Celebrities plan to flock to inauguration for Obama

Associated Press | 12/3/2008, 4:24 a.m.

NEW YORK — The Super Bowl? Forget it. The Oscars? Who cares. The biggest star-studded event on the horizon is President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The gig of 2009 will take place Jan. 20 on a wintry field in Washington.

“January 20 is going to be ground zero for everyone who wants to be part of this celebration, and that’s going to include boldface names and A-listers from Oprah on down,” said Roxanne Roberts, co-author of the Washington Post’s column “The Reliable Source.” “On that particular weekend, this is where the action is.”

Details on official inauguration events are scant so far, though prominent Obama supporters like Winfrey, Bruce Springsteen and will.i.am are widely expected to be involved.

In the last century, entertainers have made indelible marks on presidential inaugurations and often helped set a tone for a new era.

Mickey Rooney performed at all four of FDR’s inaugurations. Robert Frost read a poem for John F. Kennedy in 1961. Bill Clinton was ushered in with a parade of performers in 1993, including Maya Angelou.

Any announcements on Obama’s official performers are “a ways down the road,” said Linda Douglas, a spokeswoman for Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee, but added: “We want to make it an uplifting and optimistic set of events as much as possible in these trying times.”

Unofficially, a galaxy of stars is expected at parties hosted by MTV, Dionne Warwick and others.

MTV has said it will host and broadcast the “Be the Change Inaugural Ball,” held in conjunction with the volunteerism campaign ServiceNation. The audience will be populated with activist young people in what Stephen Friedman, MTV’s general manager, says will be a “celebration of our audience.”

Of course, a bevy of music stars are also expected to perform.

“We are being inundated,” said Friedman. “It’s great when you have so many artists who are passionate about being a part of this moment.”

The Creative Coalition will hold a gala to be headlined by Elvis Costello. The nonprofit arts and entertainment advocacy group says that attending its party will be Anne Hathaway, Spike Lee, Tim Robbins, Maggie Gyllenhaal and many others.

Dionne Warwick will reportedly host the American Music Inaugural Ball. Lou Gossett Jr. will host the Purple Ball, where Ashley Judd and Patricia Arquette are among the expected guests. And the Human Rights Campaign Foundation will also throw a party with Cyndi Lauper, Melissa Etheridge and others.

“The unofficial balls are probably going to be better than the official ones,” said Roberts. “In this economic environment, it is highly unlikely that there will a lot of dedicated activities for high rollers, as there have been in years past.”

Obama has been measured in terms of his embrace of Hollywood and celebrities. That’s in part because during the election Obama, himself, was compared to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears by his Republican challenger, Sen. John McCain.

Obama argued with the “celebrity” tag and seldom appeared in public with stars. But on Sept. 16, he raised $9 million for his campaign with a single party in Beverly Hills hosted by Barbra Streisand and attended by Leonardo DiCaprio and many others.