The New York Times’ Helene Cooper filed this pool report Thursday night about the reception line at the G20 dinner in Pittsburgh. It counts among the best of the year. Keep reading through the jump to find out which wife South African President Jacob Zuma brought (the youngest, of course), how many inches the Australian first lady packed on her heals (more than four), and whether or not the litigious Italian Prime Minister/Playboy Silvio Berlusconi brought a date.
Well, there was no red carpet lining the walkway to the Phipps Conservatory for the leaders dinner tonight hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. But since the First Couple nonetheless spent almost two hours greeting each of their 60 or so guests as they arrived, one by one—or in the case of couples, two by two—and since your pooler’s dream job is actually to work for E Channel covering the Academy Awards Red Carpet, consider this your Red Carpet report.
At 6:15 p.m. Mr. and Mrs. Obama stepped out of the Phipps Conservatory, underneath an awning to greet their first guests. Mr. Obama in a dark blue suit, Mrs. Obama in a taupe, pink and green patterned cocktail dress with straps. Pink patent leather two-inch heels. Hair pulled back in a full, bouffant faux ponytail. Long pearl necklace, pearl earrings. No stockings.
Mr. Obama: “Where’d my First Lady go?”
Mrs. Obama: “Right here,” stepping beside him, as it started to drizzle.
Mr. Obama pokes fun at the pool, whispering something to Reggie Love and Mrs. Obama, then looking at pool and saying: “We’re talking about how you guys are all waiting to write something down.”
First to arrive is an Allegheny County official who’s name your pooler didn’t get. (There’ll be a lot of that to come).
Then the mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl and his wife.
Mr. Obama: “Hey Luke, sorry about those Steelers, man.”
Mr. Ravenstahl: “So am I.”
There’s a pause for a while between arrivals, and the First Couple turns to the pool for entertainment.
Mrs. Obama: “You guys are so quiet. Somebody should sing.”
Mr. Obama: “We should have music. Where’s the music?”
Then, “I’m teasing, Emmett, don’t freak out,” looking back at, presumably, the first Music Supplier.
Then, to Mrs. Obama: “No, don’t stress these guys out.”
Long interval, then more arrivals, the director general of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, the chairman of the Financial Stability Board, Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle.
Mr. Obama is teasing Mrs. Obama. “You’re standing on the wrong side of me.” She moves to his other side. He says, “I’m just teasing.” She stares straight ahead with a smile.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives with Mrs. Harper. They get a warm welcome from both Obamas, the warmest so far. There’s a lot of familiarity. Hugs, chats about daughters.
Next is Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, stag. He gets familiarity, but not so much warmth.
Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, in a royal blue suit.
Ooh, next is South African President Jacob Zuma! Which wife did he bring? The youngest of course, Nompumelelo Ntuli, who puts her arm around Mrs. Obama and holds her hand during the photo op. Mrs. Obama tells Mr. Zuma that she expects him to solve the global economic mess “by Friday.”
Next arrives Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi, who clearly did something in the car to anger his wife because she glares at him, Mr. Obama, Mrs. Obama, and anyone unfortunate enough to cross her line of vision.
The Obama’s both look slightly taken aback by her. Wonder what happened in the car? The Ethiopian First Couple are quickly dispatched inside.
Thankfully, Angela Merkel of Germany, arriving stag, comes down the non-red carpet next, exuding warmth, familiarity, and chattiness. She’s wearing a pantsuit.
It’s 7:07, the Obamas have been greeting for almost an hour.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon gets cordiality.
Australian head Kevin Rudd gets familiarity and warmth, and brings with h im his wife, who brings with her the first cleavage of the evening, in a black suit with low low-cut top. Five inch stilettos. I’m not kidding, five inch. “Kevin, you finally brought your better half,” says Mr. Obama.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is next, with his wife, Ermine, wearing the first hijab of the evening.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Mrs. Brown get hugs, kisses, more hugs, more kisses, handholding, you name it. Mrs. Brown holds Mr. Obama’s hand during the photo op. She’s the first woman to bring a handbag, a really cute black patent leather number with gold chain strap.
Prince Saud al Faisal of Saudi Arabia arrives stag.
President of Korea gets a mention cos his wife is fabulous in a long dress that comes dangerously close to formal when everyone else is in cocktail attire.
Mr. Obama greets the Korean interpreter, then says to Mrs. Obama: “he’s the best dressed interpreter.”
It’s 715 and here comes a fashion plate walking down the non-red carpet, Argentine President Isabel Kirchner, resplendent in lavender silk suit with matching shoes and hair.
Indonesian leader is next, Mr. Obama says “Selamat Malam.” Hah! Didn’t know your pooler could speak Indonesian, huh? Indonesian First Lady is in a long silk tunic with a floor length under skirt.
720 Carla Bruni!!!!
Carla Bruni Sarkozy and Nicholas Sarkozy arrive. Sarko is wearing a suit. Carla Bruni is in a stunning black silk sheath dress, stops just below the knee. She’s holding a green wool scarf, and is wearing Christian Louboutins black evening shoes.
Mr. Obama kisses her four times. “I’m not going to get a chance to see you much.”
Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Sarkozy chat warmly. Lotta touching there too.
Hu Jintao comes stag.
Pennsylvania Gov. Rendell appears not to know that these days people kiss on both cheeks, not one, withdrawing from Mrs. Obama as she is leaning in to kiss his other cheek, so he has to come back in as she’s pulling back. Sigh.
Then he tells Mrs. Obama that Mr. Obama “inspired me when he made fun of me over cheesesteaks so I decided to lose weight.”
Mr. Obama says, “he just lost like 20 pounds.”
Russian President Dimitri Medvedev is next, with his wife, who is in an ultra bright peach cocktail suit with frills around the collar with matching earrings and taupe pumps.
Mr. Obama says to Mr. Medvedev: “Dimitri, come, we don’t have enough pictures together.”
Mrs. Obama tells Mr. Medvedev to “figure it out tonight.”
Then its Brazilian President Lula da Silva, with his wife, and, finally, at 750 p.m., Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, and his wife Miyuki, back from Venus. She is in an elegant black suit with a bubble skirt and carries a burgundy shawl.
Mr. Obama hugs her.
“I’m sorry we were late,” she says.