Inaugural Balls' Buzz Sizzles

Oprah Winfrey poses for photographers at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast in Beverly Hills, Calif., Friday, Dec. 5, 2008. AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Inaugural balls will be packed. Attendees will be adorned in their very best. Glamour will abound.

With 17 days and counting until guests get to use the hottest tickets in town, Washington is getting ready to party.

And on The Early Show Saturday Edition, the Washington Post's Amy Argetsinger, who writes the "Reliable Source" column along with Roxanne Roberts, gave viewers the scoop on the D.C. social circuit's biggest hoopla since — the last inauguration!

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST EVENTS OF THE NIGHT?

There are dozens of balls and galas. Historically, the hottest tickets are the "official balls." This year, there are 10 such balls — the only ones where Barack Obama, Joe Biden and their wives are guaranteed to show up. The unofficial balls are going to be really lavish, probably more glitzy than the official balls. Already, we've heard of holiday celebrity types who are throwing their own parties. You have the Creative Coalition selling tickets at a minimum of $10,000 for a pair. Susan Sarandon and Anne Hathaway will be there. Sting is performing. The Hip Hop Ball will feature LL Cool J, and Russell Simmons.

A possible party thrown by Oprah is shrouded in mystery. "All we know for sure is that Oprah is going to be taping a couple of episodes of her show in Washington at the Kennedy Center on, I believe, that Monday," Argetsinger told co-anchor Erica Hill. "However, we had heard that Oprah's people were asking around, trying to find a good venue for a party. Still no word on this party. ... Everyone is expecting that whatever Oprah does will be the best."

CAN YOU GET A SENSE OF THE EXCITEMENT?

Everyone's waiting for the best invitation. People are asking how to get tickets. All the shop windows in D.C. are advertising specials with long, fancy gowns. There are some really hot events thrown by industry groups. But everyone wants to be near Mr. Obama.

HOW DO YOU GET INVITED?

For the official balls, you have to get invited. The invitations go to big donors, campaign volunteers, people who have been involved in politics, etc., and those invites haven't gone out yet. Some of the invitations are free, but you have to be on the list. There are some packages for sale that could go for $50,000 to the official balls, but the minimum price is not clear. Some of the unofficial balls are seeking money and have pretty stupendous ticket prices.

IS IT GOING TO BE EXTRA-JAMMED THAT NIGHT?

People think these inaugural balls are super-elegant. They think they're going to be at the White House, seated at dinner next to the president, but the 10 official balls will be very crowded. People have to wait an hour to check their coats. The president shows up for five-to-ten minutes.

A lot of people will be coming into town. Every year, there's a certain group of people who haven't been at an inaugural ball before. Some are fat cats, bureaucrats, volunteers — but these aren't people who necessarily get done up for charity galas. They want a Cinderella moment. They think the balls are going to be the best thing on earth, but they're not. It's wine in plastic cups and sandwiches that you pay for! There are probably some private parties where the president ends up, but that's going to be super-secret, and who knows if Barack Obama will go to a private event, especially since he has to show up at least 10 already for photo opportunities.

DO PEOPLE FLAUNT THE TICKETS THEY HAVE?

Bragging rights count. The great pleasure of an inaugural ball is to be able to tell your friends you got to go to one. Being able to go to one may be more fun than actually going!

CAN YOU GET MORE THAN ONE TICKET TO AN OFFICIAL INAUGURAL BALL?

You only get invited to one official ball. It's a big system. The truth is you couldn't be able to go to more than one. Getting around town will be tricky. People are excited. It's the chance to say you were there.

DO YOU THINK WOMEN WILL ALTER THEIR CLOTHES TO GET CLOSER TO MICHELLE OBAMA'S TASTE?

It's not like you're going to have to coordinate your colors with her. Certainly, the designer of her gown will get a bump out of it. Maybe details will leak out ahead of time, but we probably won't know what she's going to wear until right before or at her appearance, so it's kind of a moot point.
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