Sunday, January 19, 2014

Beyoncé And Stevie Wonder Rock The White House At Michelle Obama's 50th Birthday Party

Beyoncé at the White House with the Obamas' dog Sunny
VIP guest list for top-secret late-night dance party includes Bill and Hillary Clinton, Magic Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul McCartney, Jennifer Hudson, Rachael Ray, Billie Jean King, Smokey Robinson, James Taylor, John Legend, Herbie Hancock, Ashley Judd, Angela Bassett...
Washington, DC - Superstar Beyoncé Knowles-Carter headlined First Lady Michelle Obama's 50th birthday bash at the White House on Saturday night, singing at the hours-long dance party for hundreds of guests, including celebrities, sports legends, Chicago intimates, and Washington's power elite.  The milestone bash filled the dramatically lit State Floor of the mansion until after 3:00 AM Sunday morning. 

Stevie Wonder and John Legend also sang, but it was President Barack Obama's "moving" birthday toast to his wife that was the highlight, guests afterwards told Obama Foodorama as they recapped the "once-in-a-lifetime" event, speaking on condition of anonymity.  

The White House released no details or guest list for the closed-press affair.  Mrs. Obama turned what she's dubbed "50 and fabulous" on Friday, staying out of public view.  

As an "exuberant" President Obama led the party for his wife, the First Lady wore a bright red blouse and trousers, "as always, so chic," said one guest.  First Daughters Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12, and Mrs. Obama's mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson, 76, were "festive" for the fete that officially began at 9:00 PM.

The White House worked hard to keep the party secret:  The formal invitation read "Please, no cameras and no photographs."  Guests were asked to "check" cell phones as they arrived in the East Wing, and to stay off social media as they celebrated.  But Beyoncé, 32, a close personal friend of the Obamas, on Sunday posted photos of herself at the White House to her Tumblr account, wearing a sparkling gold mini dress while patting family dog Sunny.  Another photo showed the star prepping for her performance with her stylists in the historic Map Room.

The A-list revelers included Beyoncé's husband, rap mogul Jay-Z, singer Jennifer Hudson, music legends  Smokey Robinson and Herbie Hancock, folk icon James Taylor, actor Samuel L. Jackson and his wife LaTanya Richardson, Sir Paul McCartney, NBA great Magic Johnson and his wife Cookie, tennis star Billie Jean King, soul queen Gladys Knight, actresses Ashley Judd and Angela Bassett, actor Kal Penn, singers Janelle Monáe and Ledisi, NBC's Al Roker, CBS's Gayle King, radio personality Tom Joyner, chefs José Andrés, Rachael Ray and Art Smith, and John Legend's wife, model Chrissy Teigen.  

Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who marked her own 50th birthday with a big White House party when she was First Lady) were also spotted.

The merrymakers mingled freely throughout the State Floor, filling the Cross Hall, the East Room ("groove central," said one guest), the iconic Red, Blue, and Green Room parlors, and the formal State Dining Room during the party, billed as "Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert."  No dinner was served, but the sweet and savory "small bites" that were offered were "delicious," said one source. 

Ahead of the event, the White House had sent a save-the-date email asking guests to "wear comfortable shoes" (though there were many women in sky-high heels, said one guest) and to practice their dance moves so they could keep up with Mrs. Obama, who has grooved on national TV.  She did indeed spend plenty of time on the dance floor, said the guests.  Yes, they did the Dougie.  "High-end club scenario," said one guest.  "In the White House!"

Mrs. Obama "seemed just so happy" said another guest, adding that the East Room, the largest room on the State Floor, was where the dancing took place, to a wide range of tunes spun by DJ Cassidy, ranging from old school favorites to funk to Hip Hop.  Cassidy had the famous crowd on their feet at President Obama's own private 50th birthday party in August of 2011 at the White House, where there was also plenty of dancing.  The First Lady's bash followed a similar model, though guests were treated to a Rose Garden BBQ dinner at Mr. Obama's shindig.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy Sam Kass were among the top Administration officials partying with their bosses, as was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

The "house band" was the President's Own Marine Corps ensemble.  Black-clad butlers moved through the crowd, offering trays with flutes of champagne, while the hors d'oeuvres were on laden buffet tables.  More champagne, hard liquor, beer, wine, and soft drinks were available at full bars. 

Beyoncé performed for close to half an hour, singing a selection of her hits including Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) and To The Left.  She took the mic after the President saluted his wife with his adoring speech, in which he spoke of their love, hailed Mrs. Obama as a fantastic mother, an epic First Lady, and thanked her for making him "a better man," said one guest.  "Very, very heartfelt," said another.

The President's tribute came ahead of birthday cake being presented to Mrs. Obama.  John Legend had the honor of singing "Happy Birthday," said the sources.  Legend has performed for the Obamas in the past, including for fundraisers.  Most recently he filmed a PSA video for Mrs. Obama's Drink Up! hydration campaign.

The First Daughters were joined by a gaggle of girlfriends as they marked their mother's big day, said one source, dubbing the girls "youthquake goes downtown." 

Stevie Wonder sang an impromptu rendition of his Signed, Sealed, Delivered and Do I Do; he sang 'Happy Birthday" at President Obama's 50th fete at the White House.  The Obamas are longtime Wonder fans, with the President and Mrs. Obama both saying in past interviews that they "bonded" over their love of his music during their long-ago courtship in Chicago.  Wonder's hit You and I was the Obamas' wedding song more than twenty years ago.


Beyoncé preps in the Map Room with her stylists
Keeping the party secret...
White House aides were tight-lipped about all party details ahead of the event, which included declining to confirm the much-rumored performance by Beyoncé.  On Saturday, a full press lid was called at 2:30 in the afternoon in an effort to keep the party top secret.

There were signs posted around the party instructing guests to stay off social media, said one guest.   And as they arrived in the East Wing, revelers were asked to "check" their smartphones and any other recording devices.  

The White House has had trouble with guests posting to social media during past private parties; during the big bash on the night of President Obama's second inauguration, photos from the party were posted to Twitter and Instagram by some of the famous guests.  Some of these photos were later deleted when guests perhaps had second thoughts (or sobered up?).  Negative headlines followed the photos showing the President and Mrs. Obama cutting loose with their famous pals.

Jennifer Hudson, party-ready for FLOTUS
Most guests complied with the social media embargo for Mrs. Obama's party, though Jennifer Hudson, Magic Johnson, and Angela Bassett shared party photos.  Hudson  tweeted "We had such a good time with the 1st family in dc tonight ! Now on to the next stop !" (sic)

She included a link to an Instagram photo that showed her wearing a formfitting blue and white mini dress with a black leather jacket as she stood with fiancé David Otunga.  Hudson headlined a birthday fundraiser in Chicago when the President turned 50, but did not sing at Mrs. Obama's party.  

East Wing: Magic Johnson & Samuel L. Jackson with their wives
Along with Johnson, Hudson has filmed a PSA for the Administration, urging young adults to enroll for health insurance under Obamacare.  Johnson on Sunday tweeted a photo link showing himself with Samuel L. Jackson and their wives, standing outside the East Wing entrance to the White House. 

".@cjbycookie, our close friends @SamuelLJackson, his wife LaTanya and I had a great time at the FLOTUS' birthday party!" Johnson wrote.

Angela Bassett, party-ready for FLOTUS
Bassett's make-up artist posted a photo of the 55-year-old star wearing a glittery outfit for the party:  "Look at this Beauty... Ready to celebrate our First Lady, Michelle Obama's 50th Bday in this fab Tracy Reese Piece.... Makeup by me!" wrote @Theekymlee.

Radio host Tom Joyner, who has interviewed both Obamas on his eponymous talk show, did a little Twitter bragging ahead of the First Lady's bash:  "I'm on way to party with @FLOTUS Michelle Obama as I type this!" Joyner tweeted 

He got an immediate response from Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, another party guest: "#shhhh I thought this was a secret Tom," Brazile tweeted as she quoted Joyner's tweet. 

Brazile had already dished about Mrs. Obama's blowout weeks before in an interview with Chicago Tribune, saying of the First Lady "That girl can dance. That woman can still shake a tail feather."    

Some of the celebs who shook their own tail feathers with Mrs. Obama afterwards dished to a pod of media stationed outside the White House's Southeast gate, where guests arrived and departed the party, bundled in winter gear against the frosty 20-degree night, made worse by a brisk wind.

"The President gave a wonderful, wonderful speech about [Mrs. Obama] and then Beyoncé performed and...wow!!" Smokey Robinson told NBC as he departed.

"It was great," James Taylor told CNN as he left, saying "the dancing" was the highlight of the evening.  

Like Beyoncé, Taylor was also a major supporter for Mr. Obama's re-election campaign. Both singers have performed at separate Obama State Dinners, though Beyoncé is the closer friend:  Her new Tumblr photos also show a Christmastime visit to the White House with her husband and baby daughter Blue IvyBeyoncé serenaded the Obamas for their very first dance on the night of the President's first inauguration, singing "At Last."  During the President's second inauguration, Beyoncé lip-synced The Star-Spangled Banner during the ceremony at the US Capitol, causing global headlines.

There was no lip syncing on Saturday night, according to guests.   

UPDATE, Jan. 20:  More VIPS on the guest list were Grant Hill, Courtney Vance, Star Jones, Steve Harvey, Michael Jordan, Alonzo Mourning, Mary J. Blige, Emmett Smith, Michael Kors, Sheryl Sandberg, and Ahmad Rashad, reported other media entities.  The New York Post reported more guests: Google’s Eric Schmidt, Disney chief Robert Iger, 32 Advisors’ Robert Wolf, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, Blackstone COO Tony James, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, Haim Saban, designer Donna Karan and the Rev. Al Sharpton. END UPDATE

One famous intimate who missed Mrs. Obama's party was Oprah Winfrey, who was in Hollywood on Saturday night for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, nominated for her role in Lee Daniels' The Butler.  

Winfrey hosted Mrs. Obama at her Maui estate for a weeklong birthday visit after the President returned to DC from the First Family's two-plus week Christmas vacation in Hawaii.  Mrs. Obama's extended tropical idyll sans husband and kids but with girlfriends who included party guest Gayle King was "part of" the President's birthday gift to his wife, the White House announced.

50th birthday portrait: Mrs. Obama shows off her AARP card
Mrs. Obama's only public outing on Friday as she turned 50 was on Twitter.  She posted about joining AARP, sharing a selfie that showed her holding her new membership card and writing "Excited to join Barack in the 50+ club today… check out my @AARP card! –mo."

Apparently thanks to Saturday's party, President Obama didn't take his wife out for a birthday dinner on Friday night, as has been a tradition in previous years.  The White House called a full press lid late Friday afternoon after President Obama hurried through a signing ceremony for omnibus spending legislation, during an event at the New Executive Office Building.

"I've got to get back because somebody is having a birthday today," President Obama told the crowd.  "I've got to make sure I pay them some attention."  

Last year for her 49th birthday, President Obama escorted Mrs. Obama to dinner at  Cafe Milano in Georgetown.  In 2010, the President gave a "surprise party" dinner for the First Lady at the organic-certified Restaurant Nora; the party in 2011 was at Asian-fusion The Source, and 2012's dinner party was at BLT Steak.  Ahead of his first inauguration, in 2009 the President escorted his wife to Equinox restaurant, located a couple blocks from the White House.  Links to all the birthday posts, including menus and chefs, are here.

The President has no public events scheduled on Sunday.  On Monday, he will participate in a service project with the First Family for the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service the White House said.  

CLICK HERE for links to all FLOTUS 50th birthday posts

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*Photos from IAMBeyonce.com, Jennifer Hudson, @Theekymlee, Magic Johnson, and the White House