By Jade Salazar
This past Saturday, Samantha Bee hosted her much-talked-about “Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner.” The event was held at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., and was full of Trump jokes, celebrities, and odes to the free press. The dinner, which was also a taping of TBS’s Full Frontal with Samantha Bee brought in over $200,000 for the Committee to Protect Journalists. Tagg Magazine, being the only LGBTQ publication in attendance, I decided to give you a first-hand account of my queer experience.
In the invitation, the event was touted as BYOB, so I thought it would be amusing to bring a bottle of Jack Daniels; needless to say, security was not as amused and Tagg’s Managing Editor, Eboné Bell, had to hide the bottle in some bushes outside the building. Side note: after quite a bit of effort, we later got the Jack Daniels into the after party and left it behind a random mirror. I hope a worker found it after a long day and is enjoying it now. #PayItForward
As we waited in the security line, Tegan and Sara walked by and immediately greeted us with lesbian handshakes. I also somehow ended up directly behind them going through the metal detectors and assumed this was the highlight of my evening. I was wrong.
We got inside to the cocktail hour where it was suffocatingly hot. Eboné and I did a quick loop to scope out the scene and decided to grab a drink. I am not sure what magical drink line we ended up in, but somehow, we once again found ourselves behind Tegan and Sara. Chatting with the Quin sisters was Alia Shawkat, who is from Search Party and Arrested Development, but I mostly know her from the episode of Broad City where she makes out with doppelgänger Ilana Glazer. To the right of us were Padma Lakshmi (Top Chef) and Ai Larter (Heroes/Varsity Blues). To the left was Jessica Williams (2 Dope Queens/The Daily Show), and directly behind us was comedian/actress Retta (Parks and Recreation). After a bit of a wait, we got our drinks, got one for Retta, cheers-ed her and headed to our press seats.
The show opened with Katie Jacoby playing a violin version of Bee’s theme song, “Boys Wanna Be Her” before opening the stage to gay icon Peaches. Peaches’ live performance was backed by Thundercunt, which included eight female musicians such as Kathi Wilcox (The Julie Ruin/Bikini Kill), Alyson Palmer (Betty), and Jessica Pimentel (who you might know as Maria Ruiz on Orange is The New Black but also plays in the death metal band Alekhine’s Gun).
After the theme song, Samantha Bee came out to a standing ovation. The show opened with her thanking journalists, having an “In Memorium” for the careers of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, and comparing Trump’s presidency to the Fyre Festival. Throughout the show, Bee showed “flashback” clips of her roasting different presidents beginning with Woodrow Wilson and ending with a post-apocalyptic roast of President Pence. I also appreciated her roasting Reagan on his lack of response to the AIDS crisis. Throughout the show, videos featuring LGBTQ figures George Takei, Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher were played.
When we got to the POV lounge of the W Hotel for the after party, there was a beautiful view of the city, a “Drunk Dial Your Legislator” phone bank, open bars, and a dance floor. At this point, Ashley Linder and Chelsea Shorte of the Tagg Nation podcast joined. Chelsea and I were the first ones on the dance floor as DJ duo Posso played. We grooved off and on but ran to the floor when we heard Madonna’s “Vogue,” which ended up being a mash-up with “Let’s Have a Kiki.” The sparse dance floor did not stop us from getting our gay lives.
Speaking of our gay lives, Eboné got to chat with Alysia Reiner (Natalie Figueroa “Fig” on OITND) who confirmed she will be in the next season. She also is attached to an upcoming lesbian-focused Wall Street type movie that Tagg will definitely keep you updated on. We also spoke on and off with Tegan. We talked about their foundation and involvement in next weekend’s Lesbians Who Tech Summit in Washington, D.C. and how YouTube show This Just Out with Liz Feldman is finally coming back. We also talked to comedian Franchesca Ramsey and her publicist, who were excited at the prospect of working with a LGBTQ publication. Throughout the evening, our gay card seemed to give us a leg-up when it came to interesting conversations.
After Posso, the dance floor began to fill up in anticipation of the legendary Elvis Costello. We somehow got roped into the VIP section and found ourselves between Samantha Bee and Will Ferrell, while his Saturday Night Live cast mate Ana Gasteyer mingled somewhere in the crowd. During the set, Eboné went up to Samantha Bee, took a selfie and thanked her for inviting us. Bee was somehow more thankful that we attended and were representing an LGBTQ voice. As Elvis Costello & The Imposters wound down, we decided to head out. We stopped to chat with Retta and her college roommate, took a few photos (one of which was photo bombed by Jessica Williams), and headed down the elevator and back into reality.
In all, the Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a surreal time and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I can only speak to what I saw and who I talked to but I am sure there were many people in attendance doing incredible work in media and journalism and hats off to them. Thank you to Samantha Bee and her whole crew. It was a pleasure to join in on the day and experience it through a queer eye. The event has already been seen by some as “just a further display of liberal elitism.” At certain point, you have to stop trying to dissect it and take it for what is was: an entertaining day where people came together to laugh, take a breather from the current state of affairs, and support the great cause that is a free press.