WASHINGTON–President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted their first state Tuesday night, including their closest friends from Chicago among the guests honoring India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharon Kaur, with Chicago songsters Jennifer Hudson and Kurt Elling performing.
The glitzy dinner — planned for months by White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, another Chicago pal — let the Obama’s put their stamp on diplomatic entertaining.
The dinner — American food influenced by Indian cuisine — was created by star chef Marcus Samuelsson with herbs and lettuce coming from Mrs. Obama’s White House garden. The White House beehive produced honey for the poached pears.
The guests — about 330 –dined at round tables of 10 covered with mint-green linens under a pavilion built for the event on the South Lawn, erected because no room in the White House could handle such a large crowd. The Obamas were not breaking any record. By the time President Bill Clinton left office, official and state dinners were running to 900 people.
In the afternoon, Mrs. Obama previewed the dinner with a session on state dinner protocol and history with about 20 girls in her White House mentoring project, wearing a skirt by the Indian American designer Rachel Roy.
A few hours later, Mrs. Obama, in a glamorous updo, appeared in a stunning gold and cream floor length strapless gown by Indian born designer Naeem Khan.
I watched a stream of guests arrive at the White House area called “booksellers row.” When Chicago business executive John Rogers — Desiree’s ex and a close friend of the president and first lady — came by, I asked him what he was looking forward to in the dinner. “Seeing all my close friends,” said Rogers. Other Chicago buddies — Judd Miner, Marty Nesbit, Eric Whitaker and their spouses streamed by.
There were movie moguls David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steve Spielberg and Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel, brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
It was Hollywood and Chicago, meeting up in Washington.