by Mark Seagal -
Courtesy of the
Philadelphia Gay News
When the White House invited me to one of its holiday receptions and dinners, my first reaction was that I've already had enough face-time with the president and to let someone else go. The staff here at PGN persuaded me otherwise. They were right. All my meetings with the president have been community-business or politically related. This was a White House party. And there's this list that I keep of things I'd like to do in my lifetime, and one of them is dancing ... with my boyfriend at the White House, so I began to wonder if that would finally come off the list.
A White House party is what you'd expect: Elegant, glamorous, famous people walking about and ready to chat. But what is really impressive is that you actually get to use the building as it was intended - as a house. There are no rope lines and, with the exception of the private residence, you have the freedom to walk about the building. You actually get your food and sit on the furniture, stand by the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington and sip a cocktail. You can go to the library and take a few books out to read. Or just do what most people do: Take pictures of yourself with the White House Christmas tree, or one of hundreds of famous points in the building. There are Marines scattered around the building, ready to help take that photo of you and your spouse under the Presidential Seal or in the East Room, Red Room, Blue Room, or anywhere else.
As for food and drink, it was in abundance. The main entrées were filet mignon or salmon, but the main course did not match up to the desserts. The centerpiece of the dessert table was a white-chocolate White House, with two cut-in rooms with actual working chandeliers and the First Family's dog sitting on the lawn. Very impressive. That, of course, was not to eat, but the White House bakery did not disappoint. Several kinds of pies, cakes, pastries, chocolates, and cookies were available, including a cookie in the shape of the family dog, Bo.
Of course, a party is not all food and drink; it's also pleasant conversation. Or, in the White House, it's political conversation. Of the many chats I had Tuesday night, two stood out. One was with an old friend I hadn't seen or talked with since he took his job as special assistant to the president, David Axelrod. David in the past had managed several Philadelphia campaigns and, on occasion, we'd have lunch at Famous Fourth Street Deli. He and I talked about Don't Ask, Don't Tell now, the rules of this event are that the comments of the administration are off the record, but my comments are not and I gave him a friendly reminder that the president had promised to end the ban by the end of his first term.
Next up was by far my favorite conversation of the night, and I don't think he'll mind that I'm writing about it. I went over to introduce myself to press secretary Robert Gibbs. I introduced myself, Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News. A big smile came to his face and he said, You're the guy who kicked our butt for 18 months. We laughed and I said, It was only four months and then, as I recall, we worked together. The rest of the conversation, I think, falls under the off-the-record category, but the subject matter was about LGBT media. I really like this guy.
Last up was getting your picture taken with the president and first lady. And of course the pic, when we receive it in, say, six months or so, will be very animated since I never lose an opportunity when I have the president's ear to mention LGBT issues or projects and that was my only disappointment of the evening. The president and first lady were gracious, but they had been through a very busy and difficult political week. I was disappointed not with them, but with myself for giving them another item to think about. There are always better times. But the president was oh-so-polite.
And yes, Jason and I did dance at the party. There's even a video of it on my Facebook page. Cross that off my list.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation's most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media, having recently received the 2010 Columnist of the Year Award from Suburban Newspapers of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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