WHCD: The Garden Brunch History

How a Back Yard Get-Together Turned into a Tradition

By Tammy Haddad

Washington, D.C. has its own Oscar Night… the White House Correspondents Dinner in May of each year. It doesn’t give out awards but everyone attends… politicians, reporters, news bosses and celebrities from New York to Hollywood. Ronald Reagan called it “Washington’s Spring Prom.”

The whole weekend is exciting. It’s the most important weekend for the press and the politicians… a rare forty-eight hours when almost all of official Washington stays in town to party. The President and the politicians and the media play nice for a change in front of all the cameras.

Hollywood and New York celebrities also flood the city for the weekend. They come to mingle with a parade of politicians and news folks. And they come to lobby for their personal causes. Of course, they add a touch of glitz and glamour to all the events

Starting off the weekend is my Saturday Garden Brunch that I first started hosting in 1993. Originally I gave the brunch to honor a dear friend Stephen Rivers, a legendary LA press adviser who worked with the likes of Cesar Chavez and Jane Fonda. That year, 1993, he had left Creative Artists Agency, where he was doing press for clients like Mike Ovitz, Bill Murray and Barbra Streisand, to launch his own company.

The original crowd was about fifty strong with local stars including NBC’s Tim Russert, Bush aide Anna Perez and a very young Rick Berke of the New York Times attending. I opened up my home — formerly owned by U.S. Chief Justice William O. Douglas — and my backyard to an amazing crowd. We were surrounded by the flowering buds of spring in my newly planted garden and by a lot of exciting shoptalk. It was a blast and put everyone in the mood for the evening festivities.

Barbara Streisand

Barbara Streisand

The surprise guest of the morning was Barbra Streisand, who came by with her songwriter friends, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, and her close friend Richard Baskin. It was a great party. How could it not have been with guests like Streisand in the garden! I knew I had struck a chord! I also knew that this gathering could become a great moment in the culture and rhythm of Washington. An annual tradition was born!

A few years earlier John McLaughlin began hosting his Sunday brunch the morning after the dinner. John is one of the founding fathers of the modern political talk show and a former father himself in the Catholic Church. As The McLaughlin Group grew quickly to be a political touchstone for the political cognoscenti the coverage and interest in his Sunday brunch grew as well. At his party the top out of town guests — from GE’s Jack Welch and actor Tom Selleck to Washington top officials like Vice President Cheney — chewed over everything that happened at the dinner the night before.

The McLaughlin Brunch became a legend the year Hollywood producer Jane Rosenthal and actor Robert De Niro held court in the middle of John’s backyard deck, drinking in all the Washington culture and stories. Who knew they were secretly doing research for their wonderful movie, “Wag the Dog!” We were being treated like a social experiment.

Sarah and Gordon Brown

Sarah and Gordon Brown

So many fabulous guests have graced my Garden Brunch over the years. The Hollywood who’s-who has included Rosario Dawson, Tim Daly, Tracey Ullman, Kerry Washington, Dennis Hopper and his beautiful wife VictoriaMorgan Fairchild is a popular regular. They mingle with the famous reporters and network bosses like Tim Russert, Andrea Mitchell with her husband Alan Greenspan, Bryant Gumbel, David Gregory, Ann Curry, Greta Van Susteren, Laura Ingraham, Rick Kaplan, David Bohrman and even Matt Drudge! Rounding out the crowd has been guests like football great Tiki Barber, the Newsweek’s senior editor Lally Weymouth and England’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In recent years Washington pals from Hilary Rosen, Debbie Dingell, Alex Castellanos, Kathryn Lehman, Beth Viola and David Adler, my partner in this Web site, have joined me as co-hosts. Every year I am amazed at what actually goes on at the brunch. There was the year that Ann Curry was Miss Popularity. People were lining up for photos with her. The usually unfazed press also lined up for Tiki Barber’s autograph. Then there was Tracey Ullman trying on Miss America’s crown and parading around the garden like she had just won the title after having big laughs with Patrick Buchanan.
Tracy Ulman Tries on The Crown

Tracey Ullman Tries on The Crown

I usually step back at some moment in the party and drink in what is really happening. Last year it was a scene where the top editors of all the top publications were relaxed and enjoying themselves. Newsweek’s John Meacham, Time’s Richard Stengel, Larry Hackett of People and Jim Nelson of GQ were all sipping mimosas together.

Last year we launched the first ever Garden Brunch Poll with ballots distributed by my children David and Rachel along with Hilary Rosen’s son and daughter, Jacob and Anna. The question, of course, was, “Who will win the election?” Despite the fact he was 5th in the pack at the time, Obama won the poll hands down. That was an early forecast!

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2008 Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch Tracey Ullman and Bob Hormats 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch Lally Weymouth _F6I0925 Hilary Rosen, Ellen Malcolm, Shelley and Patrick Buchanan Donna Shalala, Gov. Charlie Crist and Anne Wexler Radio Superstar Laura Ingraham 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch Jason Binn and Rosario Dawson Greta Van Sustern, John Coale, Gov. Charlie Crist Gov Charlie Crist, Morgan Fairchild, Jon Meacham and Tammy Haddad Tracey Ullman, Bob Bennett and his wife Ellen Tracey Ullman and Rachel Greenberg voting The Malveaux sisters, Suzanne and Suzette Ann Orr, Betsy Fischer, Tracey Ullman, Suzie Trees Tracey Ullman demonstrates her reaction to wearing Miss America's crown while Hilary Rosen and Ann Stock look on. Catherine Bell and her husband Adam Beason David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch Tracey Ullman and Pat Buchanan 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch Mark Penn Lally Weymouth and Debbie Dingell Cafe Milano's Franco Nuschese and Miss America Jason Binn, Lally Weymouth and Rosario Dawson Laura Bush's Chief of Staff Anita McBride with Greta Van Sustern Annabelle and MSNBC's Shelby POduch Biz Bash CEO David Adler and 2008 Miss America Kirsten Haglund ABC News' Dave Davis and Rtia Cosby Dina Powell, Autumn VandeHei, Amy Little and David Gregory Dina Powell, Franco Nuschese and Amy Little Dennis Hof, Craig Rivera and Rita Cosby Greta Van Sustern, Ted Greenberg and John Coale Governor Charlie Crist and Biz Bash's CEO David Adler Hilary Rosen, Tracy Ullman, Ed and Wendy Schultz Debbie DIngell and Governor Charlie Crist Rita Cosby, Patrick Buchanan and Hilary Rosen Ambassador Nancy Brinker and friend Ted Greenberg, Ed Schultz and Hilary Rosen 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2008 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch

2007 Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch 2007 WH Correspondents Garden Brunch Tim Russert and Tammy Haddad Tim Russert Ann Curry and Tim Russert Tim Russert

2006 Garden Brunch Jeri, Hayden and Fred Thompson Lally Wyemouth, Bob Shrum Craig Crawford, Alison Stewart , Rick Kaplan Morgan Fairchild and Joe Wilson Susan Bennett, Diana Taylor, Melody Miller Bob Shrm, Rita Cosby, Bill Press Hilary Rosen, Chris Matthews, Barbara Comstock NBC News' Mike Viqueira Greta Van Sustern Jason Binn, Russ Hodge, Hilary Rosen, Alex Castellanos,David Adler, Barbara Comstock, Chris Matthews

2005 Garden Brunch Anna Deavere Smith Dan Glickman and Ted Greenberg Richard Schiff and Pat Buchanan Dennis Hopper Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell Arianna Huffington and Matt Drudge Arianna Huffington, Tammy Haddad and Matt Drudge Arianna Huffington, Matt Drudge and Betsy Fischer Arianna Huffington and Matt Drudge Ron Silver and Nikki Ionnaucci Andrea Mitchell, Alan Greenspan, Jason Binn and Sally Quinn Jon Cryer Fred and Jeri Thompson, Barbara Comstock and Rachel Greenberg Jeri, Fred and Hayden Thompson Hilary Rosen Julia Ormond and child Grover Norquist, John Fund and Jeri Thomspn American Idol Greta Van Sustern, David Bass, Ana Marie Cox, Chris Lehmann Ana Marie Cox, Matt Labash, David Bass and Chris Lehmann Bill Wollf,Jeffrey Schneider, Nathan Goldstein and Joe WIlson David Gregory and Morgan Fairchild MSNBC's Ann Klenk and Joey Pantaliano

2004 Garden Brunch Andrea Mitchell, Frank Aherns, Hilary Rosen KellyAnne Conway, Ted Greenberg and Ellen Bennett John Fox Sullivan Kathy Lash, Joe Trippi and Morgan Fairchild Rick Kaplan joins the fun John Coale, Greta Van Sustern and Morgan fairchild Amy Nathan, Tammy Haddad, Howard Fineman Matt Drudge and Howie Kurtz Matt Drudge, Tammy Haddad, Howie Kurtz, Tucker Carlson, Sheri Annis, Barbara Comstock Tammy Haddad and WMAL's Chris Plante Philippe Reines, Tammy Haddad and Matt Drudge Ondine Karady and Jim Rutenberg Matt Drudge Christopher Buckley and Tammy Haddad Helen Thomas and Tammy Haddad and Timmy Woods White House bag Ann Orr, Katherine Bradley and the boys Anne Dickerson, Ann Orr and John Dickerson Tucker Carlson, Frank Aherns, Andrea Mitchell Matt Drudge and Chris Berry Morgan Fairchild, Rick Kaplan, Greta Van Sustern Tammy Haddad and Rick Kaplan