From Joseph Curl, writing for White House Weekly (unavailable online):
Three White House reporters were among the 130 guests this week at President Bush’s white-tie state dinner to honor Queen Elizabeth II, and one said afterward that they all felt a bit like fish out of water.
“I’m sure we all thought,’Can you believe we’re actually here, doing this?’ ” said Richard Wolffe of Newsweek, a Brit who was lucky enough to snag a ticket to the social event of the century (at least so far).
The other reporters who attended the state dinner were Steve Holland of Reuters and David Gregory of NBC News. But the White House Weekly went to Wolffe to get a fill on the evening.
First, how do you even prepare for such an event?
“I do not own a white tie and tails; I admit it, I had to rent one,” he said, noting that there are a few shops that specialize in such attire on L Street near the White House. He paid “a hundred and something bucks” for his formal rental.
“I’ve never worn one before, and I doubt that I’ll ever wear one again. But I’m sure the queen can distinguish between tails that are owned and tails that are rented. My wife does, however, own her long dress, although she borrowed the diamonds,” Wolffe said.
He first got wind of the possibility that he might be invited to the state dinner about a month ago. But it was all very tentative: “Well, you know, it could happen; don’t want to get too excited, don’t tell your wife yet.”
“I didn’t lobby for it–unlike some people,” he said. (The White House Weekly, speaking this week to a little White House birdie, heard that there were several reporters pushing hard to be included in the elite crowd. No one would name names, of course, but for the record, this reporter was not one of them.
How were your colleagues in the press, as you walked up the red carpet?
“A couple of things were weird, being on the other side of the rope line. Walking into a wall of cameras–it does take you by surprise. A couple of photographers were less than respectful,” he said with a laugh.
Still, all his editors “wanted to know about the food. I was very rude about it–I’ll never get invited again.”