The 121st Annual Gridiron Dinner

Saturday night, 600+ guests–including most everyone from Washington’s A-List–converged on the Capital Hilton for the 121st annual Gridiron Dinner, where the press gets a chance to grill politicians and the politicians give it right back.

In the lobby before the dinner, media rockstars, politicians, Cabinet officials, celebrities and ambassadors walked pass the roped off photographers, headed upstairs and cleared security to enjoy cocktails on the hotel’s second floor and bask in the fact that they were even elite enough to make it into the prestigious dinner.

From the power halls of politics: George Allen, John Boehner, Josh Bolten, John Cornyn, Howard Dean, David Dreier, Trent Duffy, Russ Feingold, Madeleine Albright, Ken Mehlman, Chris Shays, Louise Slaughter, Michael Steele and John Sununu.

From Hollywood, there was West Wing’s Ron Silver (who attends nearly every dinner in Washington for some inexplicable reason) and 24’s Will Devane, Ken Burns, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Law & Order’s Fred Thompson and Jack Valenti.

Media rockstars included: Peter Baker, Wolf Blitzer, David Broder, Margaret Carlson, Jay Carney, Eleanor Clift, George Condon, Francis Coombs, Tom DeFrank, Maureen Dowd, Bob Edwards (frequently heading out to grab a smoke), Al Franken, Tom Friedman, Jack Germond, Paul Gigot, Don Graham, Fred Hiatt, Steve Holland, Janet Hook, Deborah Howell, Clark Hoyt, Al Hunt, Terence Hunt, Gwen Ifil, Jim Kelly, Jim Lehrer, Finlay Lewis, Doyle McManus, Philip Merill, Maureen Orth, Susan Page, Clarence Page, Nedra Pickler, William Raspberry, Roxanne Roberts, Eugene Robinson, Tim Russert, Bill Safire, Bob Schieffer, Gerald Seib, Mark Shields, Helen Thomas, Tom Toles, Karen Tumulty, John Walcott, David Wessel, Judy Woodruff and Bob Woodward.

Read more about the event’s festivities after the jump…

The dinner is largely a variety show, put on by a chorus of journalists who do dance numbers, sing show tunes and perform skits. This year, the skits were followed by humorous speeches by Barack Obama and Lynne Cheney and the evening concluded with President Bush’s chance to give it back.

Among those seated at the head table were Gridiron President John Hall, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Laura Bush, Lynne Cheney, Lynne Cheney (who delivered the Republican speech), Barack Obama (who spoke for the Democrats), Mayor Williams, Scott McClellan, Norman Mineta, Andy Card, Michael Chertoff, Gail Norton, Nancy Pelosi, Elaine Chao, John Negroponte, Peter Pace, Jim Nicholson and Alphonso Jackson.

The reporter’s chorus sang out to songs with chorus lines like “Ain’t no cure for the 2nd term blues,” “Chase that leak right back to its source,” “How can we win in disarray?” (as in the Democrats) and “Hit the road Jack” (as in Abramoff). Al Hunt led the “George Bush’s 2nd Term Fiasco Circus.”

For the festivities, Helen Thomas dressed up as Hillary Clinton, Karen Tumulty dressed up as Judy Miller (who was listed on the attendee list but went unseen by many), Hedrick Smith and Clarence Page exposed their chest hair as they did the cha-cha in their salsa outfits, Tim Russert dressed as a generic blonde cable TV girl (although Russert felt so foolish in the outfit that he eventually just tossed his wig to the floor) and St. Louis Dispatch’s John Sawyer dressed up as Cheney on a hunting trip.

Other highlights:

  • The chorus line meant for Bob Woodward: “You may think that he’s a snook, he’s just saving it for his book.”

  • Lynne Cheney: “I’m glad all you journalists are here because we have some breakings news. We’ll be sure to tell you in 18 hours. And we’ll tell David Gregory in a month.”

  • Lynne Cheney: “I told Dick that maybe he should go on MTV to help improve his low public image. But he just complained that they’d ask him that same question about “boxers or briefs?” and I know Dick would just say, ‘Underwear is for sissies.'”

  • President Bush introducing Lynne Cheney as “Mrs. Burr.”

  • Bush: “People ask me what it’s like to have an approval rating of only 38 percent. Dick Cheney asks me, ‘What’s your secret?'”

  • Obama singing “If I Only Had McCain” to the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain.”

  • Gridiron President Hall: “How can we outsource our ports to Arabs when we can’t even outsource Iraq to Arabs?”

  • Lynne Cheney: “The President is ‘POTUS.’ … Dick is ‘VPOTUS.’ … Laura is ‘FLOTUS.’ … I’m “SLOTUS.” … Doesn’t that sound like the girls in high school we didn’t like?”

  • Barack Obama: “I’m actually terrified to be here tonight. People are having cocktails and the vice president is only thirty feet from me.”

  • Bush: “Sen. Obama, I want to do a joke on you. But doing a joke on you is like doing a joke on the pope. Give me something to work with. Mispronounce something.”

    At the conclusion of the evening, attendees put jokes aside and all joined in to sing “Always Look At the Brightside of Life.”

Other’s takes: WP, AP, and the Houston Chronicle.