Washington thinks of itself as a very serious city, and it can only tolerate a certain kind of celebrity: the kind that wears Brooks Brothers suits. The Hill has released its annual 50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill, a fawning list of attractive young Hill staffers and and attractive-for-middle-age politicians. The newspaper justified its daring to be superficial last week by pointing out that many 50 Most Beautiful alumni have gone on to be very successful.
Last week, The New Republic's Noreen Malone revealed that Washington people actually hate the real celebrities who have sunk low enough to actually be seen in D.C. "Like, no one cares about Rosario Dawson's opinion on the Keystone Pipeline," an anonymous columnist complained. Another said: "I really do think of Rosario Dawson as the worst because she is just ... not that famous."
In a fitting coincidence, the day before Malone's story was posted, The Hill's Emily Goodwin wrote about how the 50 Most Beautiful list had turned the truly not-that-famous in to the kinda-famouser. "It’s been a whirlwind year for Max Engling, the former model named No. 1 on The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful list last year." Since then, Engling was photographed by GQ, Refinery 29, Washington Life, and the Washingtonian, the latter for its great hair issue. Other beauties had built up their resumes: Kevin Madden, second-hottest in 2006, went from being John Boehner's spokesman to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign spokesman in 2012. Megyn Kendall, a little-known Supreme Court reporter for Fox News when she made the list in 2006, is now Megyn Kelly, one of Fox's best-known anchors.
Remarkably, The Hill does D.C. celebrity coverage the same way women's magazines do real celebrity coverage: by asking sincere questions about how the plebes can make themselves more hot. And the D.C. celebrities sincerely answer. So who are Washington's homegrown celebrities this year?
White House chef Sam Kass, third hottest, works out but doesn't cook much at home. Second-hottest hottie is Kirby Bumpus (right), who works for the Department of Health and Human Services, naturally, and never falls asleep with her makeup on. "I just try to look, no matter what, like I got some sleep last night," says 21st-hottest hottie Marie Aberger, who works with the press in the West Wing.
Before Mark Leibovich's book, This Town, about the massive egos and appalling vanity of Washington influence peddlers, was published, some local party monsters were worried Leibovich would be too mean and make them all look terrible. His book does make them look terrible. But there seems to be a new fear: not that self-loving Washington people look like cocktail partying buffoons, but that maybe no one will care about their parties at all. Take, for example, the moment The Atlantic's Molly Ball captured in her very funny review of Leibovich's book party.
I strike up a conversation with a doctor who is here with another journalist. A civilian! What do they think of us? He has not read This Town, but he read the excerpt (about Kurt Bardella) in the Times Magazine, and he did not find it infuriating or repulsive or sad; he found it funny. This is perhaps the scariest prospect to the rapacious climbers of this town -- that we lack even the power to piss anybody off. I feel obligated to remind the doctor that there are taxpayer dollars at stake.