These Are The 36 Biggest Names At The White House Correspondents' Dinner

by Kendall Wood

On Saturday, Hollywood descends on Washington, DC, for the White House Correspondents' dinner — the one occasion where a Kardashian can rub elbows with a Cabinet member. It's otherwise (appropriately) known as Nerd Prom. Or the Oscars of Capitol Hill.

But it wasn't always so glitzy. For decades, the WHCD was just another evening with rubbery chicken served in a fusty downtown hotel. But the event came into its own in 1987 when then Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Kelly brought Fawn Hall, Oliver North's secretary who helped shred documents during the height of the Iran-Contra affair.

In 1988, Gary Hart invited Donna Rice, his former mistress whose existence ended his bid for the Democratic nomination, and a trend was born. Both it-girls are long forgotten, but the tradition of inviting newsmakers to the Washington Hilton lives on.

What began as a dinner of ink-stained reporters hoping to butter-up sources has become a competition in hobnobbery. And a ticket to this year's dinner is harder to snag than a seat at the Oscars.

This is, after all, the last time Barack Obama will attend as the president — where he'll be roasted by host Larry Wilmore from “The Nightly Show,” and news organizations — from CNN to the Christian Broadcasting Network — will arrive with celebrities in tow.

Naturally, all this hanging out is controversial. The inside the beltway types wring their hands over the raucous weekend. Should reporters be cavorting with administration officials? Should there be this many parties?

But, despite the kvetching, the champagne flows, the canapés float by, and for one long weekend the news cycle turns upside down. Those who cover the news (the reporters) become the news, and those who drive news (the stars and politicos) become a prop on the stage of journalistic self-importance.

The most confusing part? Hollywood doesn't know who is significant in Washington, and Washington doesn't know who matters in Hollywood.

With this in mind, here's a cheat sheet in case Mark Ruffalo (star of “Spotlight” turned Bernie supporter) happens to bump into Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (who runs the military).

Read on for highlights from this year's guest list.

Movie Stars

Will Smith Table: ABC Boycotted the Oscars this year for lack of diversity. One of the last people to speak with Prince. Formerly TV royalty himself — as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Jada Pinkett Smith Table: ABC Married to Will Smith. Slipped into Matthew McConaughey's leather chaps in “Magic Mike 2.”

Morgan Freeman Table: CBS News The “voice of God” is also an executive producer of Washington-based CBS drama “Madame Secretary.”

Rachel McAdams
 Table: The Boston Globe Which is appropriate, since she starred as Boston Globe journalist Sasha in “Spotlight.”

Miles Teller Table: USA Today Fixture in “Divergent” series. His next film, “War Dogs,” is about Pentagon contractors. After last year's snarky Esquire profile, guests will spend the weekend wondering if he's a nice guy.

Mark Ruffalo Table: Boston Globe He of the great hair and passionate liberal convictions. Big Bernie fan. Day job as the Hulk in “The Avengers.”

Jeff Goldblum Table: Fox News Star of “Independence Day: Resurgence,” specialist of off-beat humor. At the Fox table because the studio is distributing his new movie.

TV Stars

Kerry Washington Table: ABC Plays Washington fixer on ABC's hit “Scandal.” Recently starred as Anita Hill in HBO's “Confirmation,” would probably love a chance to chat with Joe Biden.

Damian Lewis Table: CBS News Known around D.C. as “Homeland's” Brody. But his new show, “Billions,” in which he plays a hedge-funder benefiting from lack of reform on Wall Street, is pretty good, too.

Ilana Glazer Table: Thomson Reuters “Broad City” star and co-creator. Maybe in town because marijuana is legal in the District of Columbia.

Abbi Jacobson Table: Thomson Reuters “Broad City” star and co-creator. Laverne to Ilana Glazer's Shirley.

Michelle Dockery Table: Thomson Reuters Lady Mary from “Downton Abbey.” At home with the PBS-friendly crowd.

Candace Cameron-Bure Table: Christian Broadcasting Network Star of “Fuller House,” and “The View's” proud voice of the right wing.


Shonda Rhimes Table: ABC “Scandal” creator. Did the impossible and made politics sexy.

Is that really…?

Bernie Sanders Table: CBS News He's still running for president. But he's really in town in case Larry David shows up.

Kelly Ripa Table: ABC Recently freed from couple's counseling with Michael Strahan. Expect ABC News bigwigs to give lots of air kisses.

Kendall Jenner Table: USA Today Kim was busy.

Aretha Franklin Table: CBS News Queen of Soul.

Travis Kalanick Table: The Atlantic Co-founder and CEO of Uber. Ask him about Uber's new plan to fine riders who make drivers wait.

Bill Nye the Science Guy Table: The Huffington Post Native Washingtonian. Invited to explain global warming to the Fox News table.

The Fat Jew Table: The Huffington Post Josh Ostrovsky, viral internet star, plus-size model. In town to promote his wine, White Girl Rose.

JC Chasez Table: Fox News 'NSync singer. Hottest guest of 1999.

Hope Solo Table: Atlantic Goalie on the gold-medal winning women's U.S. soccer team. Complainant on lawsuit against U.S. Soccer Federation alleging wage discrimination. May boycott the Olympics in Rio.

Very Powerful People in Washington

Valerie Jarrett Table: CBS News One of three people with POTUS texting privileges.

Sec. of Defense Ash Carter Table: CBS News Runs the military. In Hollywood speak, the kind of part the late Fred Thompson would have played.

Jeff Zients Table: The Atlantic Head of the National Economic Council, advisor to the president on economic policy. Salvaged the botched roll out Would probably love hear your feelings on Obamacare.

Very Powerful People in Hollywood

David Nevins Table: CBS News Showtime president and CEO. Currently in hot water with the Special Olympics about the use of the “r” word in a Showtime comedy series.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs Table: Fox News President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Destined to spend the weekend answering questions about diversity in Hollywood.

Chris Dodd Table: Fox News MPAA chief. Don't get him talking about piracy.


Megyn Kelly Table: Fox News The star anchor of Fox's “The Kelly File” might be taking suggestions for Donald Trump questions for her upcoming special. ABC, NBC and CBS are all said to be wooing her once her contract is up at Fox News next year.

Bret Baier Table: Fox News Host of the “The Special Report.” Moderated recent Democratic Town Hall on Fox. Happy to take on Trump.

Andrea Mitchell Table: NBC News Chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News. Veteran talking head.

Savannah Guthrie Table: NBC News Anchor on the “The Today Show.” After a few drinks, maybe she'll tell you what she really thinks of Matt Lauer.

Chris Matthews Table: NBC News MSNBC “Hardball” host. Prone to squawking. Happy to play himself in the movies.

Arianna Huffington Table: Huffington Post Huff Post head. Promoting her new book, “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.” May go home early.

Walter Isaacson Table: CBS News Biographer and former Time magazine chief. Ask him how he feels about Michael Fassbender in “Steve Jobs,” which was loosely based on his book.

This article was written by Katie Van-Syckle for Variety.