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Richard Roeper: Tom Brokaw’s right -- glitterati have no place at White House dinner

Tom Brokaw right

Tom Brokaw, right

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Updated: June 8, 2012 8:15AM



Amen.

That’s what I say to Tom Brokaw’s comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday regarding the increasingly garish White House Correspondents Dinner.

“Look, I think George Clooney is a great guy, I’d like to meet Charlize Theron, but I don’t think the big press event in Washington should be that kind of glittering event, where the whole talk is Cristal champagne ... who had the best party, who got to meet the most people,” said Brokaw.

“That’s another separation between what we’re supposed to be doing and what the people expect us to be doing, and I think that the Washington press corps has to look at that ... It’s gone beyond what it used to be.”

So true. With the celebrity factor cranked up higher every year, with commentators and news reporters stumbling over themselves to get an iPhone snapshot with an Oscar nominee, with talk show hosts roasting the president as if he’s David Hasselhoff at the Friars Club, the dinner has become one of the most embarrassing events of the year for journalism.

Talk about a tone-deaf display. In what universe does Greta van Susteren believe she’s endearing herself to viewers by inviting Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan?

It’s as if the news organizations are participating in some sort of Fantasy Celebrity Draft. Zooey Deschanel sat at the Bloomberg table; Pierce Brosnan with the Washington Post, Rosario Dawson with Atlantic Media; Aziz Ansari with the New Yorker; Reese Witherspoon with Newsweek/The Daily Beast; Uggie the dog from “The Artist” with the Washington Times, and no, I’m not kidding.

“If there’s ever an event that separates the press from the people they’re supposed to be serving, symbolically, it is that one,” said Brokaw.

The president’s participation in the festivities is even weirder. First he has to sit there while he gets zinged by a comedian. Then he gets up and takes some potshots at himself and at a few of the guests.

And then everyone goes back to work the next day, with the press corps trying to dig up anything they can on the president, and the White House doing everything it can to spin and stonewall the media.

Take it down a notch

As the president would say: Now look. There’s good that comes from the White House Correspondents Dinner. As the WHCA’s site explains, “Proceeds from the dinner go toward scholarships and awards aimed at aspiring journalists.” And the dinner has a long of history of celebrity guest appearances, e.g., Frank Sinatra and Danny Thomas headlining in 1945.

But this competition among the media to get the coolest, biggest, brightest stars to sit at their table — what’s the point? Not to mention that when sharp, fearless comics such as Stephen Colbert and Kimmel are hosting, the jabs at the president are uncomfortably accurate.

And when the Kardashians are on the guest list, the whole thing becomes a joke.

It’s that Marvel-ous time again

Virtually every time I was out and about over the weekend, somebody wanted to talk about how they enjoyed the hell out of “Marvel’s The Avengers.” In fact, I’ve yet to hear from anyone who didn’t like it. (Though that will change now that I’ve written that line.)

As I heard their stories about waiting in line to see it at midnight last Thursday at the ICON or how the crowd was really into it at a jam-packed AMC River East on Saturday, I was reminded of how much we still love to go to the movies despite the expense and the jackassery of some patrons who don’t understand you’re not supposed to talk back to the screen.

Of course it’s awesome to catch a flick On Demand or to watch films and TV shows on your iPad — but when the summer movie season kicks in and the superheroes start flying, you want to have that experience with hundreds of other like-minded folks, everyone gaping up at the larger-than-life screen just like movie fans did in the 1920s and the 1950s and the 1970s.

It’s the spectacle. The event. The communal energy. You simply can’t duplicate that at home.



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