First lady Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday bash on Saturday was reportedly everything you’d expect from a glamorous White House party: Glitzy and stocked with powerful celebrities and government officials.
It was also a highly secretive affair.
“So great was the secrecy surrounding the party,” the Chicago Tribune reported, “that guests were handed an invitation — on their way out.”
The White House apparently didn’t want photos of the “lavish” party leaking onto the Internet. So a strict “no cellphone” rule was enforced on the nearly 500 people in attendance.
Guests were not only told to leave their cellphones at home, but the ones who ignored this rule were made to surrender their phones at door, according to the Tribune.
“Signs at the party told guests: No cellphones, no social media,” People magazine reported, citing anonymous sources. “Guests had been greeted by a ‘cellphone check’ table where they deposited their camera phones on arrival and it was understood that this was not an occasion for tweeting party photos or Facebooking details.”
It appears the White House’s strategy was successful. Indeed, aside from a few tweets and Facebook posts about “having a good time” at the White House, there has been virtually no photographic evidence of Saturday’s party.
So why all the secrecy?
Perhaps, as the Washington Examiner’s Byron York suggested, the Obamas simply wanted some privacy for the first lady’s birthday. Then again, as York also suggested, inviting 500 of the most famous and powerful people in government and entertainment probably isn’t the best way to go about doing that.
Perhaps the White House’s desire to keep the party hush-hush stemmed from the fact that Obama has in recent months decided to turn his attention to “income inequality.”
“[M]aybe … the White House felt photos of a champagne-soaked, star-studded party would be somewhat off-message. But the Obamas are well-off, accomplished people. They can have a big party if they want (and if they pay for it). Why hide it?” York asked.
Celebrities in attendance reportedly included Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, Star Jones, Al Roker, Steve Harvey, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Jennifer Hudson, Gayle King, Kal Penn and Ashley Judd.
Political names included Vice President Joe Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
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