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WASHINGTON -- The White House Correspondents' Association dinner has swelled from a Saturday night affair to a multiday series of parties with Hollywood stars and celebrities of all types mingling with media executives, political powerhouses and reporters.
President Obama and first lady Michelle just show up for the dinner, which gets so much attention because the stars come and national news outlets whip up publicity -- this they know how to do -- as they compete for the big names.
In the line of duty, I sent tweets from parties, shamelessly took celebrity pictures (check photos out HERE) and lost 10 pounds so I could get in a little black cocktail dress last worn in 1999.
Most vivid image: The dinner is over but the occupants of one of the best-placed tables -- George Clooney, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Steven Spielberg, Time's Richard Stengel -- aren't moving. Clooney -- who uses his superstardom to try to jolt the world to do more to stop the killings in Sudan -- is locked in animated conversation with Panetta.
They are ignoring the cellphone camera-wielding gawkers who have formed a semi-circle around them -- watching as if they were at a zoo.
A real mench: That would be Diane Keaton, absolutely gracious.
Some stars who are used to being heavily managed when it comes to dealing with the press seem a little shocked to realize that at the dinner, they have voluntarily subjected themselves to being approached by journalists and celebrity hounds they have no control over.
Keaton -- dressed every inch as Annie Hall -- the hat, the pinstriped pantsuit, the man's tie -- was friendly, approachable and a good sport about posing for pictures and engaging in small talk with total strangers.
Eva Longoria of "Desperate Housewives" fame, in a knee-length white dress, walked over to hug Keaton.
Journalist Jodi Enda -- at the next table -- asked Longoria why she decided to attend the dinner.
Longoria -- an Obama campaign co-chair -- said, "I'm a political news junkie." And to that point, I came across Longoria at one of the pre-dinner receptions -- and she seemed -- in a bit of table-turning -- to get a kick out of posing for pictures with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Just fun to watch them interact: Goldie Hawn and her daughter Kate Hudson.
The pre-party before the pre-parties: On Saturday the big pre-dinner event once again was the garden brunch hosted by a group of strategists and operatives: Tammy Haddad, Ted Greenberg, Kevin Sheekey, Hilary Rosen (who made some news recently with a remark about Ann Romney) Clarke Camper, Mark Ein, Alex Castellanos, Anita Dunn, Bill Knapp, David Adler, Steve McMahon and Franco Nuschese.
For the second year, Chicagoan Susan Axelrod -- wife of Obama chief advisor David Axelrod -- she is the founder of CURE --Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy -- was honored at the brunch, started by Haddad 19 years ago.
Rahm report: When I ran into the tuxedoed Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the dinner, he was hanging out with California Attorney General Kamala Harris.