The Reliable Source Live

Feb 12, 2014

Washington Post columnists Helena Andrews and Emily Heil were online to discuss your favorite gossip, celebrity sightings and their recent columns.

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Greetings, chatters! We’re wearing our berets and swilling champagne (oh, no wait, that’s cold coffee) in honor of the big state dinner. So much postmortem to do there, but it was hardly the only game in town. The BET honors were huge, Beatlemania took over the British embassy… time to get gabbing! 

I want to know eight little known facts about State Dinners, but not badly enough to watch PostTV. Can you guys give me a quick list instead?

You should watch itThe incomparable Roxanne Roberts tells you what you need to know – far better than I could do justice explaining!

 And this one summing up the dinner will only take up two minutes of your life. 



Whenever a celebrity like Shirley Temple dies, the news media looks back at their life. But, to be honest, I didn't know she was still alive. The last movie she made was 60 years ago and she had been out of media coverage for years or decades. It feels odd to look back at the life of someone who we hadn't thought about for such a long time.

It might feel odd -- or maybe a better phrase is out of the blue -- but Shirley Temple was a legend. She definitely deserved to be memorialized in print. The woman made more than 50 films all before she turned 21. I'd say Justin Bieber et al could stand to read a little more about Temple. 

Is there some place where the White House dinner guest list is annotated? Of course, some names are obvious, but there are quite a few who are not. It would be interesting to know the relationships of various couples but we could probably figure it out if we knew who they are.

We are working on a few of those ourselves. Most are married couples, but those that aren't are always fun -- Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for example, brought her dad as a date. 

I'd like to wish everyone a happy Valentine's Day, and I'd especially like to wish it to Tyler Clippard, who turns 29 on February 14. He gets the gift of being in Nationals' Training Camp in Viera, FL, out of the cold and snow. Lucky him! Wish I were there (but I'd settle for Miami, Naples, Tampa, Orlando. . .). On a side note, when I was in school, we would celebrate Lincoln's Birthday today (before they put him together with George to make Presidents' Day!).

From your lips to Clip's ears! 

Did you see the dress "live"? In the paper it looks like she's trying out for a remake of "Gone with the Wind". What kind of petticoat does she have on? When did she get to be taller than the President?

I didn't actually see it live -- I saw many of the guests in person last night  from my spot on the velvet ropeline, but didn't see the first couple with my own eyes. 

I actually like the look of a full-skirted gown -- and it certainly allows one to chow down on the canapes more easily than a snug dress would. It's a change from FLOTUS's previous looks, which were more form-fitting. 

With three-inch heels on the first lady stands at about the same height the president. I didn't catch the dress live either but it looked stunning from my vantage point. It definitely had an over-the-top air about it with that volumnious skirt and just the hint of a train.

The guest list appeared so random--what does it take to get on the list if you aren't an A-list celeb or policy wonk?

Political donations, for one!

Generous donors often show up on the list. And many guests have some sort of tie to the country the White House is hosting. But others? It does seem quite random. As much as I love Mindy Kaling, even she seemed surprised to be there. When we asked what her connection to France was, she actually said it must be her love of french food. If that's the standard, I should have been invited -- I could eat steak frites all day!  

Child movie star was hardly her last act. She may have deserved all the accolades based on that alone, however she was a well known and apparently effective ambassador for a long time. So she had a very high profile "second act" as well.

You're absolutely right. She was the ambassador to Czechoslovakia.  

I'd like to suggest a way to keep taxpayers (like me) from having to pay for the extravagant dinners enjoyed by VERY wealthy people who get invited to these things. Set up a non-profit trust or foundation that sponsors-- pays for -- all state dinners and similar White House social events. Ask every invitee to make a suitable contribution to the trust or foundation, commensurate with their wealth. That way, all the rich, influential people can have their fun and I get to keep a few more bucks of my hard-earned dollars. After all, as a run-of-the-mill taxpayer, I'm never going to get to enjoy a state dinner, so why should I have to fund them?

Hate to break it to you, but your tax dollars pay for all sorts of things only enjoyed by a few. Astronaut suits, for example! They're only worn by, like, one dude! 

In all seriousness, though, the White House (and not just this administration) would argue that such public displays of solidarity with allies really do benefit all of us. Seems diplomacy ain't cheap

The irony of the French moral code is that major horn-dogs like Francois Mitterand openly had mistresses - but he was married. His wife seemed to take it in stride. Francois Holland never married his long time partner Segolene Royal nor the last "life partner" who broke up with him when his affair surfaced. Wives seem to tolerate this stuff better than girlfriends, n'est ce pas?

As Ben Jealous said last night, the French have better gossip than we do, especially when it comes to their presidents. 

We learned many things from Shirley Temple Black. How to NOT to pay child stars. Her parents spent all her money, yet she was not a bitter person. She had a very full life becoming an ambassador. I heard her speak and she wished there was not a drink named after her, she felt it encouraged children to drink. Every child should learn about Shirley Temple Black in school.

I remember ordering up a "Shirley Temple" or three as a wee one. Maybe every time a child orders one they get a lesson in Temple's accomplishments too?

I was the person who posted the comment about having a trust or foundation pay for state dinners. I don't question their value as a show of solidarity with our allies, but I do question how they are funded. Lots and lots of very wealthy people attend these dinners, some just because they are campaign donors and bundlers. There's no reason why we can't ask these people to make a fair contribution to the cost of the dinner.

Sounds like someone needs to start a White House online petition! I'm still waiting for them to act on the deport-Justin-Biber one. 

You guys are going to have to answer the chat questions a little faster. 10 answers in 32 minutes isn't going to cut it long term. No one's going to hang out for that. I'll cut you some slack since you're news, though.

Please do -- we're still getting the hang of this. 

She and my dad used to teach diplomat training courses together back in the '80s. My very first celebrity autograph is a signed, personalized no less, picture of her that my dad got for me back when I was a tot.

That is so cool! I think she earned the title "America's Sweetheart" more than a few times over. 

But it makes kids feel all grown up. I remember as a kid - we thought we were so cool when we ordered a shirley temple and the bartender would serve it to us. sounded so official to us!

I say ban the shirley temple as a drink. I was a waitress for a long time, and NOTHING drove me battier than kiddos demanding extra cherries. Also, children are lousy tippers.

I thought she looked exquisite. Gorgeous dress and shade of blue. Only thing I didn't like was that she did seem to tower over the President - maybe she had on higher heels than usual.

With Malia and Sasha growing up so fast I think the president is going to have to get used to be surrounded by tall women. The first lady's dress--with that space-stealing skirt--also might have made her look a tad taller than she actually was that night.

Benedict Cumberbatch (or as we used to call him Bandersnatch Cumberbund) seems to have been replaced as the hottie of choice by Tom (Loki) Hiddleston. What do you think? TH is everywhere in the media and just guested on Top Gear. As for me, I'd take Loki over Sherlock any day.

I'm Bernaise Cumberland all the way. But I have to say, I've found the last season of Sherlock disappointing. Anyone else? 


got divorced? when did that happen?

As far as we know the "VEEP" star is still married to her husband of more than 25 years, Brad Hall. I thought it was sweet she attended the state dinner with her dad, William Louis-Dreyfus. Sometimes you just need a little father-daughter time. 

I found the latest season of Sherlock to be amazing! The best man speech of episode two brought just the right touch of human to Sherlock. The only thing wrong with this season is there wasn't more of it.

The best man speech was a highlight, for sure, but there just wasn't enough, you know, solving mysteries for my taste. 

And I found the conclusion of the last episode so unsatisfying -- I mean, Sherlock's supposed to outsmart his enemies not just straight-up shoot them.  

No answer, but it's been several minutes since RS answered questions. What's up? Do you not read your queue of questions beforehand? BTW, Julia Louis-Dreyfus's father is a French-born billionaire. With a B.

Is this one of our editors? Sorry, boss!

With a last name like Louis-Dreyfus, perhaps Julia's father is of at least part French ancestry?

Julia's father is a French-born American businessman worth billions. In 2012  he took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to garner support to stop voter suppresion and donated about $1 million to protect voting rights. 

What about Tom Cullen - Lord Gillingham from Downton?! He is unusually striking!

As a Downton fan this is actually a question I can weigh in on! Lord Gillingham is DREAMY. 

I'm team Loki -- But, I'd take Clive Owen over both, if I had the chance. Whose gown/appearance surprised you the most at the dinner? Were there any "trends" you noticed in what people were wearing?

Joanna Coles, the editor of Cosmo mag, had by far the edgiest dress last night. It was a leather-panelled number the likes of which you don't usually see in Washington.  (She also had the french flag painted on her pinkie fingernail).

Two women wore verrry similar dresses: red, strapless peplum-waisted. But I'd say, alas, that the big trend seemed to be (yawn) black dresses. 

That's it for this week's installment of Reliable Source Live, folks. We had a great time chatting everything from Shirley Temple and the French state dinner to British hunks and Sherlock Holmes. Tune in next week for more gossip and tidbits and as always send tips and sightings to 

In This Chat
Helena Andrews
Helena Andrews is the co-author of The Reliable Source. Follow her on Twitter @helena_andrews.
Emily Heil
Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen. Follow her on Twitter @emilyaheil,
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