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cherrypoptart
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So for something a little less serious...

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/white-house-hosted-alice-wonderland-party-155331078.html

By Eric Pfeiffer | The Sideshow – 19 hrs ago

Was having the Mad Hatter over for a party a bad idea?
A new book reports that the Obama White House hosted an extravagant "Alice in Wonderland" party in the fall of 2009, designed by director Tim Burton and featuring actor Johnny Depp.

In "The Obamas," New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor writes that the White House decided to downplay the expensive Halloween party over fears of a public backlash, since it was taking place during the height of the recession.

"White House officials were so nervous about how a splashy, Hollywood-esque party would look to jobless Americans — or their representatives in Congress, who would soon vote on health care — that the event was not discussed publicly and Burton's and Depp's contributions went unacknowledged," Kantor writes.

The party itself was designed by director Tim Burton, who helped transform the East Room and State Dining Room into a "White House Wonderland." More from the book:

"[Burton's] film version was about to be released, and he had turned the room into the Mad Hatter's tea party, with a long table set with antique-looking linens, enormous stuffed animals in chairs, and tiered serving plates with treats like bone-shaped meringue cookies."

"Fruit punch was served in blood vials at the bar. Burton's own Mad Hatter, the actor Johnny Depp, presided over the scene in full costume, standing up on a table to welcome everyone in character."

And though he had nothing to do with "Alice in Wonderland," Star Wars creator George Lucas reportedly sent along an actor playing Chewbacca to attend the party.

That was followed by a magic show for children of White House staff and military families.

White House spokesman Eric Shultz disputed Kantor's take, saying the event was not covered up for fear of public backlash. "This was an event for local school children from the Washington DC area and for hundreds of military families," Shultz said in a statement released to Politico. "If we wanted this event to be a secret, we probably wouldn't have invited the press corps to cover it, release photos of it to Flickr, or post a video from it on the White House website," he said.

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This is the first I've heard of it.

Oh to be a fly on the wall. So, you have to wonder what the conversation was like from Obama's people to the press that ended with this whole extravaganza getting the big kabosh put on it for so long. How do you even make that happen? And nobody in the media leaked it? In a way, that's pretty impressive. In a bigger way, it's very scary.

What else are they hiding from us?

It's not so much the party though they are correct that it would have been perceived as lavish when so many are hurting economically, but the cover-up that is really interesting. Who knew what and when and why didn't they tell? How were they persuaded?

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TomDavidson
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I saw photos of it months ago. I'm skeptical of any actual "coverup" attempt, since photos of Depp in Mad Hatter get-up next to the Obamas (and, as noted, local children) circulated pretty wildly. In fact, I'm pretty sure there was the usual press pool, since I know I've seen the same picture from multiple angles.
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cherrypoptart
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That was part of why I brought it up. This was the first I'd heard of it and reading many of the comments other people were surprised as well, but I thought some of the regulars here may have been familiar with it already so just wanted to check. Good to know. I must have been busy I guess because I'm usually on top of these things.
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TomDavidson
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*laugh* I should have done this first. I have a couple contacts still, and just heard back via email. Off the record, this is what happened:

The White House's Social Secretary at the time, Desiree Rogers, kept trying to book lavish, high-profile events; she was hugely into celebrity meet-and-greets, and found that Obama's fame meant that they could get lots of high-profile performances (especially if those performances were scheduled to also be free publicity for the performer.) Michelle Obama, however, absolutely resented seeing the White House used to promote movies and upcoming albums, and had several arguments with Rogers about this; the First Lady has a strongly populist streak and was determined to present an image that was strongly at odds with Rogers' apparent designs on "Camelot." Rogers was, however, the wife of one of the president's best friends and was by all accounts a pretty good social organizer; she was just too flashy, too star-obsessed, and rubbed Michelle Obama the wrong way. So they had a bit of an argument during this party, which Michelle Obama thought amounted to a ridiculous commercial for a bad movie, and the First Lady told one of her best friends in the administration, Valerie Jarrett, that as far as she was concerned Rogers was "on notice." (You'll notice that they later used the whole "idiots sneak into a state dinner" flap a few months later to get rid of Rogers altogether.) I imagine the actual dinner itself was pretty awkward, if the First Lady was really that angry.

[ January 10, 2012, 07:47 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Ben
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Wondering, related to some of the fuss about this, some people, checking guest lists released, noted that [there were] big names not on the list that were known to be at the party, such as Depp. They are saying this is part of Obama's lack of transparency. Does anyone know something that would explain this discrepancy, such as separate lists for staff, and Depp being considered staff for the purpose of the party?

That aside, I have no problem with the party for school kids + military families, though I'm a bit disappointed by the bickering + political fuss by staff + hosts during the event, as reported.

Edited to add [] part for legibility

[ January 10, 2012, 11:29 PM: Message edited by: Ben ]

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