On Sunday night, Hollywood stars, oil executives, senators, cabinet secretaries and lobbyists got a taste of the kind of stamina once demanded of serious Washington socialites. The ritual of starting the workweek party-down tired, last seen in the mid-Nineties when the Clintons ran the White House, was back in full force at the Kuwaiti Embassy. Proof positive: Ben Affleck and Michael Douglas waiting more than an hour to greet dinner guest of honor President Bill Clinton at the annual Kuwait-America Foundation gala hosted by Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah and his wife, Rima. This year’s event raised almost $3 million for the USO, celebrating 70 years of boosting the spirits of American military personnel stationed overseas.
Clinton led the crowd in a round of applause for his former aide, new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Later, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner cautioned Emanuel to savor the next two years, adding: “That’s all the time he has as the leading Jewish city mayor.”
This story first appeared in the March 8, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But Weiner didn’t get much time to gloat. When Affleck, in town to testify before Congress on his Democratic Republic of Congo initiative, took the microphone, he toasted war heroes John Kerry and John McCain, adding: “And then there’s Rep. Anthony Weiner.” Affleck and Weiner have a history of ribbing one another, which the actor acknowledged Sunday as he said: “Anytime I can get a chance to juxtapose you against two American war heroes.…”
Weiner evened the score later in the evening. “Has anyone here seen ‘Daredevil’?” he asked after Affleck admitted that, while he’s never served in the military, he’s been responsible for “quite a few bombs.”
But this being a Sunday night, many didn’t linger at the event. Among the first to leave: Obama White House press secretary Jay Carney and his wife, Claire Shipman. Last to leave, not surprisingly: Clinton, along with singer Michael Bolton and his band. Most agile at adapting to changing Democratic White House styles: Gene Sperling, now President Obama’s economic guru, who buttonholed his old boss Clinton and asked him and his foundation “to help with a White House program for retrofitting old buildings” to make them more energy efficient.