When glamour meets politics—as it did at the 1963 White House Correspondents’ Dinner—everybody wins, says CNN anchorwoman Dana Bash.
“You have a beautiful voice. How long have you been singing?” That’s what Barbra Streisand recalls President John F. Kennedy saying to her as they met for the first time when this picture was taken at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on May 24, 1963.
“As long as you’ve been president,” was her reply.
It’s hard to believe anyone was ever unfamiliar with the legend that is Barbra Streisand. But she had just turned 21. Her debut album had been released three months earlier. She was still a year away from taking Broadway by storm in Funny Girl. Merv Griffin (photobombing here decades before it was cool) was the emcee of that dinner, and he invited her to come and perform “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Streisand has said that she breached protocol and asked JFK for his autograph at the dinner, at the request of her mother.
It’s a snapshot in time—seemingly from another world—that embodies 1960s glamour: an almost-famous megastar eager to meet the young, charismatic president.
For all the eye-rollers out there lamenting the fact that the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has become too star-studded, this picture is proof that “Hollywood on the Potomac” is hardly new.
There is no question the number of show business guests at the dinner has increased dramatically, and it has become much more of a spectacle: It’s hard to imagine a red carpet at the Sheraton in 1963 like there is at the Hilton now. But I don’t agree with those who argue that the influx of celebrities takes away from the dinner; I think it does the opposite. It shines a brighter spotlight on what we come together to celebrate: good journalism. It shows that as ugly as Washington gets, the president and the press corps respect one another’s roles enough to stop for one night, and toast each other.