tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN April 30, 2016 5:26am-5:55am EDT
announcer: today, the c-span brings you coverage of the white house correspondents' dinner, including remarks by president obama. for this year's featured comedian, larry wilmore. the executive director, julia winston discusses her role. she has been director since 1995. she spoke with c-span from the watergate office building in washington dc. >> what do you do as executive director of the white house correspondents' association? >> i do whatever the board
directs me to do. some boards really really concentrate time on access. some work for scholarship and grants. everything is voted by a nine-member board. basically, i follow their directive. i work on membership. we have an annual election. a third of the board changes every year. we have different events that help educate the public about what we do but mainly, mainly it is access.
the press always want more. >> how many members? >> about 500 members, but it changes. especially in a campaign year, they are sent out with one of the candidates. >> when it comes to the correspondents dinner, what is your role? >> i run it. everything comes out of this office. the sender did request forms to our members only. these doubt that with the a check for what they want. on march 17 or thereabouts, which is two weeks out, of the board and executive committee, dinner committee -- we sit down, decide, limited space, who gets what, and i let people know my e-mail how much space we can confirm.
this year we had to disappoint over 900 people who had paid to get in. that is on top of almost 2700 inside the room. >> on top of the 2700 plus the 900, how many requests do you get on top they do not send a check? >> they cannot request without a check. has to come in with a check. >> how did this developed into one of the biggest social events in washington? >> i think it started out when i started out, coincidentally. with the first year of bill clinton. a lot of friends in hollywood, dale wanted to be at the dinner. i think hollywood loved to be here in the politicians loved hollywood. many of them were hollywood people -- many of them are becoming activists now. it is a real blending of two worlds. >> how did you get started in 1993 on this? >> i was the executive director of the washington press club foundation in 1985. and we had board members on both organizations. and this dinner was done on contract by somebody.
and so, one year, carl and george said, can we talk about this? do you think you can do both? so i had one dinner in february and this dinner in april. about 1200 and february for congress, and then i took this on, and in 1993, they asked me to be the executive director in 1995. so i kept both jobs and just had to phones in my desk with labels. [laughter] >> did you know what you are getting into? >> it wasn't like this in 1993. the marine band was always on the left balcony. he had to be moved behind the head table. so tables could go there, so we all learned our lesson very
quickly. we have always had 262 tables in the room. >> have there been surprises over the years? >> sure. >> where people show up that do not have a ticket? or entertainers? >> nobody gets in without a ticket thanks to our volunteers. most of them we have had for over 20 years. but, one year, bill clinton -- >> and ted denson -- >> came in with the motorcade and i said, i hope they have tickets because i do not have their names and i cannot see them. it turns out they did. they had been at the white house in overcoming with him. things like that can happen but they usually even out. >> you have been working this dinner since 1993, 3 different president spirit are there different styles for each one?
>> for the dinner or for the presidents in general? >> and your role -- >> as far as my board and the journal, the journalists, president bush tended to end his days it did earlier. and certainly earlier than president obama. this is a real -- for me, at my age -- younger crew of people to deal with at the white house. they are great. they are very energetic. but, when it comes to this dinner, they keep you on your toes. [laughter]
>> we are you doing a dinner? are you seated? >> never, no. i him in the cabinet room when the reception is with our board. and then, i go up with the head table and all during the dinner, i am on the stage behind a pillar next to the table so if anybody needs anything, i am there to do it. >> what is a request you have gotten? >> my very first request at my first dinner, president clinton goes like this and says, i need to go to the restroom. and can you show me where it is?
and i am like, i'm sure there are others but get up and start walking -- everybody was right there -- but, you know, things like that -- i had never done a dinner with my other job with the president there, there was always a vice president, secretary of the senate at those dinners -- >> and it makes a difference? >> huge. sad to say, after 9/11, security is unbelievable, thank god that it is -- there are a lot of people in that room. >> at the hilton that night, how many moving parts are there? >> for me, or for the hilton? part of this job which has gotten tougher on the board, particularly doug mills, and with me is the red carpet. we have huge demand for people to cover the red carpet. that is another whole
application process that comes in with credentials. really, doug and some others decided who is in and out. there is huge demand for that, especially a lot of these freelance photographers that want to sell this to papers and magazines and it is very controlled. that is on the terrace level of the hotel, the ballroom entrance. they are checked in. they have one place to stand. they cannot leave that in we have private security, the secret service is there. that sort of a crowd that added all additional layer when it started. >> what is the cost of all of this?
>> the cost of running the dinner? i do not know until i get the bill. and that is really true. we have private security, which the hilton shares the cost. the hilton pays for the red carpet, pays for the rope. every year, or cost goes up, mainly because of security. we need a lot of pipe and drape in that hotel. >> i was at home with four children and my friend, in1980, started a little business. we delivered care packages to kids at schools that their parents ordered. it was fun. >> so your background as an organization, planning, that type of thing? >> no my background is just in being at home with my kids -- >> organization --
>> yes. pta, that is it. and i wanted a job and i only took this job if i could do it part time and i would go by the hour because i wanted to be a my kids soccer games and be able to be around. >> is a part-time job today? >> no. the job has grown. really grown. through the years. >> so, the dinner this year's on april 30, 2016. when will you start planning 2017? >> we have to wait until the new board is elected and that election is the end of july. we already know who will be president -- that will be jeff mason so i am sure he is
thinking about who he wants for an entertainer. we have to do that early. >> do you reach out to the entertainers? >> yes. and a lot of them reach out to us. [laughter] >> really? >> yes. >> this is a marquee event. >> it is. they are sort of between -- this is great, great exposure for us and this is a very tough crowd and i could get a really bad review. so they walk that line. >> why is it at the hilton? >> it is -- >> has it always been there? >> the dinner -- over 90 years, but, it is held at the hilton because it is unique in that we have a dinner that the president comes to and stays. another hotel might have a ballroom large but there is no holding room for the president,
no bumper, no separate -- hotel with two entrances. guests can come in upstairs, we can have those two lower floors to ourselves. we also need a lot of private party space. because our members, which we have nothing to do with, rent space for their parties. so, no we can -- there can be up to 20 other pre-parties in that hotel. other hotels are not built for that. >> you are not in charge of the pre-parties or post parties? >> no, heavens no, they are private -- >> when will you arrive on saturday? >> i usually get there by noon. >> do you keep a room there? doesn't make it easier? >> we have been in, too. and then, from the office, my two best friends here open a registration table that
everybody should have their tickets. >> before we get started on the interview, you made a point that when people call, they ask for your production manager, they ask for the press person or whoever and you were like, can i help you? you have two women in his office just the three of you who do this. who are these other women? >> one is alice crowley, who typed the program line by line -- amazing. and i must say, she is my cousin. [laughter] >> and another is carol klotz and she takes care of all the tickets, huge, huge job. >> and they are part-time? >> yeah. >> what is your biggest fear on this dinner? >> i do not have a fear anymore, actually. as i told them the other day, we have been on our own along with the board. now we have the entire staff
that they held in, the secret service, the white house staff, a lot of helpers now. so, i think we are fine. >> have you had a chance to meet all of the presidency you have worked with? >> yes, and then, at the white house christmas parties -- i always feel like my job is to [inaudible] -- >> what would you do? lets say for any reason that the president could not attend -- >> the vice president would probably come. but, i must say, every white house that we have been involved with asks so there is no foreign travel, you know, they are great. >> what is the most fun part of the process for you?
>> [indiscernible] i guess being there at the dinner, having the band playing, everybody standing, the colors are coming in, this is pretty good, this is pretty amazing. you know, the chairman of the joint chief -- i mean, people in the audience are they reiterate this to her a priority and it has really turned into quite a brand. and you can see what happens in washington surrounding this dinner, d.c. makes a lot of money on this dinner. hotels, caterers, waiters, i mean, we are happy to do it that
has somebody said, they should give us keys to the city for this. so. >> what percentage of your time is white house correspondent [indiscernible] -- >> i would say just really the last two months. >> march and april? >> yes. other than that, it is very sporadic. you are working with whoever is going to be an entertainer to tie things up but, we have a great pro bono attorney, george lehner, who is -- i mean, without him, we would be in trouble. he is so good, he gives us good advice. >> it is washington, everybody has an attorney, right? >> when you are a nonprofit, it makes sense to do that. >> having attended the dinner, it is really crowded in there. is that part of the appeal of -- >> no, that is probably not very appealing for people. we say, same number of people in the room every year. we have worked very hard on not
letting people wander the halls. they cannot go to those two ballrooms without a dinner ticket. or and invitation to a party down there in their hand. so one of those party people have to have a solution's desk because if one of their guests doesn't have something, they are directed by security that the table if they are on the list then they will be given an invite to get down the escalator -- if not, they do not go down -- >> where did you grow up? >> washington, d.c. >> always lived in the area? >> yes. >> any irony in the fact that your office is in the watergate? >> no, i think the irony to just come to light as my parents both
worked for paramount pictures and nbc universal and my dad -- and, i believe that they were helpful in putting on these dinners in the past by getting the entertainment. >> you say just came to light -- >> george condon -- >> the associated press -- >> no, he has worked here -- past president. he is our archivist. so, he has dug up a lot of stuff. because my parents knew a lot of people in the white house when you can just walk in. so, -- >> richard nixon, right? >> no, i think he was fdr, maybe -- >> a long time ago. we are both old. >> what is it that your parents did that they had this connection? >> there was something called a variety club of washington and,
my dad -- something called the chief barker, that just meant president of it but hollywood people who came here to promote their movies would go there and there was somebody -- and you have to have george condit who used to reel in the entertainers -- >> can entertainers be a little more high maintenance over washington will than folks in washington, can they be high maintenance? >> entertainers have not been high maintenance. i am pleasantly surprised. and they work very hard, they bring their writers. they are great. and there are always some high maintenance people attending the dinner, but, i think their reputations precede them. people know who they are. so.
>> scholarships are given at this dinner. >> we do out of the office. it was set up years ago in the early 2000's when we had some dinner profit that was left over. the dinner pays for everything. my salary, their salaries, the office -- everything. and we had some money and we started with a $2000 scholarship. and it has grown through the years. it started with high school students and our board would go to a school, do interviews, and it got a little bit unwieldy so, the board decided to choose the journalism schools around the country, offered them money for
a student a generous in that is still how it is done. we have 18 scholars coming this year. >> how much money? >> altogether? i think the grants are about a hundred $8,000. >> michelle obama hugs every one of them >> she is fabulous. she does. and you should see both of them with our scholars in the cip reception. we have them go in and they get their picture taken with the obamas.
andy obamas take time and talk. they are great. >> do you know what the president is going to say when he speaks? >> no. >> no advance copy? >> no, no. i know who the speech writer is. i give him some information. we tell them notables in the room and that is all. >> there was one year where -- i think it was george w. bush said to ozzy osbourne, dude, my mom loves your music, do you know if the speechwriter knew that ozzy osborne was going to be there? >> yeah. >> have you ever been surprised? by what the president -- >> [indiscernible] >> that was not quite as surprising, laura bush. as when george bush had his look-alike come out. i did not know about that at all. i do not think anybody did. i say anybody -- that was a surprise. >> how did you find out? >> when he walked on stage right past me and i am like, [indiscernible]
>> and, key and peele last year. that was funny because i was there for their rehearsal and he walked past me and the agent for our entertainer said, oh no, do you know who that is? i said, i have no idea. he told me who it was and he said, the president is going to use oh, no. because his person -- >> she did great. but that was good, that was -- that got a lot of hits. so. those things surprised me. i am sure i will be surprised again. >> julia whiston is executive director of the white house correspondents' association. she is the one hiding behind the pillar at the head table.
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was eight years old. it was not old enough to have wisdom. they had been living in virginia 225 years. that were anguished over they came out in 1861. his primary duty was to his family. they had been virginians for over two centuries. james robertson talks about robert e. lee, his ties to virginia, and his military campaign throughout the states. this sunday, the film a private decision chronicles the presidential race in 1958. and president johnson surprise withdrawal. at 8:00 p.m., on the presidency. >> he wanted a result of th
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