association's inaugural party at the 9:30 Club Monday night, male lobbyists in the audience painfully tried to keep up with the dance moves of Kesha's on-stage male background dancers, who gyrated while wearing cut off tank tops made from American flags.
But some of the uncomfortable moments weren't celebrity driven, with the tourist-populated state society galas providing enough embarrassing moments to fill the weekend. A fashion show luncheon hosted by the California State Society Saturday began with tenor Larry Wayne Morbitt, of Phantom of the Opera fame, attempting to sing the national anthem with a great deal of flair. That effort was frustrated by a microphone that couldn't decide whether to stay on or off, and cackles from fashion show goers across the room.
(Photos by Elizabeth Flock/USN&WR)
The Illinois State Society Inaugural Gala, for its part, seemed to think it was a state exposition. Instead of the fancy gala that was expected, attendees were greeted Saturday night by a showcase of what is apparently Illinois's greatest assets: corndogs and pretzels, a root beer float station, and a representation of the world's largest catsup bottle.
At the Iowa State Society ball, meanwhile, Joe Biden—unsurprisingly—brought the gaffe to the party. While addressing ball goers, Biden referred to himself not as vice president but as POTUS, saying he was "proud to be president of the United States." The VP didn't even try to recover, following the flub up with: "Well, there goes that."
On its face, the official inaugural ball appeared to be the classiest affair of the weekend. There was Michelle Obama in her killer Jason Wu dress, and the Obamas dancing as Jennifer Hudson did a memorable rendition of "Let's Stay Together." But on closer glance, the event, held Monday night at D.C.'s convention center, was also incredibly unstylish: Cheez-It crackers and stale pretzels were offered as snacks and drink lines were interminably long.
"Our democracy is the envy of the world," country singer Brad Paisley remarked at the ball. "Tonight we celebrate by getting drunk in a huge convention center." Awkwardly.