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  By Rachel Sklar, Greg Paulos & Anastasia Liapis    

On Tuesday night, three Black Table operatives went undercover as Republicans to bring you the inside details from the invitation-only Creative Coalition Gala Benefit celebrating the First Amendment at

  Spirit in West Chelsea, hosted by luminaries including Joe Piscopo, George Wendt, Ron Silver, Tim Blake Nelson, Tucker Carlson and Hallie Eisenberg and featuring the song stylings of Max Weinberg. This was a party for Republican delegates … how could we resist? Our crack team -- Rachel Sklar, Greg Paulos and Anastasia Liapi -- dressed up like debutantes and stalked Republicans, scarfed appetizers and tore up the dance floor in the name of hard-hitting investigative journalism. For the night, we were pretend Republicans. We got very drunk, very goofy and not-the-least-bit compassionate  
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  or conservative.

Times are extremely approximate.

10:30: We meet on the corner of 23rd and 10th, dressed in our Red State finest, ready to walk amongst the Republicans. Anastasia looks like a Hilton at a polo match. Rachel looks like a fluffy pink cupcake.

Greg looks like the perfect Grandma Bush-approved date for a Bush twin.

10:31: We round the corner and discover barricades, a red carpet, a three-pronged spotlight searching the sky, numerous officious people with clipboards and several burly bouncers. No one is impressed by our outfits.

10:50: Unintimidated by the red


carpet, the search lights and the 13-year-olds manning the press table at the gala affair, Rachel sweet talks her way into some press passes after imperiously dropping the name "Black Table." Publicists scurry to do her bidding, and we are soon presented with three shiny, laminated press passes. We feel important. We're fairly certain they have no idea what The Black Table is, and that's probably good.

10:51: We learn that press passes don't gain us admission to the event, but only allow us to skulk around outside near the red carpet with the other plebians in the press corps.

10:54: Joe Pantoliano steps on to the red carpet, looking dapper in a trendy newsboy cap and tinted glasses. Microphones are thrust in his face and he starts to talk.

10:57: Rachel discovers that she has lost her pen in the cab. Anastasia only has cigarettes, tampons and lip gloss. Greg has one

  pen and one puny notepad. BEST REPORTERS EVER!

10:59: Joe Pantoliano is still talking.

11:03: Rachel tries to extract information about the event from passersby, targeting an attractive male Republican who is walking by with some friends.

Rachel (smiling sweetly): Excuse me, are you guys going to the event?

Guy: Yeah. (keeps walking)

Rachel (to their backs): Well, have a good time!

11:07: Joey Pants, still talking, is
  now only a couple feet from us. Some reporters are asking questions, but since we can't come up with any as inane as the chick from Fuse TV, we decide not to bother. We eavesdrop and hear the following pearls of wisdom: "I had peacock for dinner. It tastes like chicken." And: "Anheuser Busch has the horses, Camel has Joe Camel. There's a big connection between animals and advertising."

11:09: We are disappointed to learn that we have missed both Joe Piscopo AND Hallie Eisenberg. We didn't miss Ron Silver; it turns out that he walked by us, but we just didn't know who he was.

11:12: George Wendt arrives! Rachel has to be physically restrained
  from yelling out "Norm!"

11:13: A carload of Long Island teenagers circle the block, trying to figure out where the party is at. Overheard: "Hey man, I heard Tiesto is rocking this joint tonight!"

11:15: In an impressive display of marketing acumen, Scores, the strip club across the street, rolls out huge signs advertising their services and the location of their

main entrance.

11:17: Some grey-haired dude in a suit keeps getting interviewed. We don't recognize him, so Rachel asks Andy, a photographer and fellow press corps member, who he is.

Rachel: So who's that guy?

Andy: That's Congressman Mark Foley (looks at Rachel's digital camera with disdain).

Rachel (oblivious): Thanks! I have to go tell my friend. He's the one with the pen.

Andy: What kind of reporter are you?

11:20: Greg, who has the pen, befriends another member of the press who works for The New York Times (name withheld to protect him from the ramifications of associating with us). Anastasia, who doesn't need a pen, befriends Andy the photographer (a little strapless polka-dot number goes a long way). Andy continues to brag to Rachel about his three pens over the course of the evening.

11:25: Times reporter tips us off to another event screaming for Black Table coverage: the Conservative Meet-up. A colleague told him about it earlier in the day. Times reporter wants to stay put, though, in case the Bush twins show up. It turns out the Times will give a free dinner to whatever reporter is able to interview the Bush twins.

11:29: Anastasia, bored and finished smoking, brandishes her press pass at the bouncer and requests entry for her party. The bouncer smiles and says "I'm not lookin'" as Anastasia sails into the party without looking back. Rachel, Greg, Andy and the dude from the Times look at each other and quickly follow suit, ignoring the call of "can I help you?" from the PR-type girl hovering over the gift bags.

11:30: Score! There's FREE appetizers and booze! Serious reporting is cast aside in favor of hoovering shrimp croquettes, pastry-wrapped chicken, mini ham-and-cheese wraps and fried cheese balls (always an elegant choice). Big bowls of candy are thoughtfully placed around

  the room for those Republicans with a yen for Sweet Tarts or Laffy Taffy.

11:45: Max Weinberg rocks the place with wedding tunes. Republicans dance. The whole scene is eerily reminiscent of the endless weddings Greg has attended in the past two years. He grabs another beer to calm his nerves.

11:50: We meet "Shaggy," a long
  grey-haired man. Times reporter knows him and explains that he's notorious for crashing all sorts of events pretending to be a journalist so he can hit on chicks. He even has a business card printed up that says "Shaggy."

Midnight: Anastasia and Shaggy spin around the dance floor. She leads.

12:10: Rachel befriends a Marine who had recently returned from Iraq. His name is James, and he has seen some pretty brutal stuff. He says he is proud to be at an event that supports First Amendment rights. It's hard not to be humbled by his experiences, and it's a good reminder that Republicans are still Americans, and not all of them are tax-cutting oil-guzzling corporate-agendizing cowboys. Just most of them.

12:12: Rachel and the Maine discover that they have a friend in common, a high-ranking Republican who walks the corridors of power. Rachel does not walk the corridors of power herself, but does
  get the Marine dancing.

12:13: Number of appetizers Greg snags as waiters walk by: 14. Number of high-ranking Republicans he knows: 0

12:30: Times reporter reveals that his source for the Meet-up event was Shaggy. Shaggy thinks he has done just fine here and continues twirling Anastasia around while Andy snaps photos.
  Meanwhile, Max Weinberg is the only VIP in sight.

1:00: Greg, being an Economic Girlie-Man tied to his 9-to-5 job, leaves so he can get sleep. Rachel takes custody of the pen.

1:05: A conga line forms! Max Weinberg sure knows how to fire up an audience!

1:07: Incredibly, the appetizers are still rolling. One thing you can say about Republicans, they aren't cheap.

1:25: The party is winding down. Rachel chats with Jonas, a lobbyist from Rochester; Scott, a craggy he-man type from D.C. who unashamedly sports a candy necklace around his giant neck; and Tim, a friend of a friend of a guy who knows a delegate, from Philadelphia. So far, none of us has met an actual delegate.

1:30: Rachel and Anastasia leave. Anastasia is handed a white gift bag, and Rachel gets a black one. Rachel ducks back inside to pick up a white one, just in case.

1:35: As Rachel comes out she sees Triumph the Insult Comic Dog! Once again she snaps wildly, though carefully, because she is
  Canadian and thus has reason to fear Triumph. Robert Smigel seems pretty laid-back, however, and is surprisingly gentle with George Wendt when he emerges with his daughter. George looks surprisingly pleased to speak with Triumph. It's a nice moment.

1:40: Tim from Philadelphia emerges and gives Rachel his gift bag. His drunk friend follows suit. Score! Gift bag total: 5, and counting.

1:45: Just when you think you're out, they pull you back in: Mike, a very nice salesman from Rochester (also not a delegate) gives Rachel a VIP pass to the after-party at Olives at the W Hotel Union Square. She wheedles

another pass out of another guy. Andy comes along for the ride, being less able to wheedle things from slightly drunk convention-goers.

2:00: Arrival at Olives; Anastasia gives another bouncer puppy-dog eyes and gets Andy in. There is a table of assorted appetizers - mini-flatbread pizzas, little lambchops, and more cheeseballs. There is red and white wine, or a cash bar. The dance floor is already jumping when we arrive, reminiscent of the tail end of wedding receptions when someone's drunken uncle starts shakin' it on the dance floor with a bridesmaid.

2:05: We sneak a peek in the gift bag -- score! We picked up multiple bottles of Paul Mitchell shampoo and conditioner, random makeup (by a brand appropriately called "Bourjois"), candles and specially packaged Altoids with a rearing elephant on the cover to keep our breath smelling Republican-fresh all day.

2:10: Anastasia and Andy enjoy cheeseballs in a banquette. Rachel wanders over to the bar where a Bush/Cheney campaign teamster named Chester Charles Molar the Third (aka "Trey"), buys her a drink. He says he feels really confident about November. She nods politely.

2:15: We hit the dance floor, squeezing in amongst the other shimmying Republicans. The song "I Love Rock n' Roll" comes on, and there is a big "Whoooo!" from the crowd. This "whoo" is nothing compared to the "Whooo!" that erupts when "Sweet Home Alabama" comes on.

2:40: In what was originally an unironic song title, Michael Jackson's "Beat It" comes on. A Republican moonwalks.

2:45: Rachel returns to the table to guard our gift bags, because Paul Mitchell shampoo is expensive. She is joined by a persistent fellow named Steve, who seems intent on convincing her that her instantly made-up boyfriend ought to be cast by the wayside. He really thinks the old "you're 31 and don't have many childbearing years left" argument is going to work. It does not.

2:55: On the dance floor, Republicans enjoy that Usher song. Imaginary roofs are raised.

3:00: The lights come on, and the party is over. Rachel nonchalantly picks up another gift bag, bringing our total to six. Outside, Anastasia sees Scott, the big guy with the candy necklace and yells at him for to be a man and take it off. He agrees to do so if she bites a piece off of it, which she proceeds to do. Scott then asks us if we "wanna party" in some hotel suite on 72nd street. We politely decline.

3:05: Persistent Steve stands on the sidewalk between us and a taxi, determined to keep the night going. He is with his friend Paul from San Diego. They mention Arnold Schwarzenegger, which triggers a tirade from Anastasia who loudly decries "that shit-kicking Austrian" as conventioneers mill about. When she's done, Paul reveals that he had actually run against the Governator last November.

3:10: Anastasia finally scares Persistent Steve off, and we bundle into a cab, with enough Paul Mitchell shampoo to last us at least until the next RNC.


If you'd like to invite Rachel, Anastasia and Greg to YOUR next conservative bash, let us know!