Remembering the Night the Obamas Froze Out Hollywood

Every now and then on his pastoral sliver of Web pasture at Variety, editor emeritus Peter Bart fires off a dispatch worthy of of front-page publication in the paper he ran for 20 years. Monday was one of those days, when his attendance at the weekend's Kennedy Center Honors left him fuming at the effrontery of President and Mrs. Obama -- first-time event guests whose White House turned out "a lot frostier and less hospitable than during the Bush years." Gasp!

Bart never quite explains how or why he happened to be hanging around the White House in the first place; one might assume his old office at Paramount still forwards his mail from the Nixon Administration, or maybe he simply pulled some post-editorship, Salahi-style fast one to see how the Obamas rolled. In any case, Bart writes, the lovely awards show itself was preceded by some pretty inauspicious Presidential etiquette:

While President George W. Bush in past years shook every celebrity hand and posed for photos with visitors at the White House reception, the Obamas remained aloof, fleeing to their box at the Kennedy Center.

Stunned by recent security breaches, the White House kept guests shivering outside in 30 degree temperatures, opening the reception ten minutes late and shuttling guests through 25 minutes of repeated screenings and pat-downs, the whole process taking place outside.

Several stars grumbled; one suggested to a social secretary that the Obama staff study the Academy Awards for lessons in celebrity management.

Slow clap for crusading journalist Peter Bart, right? It gets better:

The White House event, however, which is usually the high light, reflected not only tightened security but also cutbacks in food, alcohol and even Christmas decorations. Once-lavish buffets were Spartan in the Obama White House. Invitations to presidential events in general have been curtailed.

Peter. Please. It's a recession. Obama just pledged 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Unemployment is at nearly 10 percent. (You yourself fired some of their ranks, remember?) Why all the whinging? Is it about the Hannukah Party? Oh:

Complaints have been registered that the annual Hanukkah party at the White House on Dec 16 has been reduced in size by 50% -- a cutback which has stirred the most angst among supporters since the 2005 incident when Orthodox Jews were served non-kosher lamb chops by the Bushies.

Yes, of course. What self-respecting Jew can forget that strict Hebrew law forbidding sudden disinvitation to the White House Hannukah Party? I seriously wouldn't want to be within a mile of Rahm Emanuel when he hears about this.

· It Took the Social [BFDealMemo]

[Photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images]