Left feet, long lines and loving celebs at inaugural balls

  • Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden dance at the Eastern Inaugural Ball in Washington, Wednesday.

    Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden dance at the Eastern Inaugural Ball in Washington, Wednesday. Associated Press

  • President Barack Obama, left, dances with Army Sgt. Margaret Herrera and first lady Michelle Obama dances with Marine Corps Sgt. Elidio Guillen during the Commander in Chief Ball at the National Building Museum in Washington, Tuesday.

    President Barack Obama, left, dances with Army Sgt. Margaret Herrera and first lady Michelle Obama dances with Marine Corps Sgt. Elidio Guillen during the Commander in Chief Ball at the National Building Museum in Washington, Tuesday. Associated Press

  • President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama kiss at the end of their last dance at the Eastern Inaugural Ball, their last ball of the evening in Washington Wednesday.

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama kiss at the end of their last dance at the Eastern Inaugural Ball, their last ball of the evening in Washington Wednesday. Associated Press

Updated 1/21/2009 6:15 AM

WASHINGTON - Joe Biden wants to make one thing clear: He can't dance.

Biden joked about his two left feet at multiple balls Tuesday night.


"The thing that frightens me the most (is) I'm going to have to stand in that circle and dance in a minute," he said at the Commander in chief Ball. At that, he laughed and did a quick sign of the cross.

At the Western Ball, he said, "Now you are going to see I can't dance." And at the Neighborhood Ball, he joked about killing time to avoid dancing.

"The last thing you need is to have a vice president sandwiched between a brand new president and all his star power up there. I learned a long time ago when to hush up. If you turn around and look at that screen, they've got me down to 22 seconds. The reason I want to keep talking is because I can't dance," he said.

But dance he did, stiffly, with wife Jill to "Have I Told You Lately."

"I may not be able to dance, but i sure like holding her," he said.


Tabloid speculation has focused on the status of Marc Anthony's relationship with Jennifer Lopez, but there was no sign of trouble at the Western Ball Tuesday night.

For his last number, Anthony thrilled the crowd by inviting "my wife" to sing with him.

Lopez appeared on stage in a white draped gown with flashes of gold and one shoulder bare.

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They kissed on the lips before launching into an upbeat love ballad in Spanish, occasionally gazing into each other's eyes and caressing one another.

Earlier in the night he talked about her before singing a song for her.

"I wrote this next song about Jennifer. I must have been psychic," Anthony said. He said he wrote the song, "You Sang to Me," about 10 years ago.

"She didn't get the point," Anthony said, "but eventually it worked."

At the end of the couple's duet, they kissed again.

"Man, she's cute," Anthony said after Lopez walked offstage. He then bid the crowd goodnight.

-- Erica Werner


After a morning of shivering in long lines, many Obama supporters braved an evening of more of the same.

At the Eastern States Ball, people were still waiting in line outside in the cold at 9:30 p.m. for the ball that started at 8 p.m.


"I think we have line fatigue from today," said Joshua Shiffrin, 30, of Washington, who was at the front of the line and waited about a half-hour to get in. "We're here now, so we're happy."

Justin Mendelsohn, 26, from New York City, said, "We would not have been braving these lines for many candidates."

And once inside, there was more standing, with few places to sit. At the Midwestern ball, groups of people gave up and sat on the floor.

"There's no chairs. There's nowhere to sit. And we've all got heels on," Kate McCarthy, 37, said as she sat on the floor with her legs outstretched. But she wasn't complaining. "People joined us. It's actually quite fun."

-- Marcy Gordon and Ann Sanner


So where's all this openness that Obama promised?

Certainly not at the Youth Inaugural Ball, where the media were welcome to cover the event -- sort of.

Reporters were penned in the back of the room, prohibited from mingling among the guests, and could only approach people for interviews with an escort, a practice also followed at the Obama Home States ball.

What's more, reporters were not even allowed to use the main bathrooms at the Washington Hilton; one media minder explained that organizers did not want reporters to interrogate the young-adult guests in the bathroom.

(The media could use a small bathroom near the back-hall entrance where they came into the event, again with an escort.)

-- Ben Feller


Members of the military and their families who were being celebrated at the Heroes Red White & Blue Ball, with performances by country artist Keni Thomas and Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Though the ball's guests were plunging into the night's celebration, the reality that the country remains at war hung over the festivities.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded the crowd that while attendees celebrated "dressed to the nines" there are more than 280,000 troops on duty "so we can enjoy this day."

Cody Miranda, a Marine Corps veteran, beamed with excitement over the evening's activities. He said he wrestled with post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism and landed several times in military prison after returning from Iraq.

"It's great to be here to know I'm here after how I was in the military. I was downfallen," he said, adding that he is now in school. He is expecting much from President Barack Obama.

"I want my friends out of Iraq," Miranda said.

-- Suzanne Gamboa


The Southern Ball was held at an armory on the outskirts of Washington, and some of the ballgoers thought they knew why: Nine of the 11 states represented went to John McCain.

Adding to the feeling of second-rate status, the Obamas made it one of their last scheduled stops of the night.

"This is one of the times I wish when I made my donation I had used one of my friends' addresses," said Donna Vaughn of Nashville, a Democratic and inaugural donor who works as a district manager for a biotech company.

"I kept thinking because we're on the outskirts, we'll be one of the first ones," said one of Vaughn's companions, Cassandra Branch, a pharmaceutical sales representative from Nashville.

Tennessee and fellow Southern Ball states Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas all went to McCain. Only North Carolina and Florida went to Obama.

Still, there was a happy ending. The Obamas sped up their schedule and swept through the ball about two hours earlier than expected.

"Oh man. That's beautiful!" Branch exclaimed as she and Vaughn feverishly took pictures of the Obamas dancing closely.

"To see them, they're so much in love," Branch said. "It was very much worth it. Especially when you have a zoom lens."

-- Sharon Theimer


At the Purple Ball at the Fairmont Hotel, a purple carpet replaced the Hollywood red version, but the scene brought a shot of glamour and fashion to otherwise staid Washington.

Actress Ashley Judd traded the mocha-colored Reem Acra chiffon gown she had worn the night before to the Kentucky Bluegrass Ball for a pearl gray Monique Lhullier frock on Tuesday.

The delicate gowns were a far cry from her ensemble a few hours earlier in the chilly stands below the podium where President Barack Obama took his oath, she said. Her secrets: Long underwear and a blanket wrapped around her.

"I did layer," Judd said. "And I did get cold, but I expected that. It was all part of the experience."

"I was wearing long underwear and sweats!" reported "Private Practice" actress Amy Brenneman, who traded that look for a sleek metallic beige gown for the purple carpet.

Best ensemble of the night award goes to a purple 1960s jump suit, for thematics, practicality and glamour. Seriously.

The wearer: Kate Roberts, founder of YouthAIDS.

-- Laurie Kellman


Barricaded streets? Police detours? They can't stop singer Ashanti when she lays on the charm.

"We've been getting around pretty good. Sometimes we have to roll the window down and I have to bat my eyes a little bit, but it works," she said at the BET Inaugural Ball.

She's been getting away with it for years and it's nearly infallible. "About 95 percent of the time" it works, she said.

Ashanti didn't brave the cold to watch the inauguration. "My mom, my dad, my sister, we were all inside glued to the television, watching this monumental moment," she said. "The cold was too cold for me."

But temperatures around freezing were no match for former Secretary of State Colin Powell's special inauguration coat.

"I had a nice heavy coat on that I bought almost 40 years ago for a trip to Siberia," Powell said at the ball, which promoted his group, America's Promise Alliance, which helps young people. "It comes in handy at an inauguration, which is the only time I wear it.

Besides, Powell said, he can handle colder weather than that. "Remember, I'm an infantry officer, so I'm used to cold."

Watching Barack Obama sworn in as president was a "deeply emotional" experience for Powell. But, he said, Obama is "a man, he's not Superman, so tomorrow, we all got to help him."

-- Michael Weinfeld


Stars aren't immune from being star-struck. Many of them were awed by Obama's inauguration and the promise of a new direction for the country.

"This is not an American election," said boxing promoter Don King at the Huffington Post Preinaugural Party Monday. "This is a global inauguration because people are looking for that beacon of hope and light called freedom from this country as their leadership."

M.C. Hammer, also participating in the weekend's whirl of parties and events, said Obama's election was an important moment in the nation's history that all American's could share.

"It's not a moment for any individual group, but an American moment," said Hammer. "And it can only happen with the participation of many ethnicities throughout America saying this is what we want. I understood the progress that has been made as a people. It brought tears to my face."

But the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, put Obama's inauguration the day after the King holiday in perspective.

"The work of the prophet made the president possible," Jackson said, referring to King and Obama. "We've overcome a very sordid and often ugly past. And yet here we are, making a statement to the world. It's really a night of boundless joy, you know?"

-- Michelle Salcedo

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