A journalist, an influencer and a consultant walk into D.C.’s biggest party ... (2024)


An earlier version of this article misidentified a man in both the story and a photograph as Pascal Confavreux. That incorrect detail has been deleted and the photo has been changed. This story has been updated.

There was a bit of a snafu at the entrance of Thursday’s Axios/Live Nation bash, one of the many parties held in the run-up to the White House correspondents’ dinner.

“He’s not on the list,” said a woman scrolling an iPad, looking for the name Anthony Polcari — best known as Tony P, the social media content creator known for his 25-year-old normal-guy-in-D.C. shtick.

“He’s my plus-one!” said Pete Kalamoutsos, owner of the music venue Echostage. Within moments, it was determined that Tony P should, in fact, be on the list. He was given a wristband and whisked inside the Organization of American States, immediately encircled by a throng of selfie-seekers.


The White House correspondents’ dinner weekend may be old and past its prime — but it’s still a hot ticket for young, ambitious people who do business in this company town.

Like Eugene Daniels, Politico White House correspondent and co-author of Playbook, who is the vice president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. Or Annie Wu Henry, the political consultant perhaps best known for running Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman’s TikTok game during his 2022 campaign. Or Tony P, who is hoping to eventually parlay the popularity of his relentlessly wholesome video diaries into an actual TV career.

Promising, then, that he was on the list. The question was: Did Tony P belong on the list? (We’re talking about the proverbial list, here.) Correspondents’ dinner weekend parties have a way of clarifying such things: sorting the insiders from the wannabes, giving the up-and-comers and social climbers their moment in the room with the moneyed old guard, sorting the passersby and looky-loos from those who have something to offer, something to trade.

After a turn on the step-and-repeat with Kalamoutsos, Tony P was whisked upstairs, champagne in hand, to a roped-off VIP area, where he mingled with party doyenne and consultant Tammy Haddad and Axios CEO Jim VandeHei. Eventually, another guest joined the VIP section: former speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan.

Tony P was star-struck. He worked up his courage. He shakes Ryan’s hand.

“I would have voted for you in ’12 if I was old enough,” Tony P says to Ryan, even though Tony P is a Democrat.

A dozen feet away and a foot lower in elevation from that stage, Henry considers this odd yet somehow perfectly matched pairing.

“It’s Paul Ryan and Tony P. That’s the VIP section. And I feel like that’s emblematic of D.C.,” she says.

For Henry, 28, D.C. is a place where she exists in the liminal space between insider and outsider — a “very insular world, like a little bubble,” where she comes once or twice a month for work (and play).

She doesn’t actually live here. But this weekend is important enough that she drove down from Philadelphia armed with a spreadsheet with all 12 events she was going to, with each event’s duration, location and travel time between venues.

“I feel like when I’m in these places I expect to recognize people, … but I don’t,” she says. But that’s okay, because when she walked into the party, people recognized her. A Biden campaign spokeswoman she knew from her work with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Axios reporters, fellow content creators, others who worked in Democratic politics. Even if they don’t know her, they know her social media feeds, and say she does such amazing work.

If you’re getting invited to a bunch of cool parties, embassies, and all that kind of stuff, just remember, it is your job and your title, and your news organization that’s getting invited, and not you, okay?”

It is Friday morning at the White House, and Anita Dunn, a senior Biden adviser, is giving a mock briefing to recipients of the White House Correspondents’ Association scholarships for aspiring journalists. Daniels was acting as something of a camp counselor at the event before hitting the circuit that evening, where he is expected at many parties.

Daniels, 35, will be the first gay Black president of the WHCA when his term begins in July. At 6-foot-3 — and often taller in a heeled pair of Chelsea boots — Daniels cannot help but stand out in a crowd. On nights like this, his mother’s wisdom often comes to mind: You belong in every single room you find yourself in. But Dunn’s words resonated with him: At these events, you are your job. You aren’t you.

Friday is the day for party-hopping, with eight major events happening all across town — the networking Olympics. Daniels began his night at Crooked Media’s party at the downtown restaurant Grazie Nonna. He was wearing a feathered white blazer and white tuxedo pants, and although this ensemble instantly made him one of the best-dressed people at the party, it presented a problem with the food, which involved marinara sauce.

Skip to end of carousel

The Style section

Style is where The Washington Post covers happenings on the front lines of culture and what it all means, including the arts, media, social trends, politics and yes, fashion, all told with personality and deep reporting. For more Style stories, click here.

End of carousel

This was a party of the slightly younger, slightly hipper Democratic establishment, but the establishment nonetheless. Daniels found himself speaking with White House communications director Ben LaBolt and Dean Lieberman, deputy national security adviser to the vice president. The exchange on their end was friendly if transactional, ending with a Washington Stare over Daniels’s shoulder.

Across the room, Tony P was considering his goals.

“Do I go to NBC last, and then start off at the Swiss?” he asked a trio of fellow influencers, referencing Saturday’s two elite after-parties: the NBC party at the residence of the French ambassador, and the Time party at the Swiss ambassador’s residence.

He has been invited to both. He has been invited to almost everything, including the dinner itself, as a guest of Bloomberg. This is Tony P’s first White House correspondents’ dinner weekend, and he approaches it with his characteristic golden retriever enthusiasm.

“I watched it on C-SPAN for years. I know it’s D.C.’s version of the Oscars, I would say, right?” he says. “It’s just incredible. It’s really an honor.”

And: “It will be good content, of course, but it will also be a great time celebrating the Fourth Estate.”

His suits — four of them plus a tuxedo — had been provided by a sponsor in exchange for his posting about the brand. He also had an agreement with the French Embassy that he would film content from their after-party at the ambassador’s residence. But his goals weren’t just about menswear and party tickets.

He had recently left his consulting gig to become an influencer full time, but that was just a stopover on the way to achieving his real goal, for which this weekend was critical: Tony P wants to get into broadcasting. He has an agent, and an occasional gig on D.C.’s Fox 5, but he was going to network the hell out of this weekend to leverage it into something bigger: a regular segment, and someday, eventually, a morning show, like his idol, Regis Philbin.

“You’ve got to go to NBC first if you want to see Colin and Scarlett,” — i.e., Jost and Johansson — photographer Dan Swartz tells Tony, who had by 9 p.m. migrated to a swanky party in the Four Seasons hosted by Washingtonian and the embassy of Qatar. Business cards were being handed to him left and right. “We’d love to work with you,” was the refrain of his evening, along with: “Tony P! Can I get a selfie?”


A few blocks away at Fiola Mare, Annie Wu Henry is drinking a mocktail at party thrown by the United Talent Agency, where she’s a client. She had just co-hosted a three-course dinner at the Watergate for the model Coco Rocha. Soon, she is chatting with former White House press secretary Jen Psaki (about Psaki’s resemblance to Taylor Swift’s publicist), and journalist Mehdi Hasan (the only person she really wanted to meet). Someone pulls her away to introduce her to Kevin Munoz, a Biden campaign spokesman.

“Isn’t that what we’re here for?” Henry says, but then quickly clarifies. “I’m not here to network, but I’ll say hi to people.” Unlike some partygoers, she makes a distinction between the two.

“Someone last night said like, ‘Well, you must be important because you’re, you know, here,’” she recalls the next day. “I don’t think I’m more important because I was invited to” these parties. “But I’m aware that that’s like, something that some people think.”

On Saturday, hours before he would sit on the Hilton ballroom’s dais next to Vice President Harris, Daniels is hosting his own party. In his suite at the Hilton, he and several Politico colleagues are passing around bottles of champagne and pouring them into whatever vessels they could find: champagne flutes and wine glasses, then, eventually, the cups from the bathroom.

Daniels emerges in his outfit for the night, a royal blue suit with a satin sash hanging from the shoulder. The room ooooohed as his husband Nate Stephens hid away the strap of Daniels’s Skims bodysuit.

Outside, they could hear the growing chants of a big antiwar protest, a throng of more than 100 wearing kaffiyehs, some wearing fake blood.

“We were anticipating it,” Daniels says. “I mean, they go everywhere Biden goes. They’re honoring the First Amendment, and so are we.”

Annie Wu Henry is in the middle seat of a red hybrid Toyota with two of her friends, trapped in a glut of black Suburbans heading down Connecticut Avenue, when it became clear that her Lyft isn’t going to get any closer. They’ll have to walk.

“Shame, shame, shame on you!”

One of them got inches away from Henry’s face. “Do you care about the freedom of the press?” the woman asked, trying to block Henry’s path. Henry was wearing a “Free Palestine” pin on her champagne-colored Andrew Kwon gown, and she had visited the George Washington University student encampment earlier in the week.

“I am on their side,” she will say later.

She faces the woman. “I am not attending the actual dinner, as someone has called for a boycott of it,” Henry tells her.

Where she is actually headed, after the co*cktail hour at the Hilton, is a private watch party at the Hard Rock Cafe downtown. As she gets closer to the lobby’s revolving door, she chuckles nervously. “I was not invited to the actual dinner, but, you know …”

Tony P avoids the whole thing by coming in through a different entrance. He mugs for the cameras on the red carpet (“Exhilarating. Exhilarating!”) before heading down to the Bloomberg co*cktail hour.

Despite his masterful networking — he has already made contact with the bookers for several networks, as well as several White House and campaign staffers — Tony is feeling a funny combination of awe and insecurity. He’s actually here, on the inside, telling Rocha, in a frothy pink confection of a dress, that she looks “exquisite. Exquisite!”

“I don’t even get why people like me,” he had said a night earlier, in a moment of vulnerability. “I always ask myself why.”

He reminds himself: “I’m invited to the party. Senators like me. Reporters like me. If they like me, I’m good.”

Tony P air-kisses Haddad and makes his way even further inside, to the dinner, where Eugene Daniels is chatting with the vice president and CBS News’ senior White House correspondent Weijia Jiang. (Later, at the NBC party, neither will say what they and Harris talked about. Daniels: “She’s actually very funny.” Jiang: “No, really, she is.”)

At the Hard Rock Cafe, Henry watches Daniels congratulate this year’s scholarship recipients on C-SPAN while she eats mac and cheese at the private watch party before collecting her friends and heading to the Swiss ambassador’s residence.

She doesn’t feel much like an insider, despite all the parties and invitations.

“The people who are the D.C. insiders are the ones who are making the lists,” she says, “and I’m not making the lists.”

Arriving at the embassy, she finds that she couldn’t check in. But a quick phone call between a staffer and her friend, political strategist Rina Shah, clears up the misunderstanding. Minutes later, she’s exchanging Good to see yous with Doug Emhoff and posing on the red carpet with Bill Nye and her friend Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.). “He’s just a normal guy!” Henry says of the vice president’s husband.

Over in Kalorama, where the French ambassador’s residence is bathed in the rainbow colors of NBC’s logo and servers walk through the crowd holding massive trays of shellfish, Daniels stands in the foyer and finds himself in something of a receiving line as the night’s bigwigs, from NBC News president Rebecca Blumenstein to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), congratulate him on his speech. Just as he was about to leave, Daniels received kudos from one of the evening’s brightest stars.

“It was so lovely to meet you — congratulations,” Johansson tells Daniels. “I’m so excited for you.”

“Thank you so much,” Daniels replies.

Johansson and Daniels pose together, arms wrapped around one another.

“You know, you’re going to have to get used to this,” Johansson says, hugging him. “You’re fabulous.”

On the steps outside, Tony P is posing, too, while someone makes a video of his signature move, his “triple-arm cross,” which involves crossing his arms three times while showing off an outfit.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) walks through the shot, oblivious to the influencing that’s taking place.

Then it’s time for the highest-stakes mingling that Tony P has ever mingled.

“You’re the king!” Tony P says to Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). “I love your energy,” he said to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “It’s an honor to meet you,” he tells Lorne Michaels.


Before talking to the French ambassador, Tony P asks one of the embassy’s staff for a translation: “How do you say, ‘I don’t speak French, but I want to learn.’” (He approximated part of the phrase, in his Boston accent. “Exactement,” said Ambassador Laurent Bili.)

“Best Boston role,” Tony says to actor Jon Hamm, referencing his recent turn in “Confess, Fletch.” “Awesome job,” he says to Colin Jost, shaking his hand for a full 30 seconds.

After yukking it up with New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at a fake “Weekend Update” desk (“You are hilarious,” Grisham told him. “Come to New Mexico. I will feed you” chiles) Tony P walked into the foyer and came face to face with one of the weekend’s most sought-after guests: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.

“Tony P!” Emhoff says. “Finally.”

Tony P is astounded. In the 30-second encounter and photo op that follow, a few things become clear: The second gentleman not only knows Tony P’s name, but has dispatched a staffer to follow up with Tony P about future opportunities.

Who knows what will happen after the party ends. But tonight, at least, he’s in.

A journalist, an influencer and a consultant walk into D.C.’s biggest party ... (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lidia Grady

Last Updated:

Views: 5858

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lidia Grady

Birthday: 1992-01-22

Address: Suite 493 356 Dale Fall, New Wanda, RI 52485

Phone: +29914464387516

Job: Customer Engineer

Hobby: Cryptography, Writing, Dowsing, Stand-up comedy, Calligraphy, Web surfing, Ghost hunting

Introduction: My name is Lidia Grady, I am a thankful, fine, glamorous, lucky, lively, pleasant, shiny person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.