Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett headlined President Obama's Staff Inaugural Ball on Tuesday night at the Washington Convention Center, the final party of the 57th Presidential Inauguration. Accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, the President arrived minutes before 9:00 PM to thank thousands of volunteers and staff, who'd been informed shortly before in an email from hosts the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) that Gaga was indeed performing. (Above, Gaga and Bennett duet on "The Lady is a Tramp" in a photo tweeted by her digital media team)
"You all clean up pretty good,” the President said to the crowd of between 10-15,000 as he took the stage. "My main job here tonight is really simple: It’s just to say thank you. All of you have come to represent for me and Michelle our deepest hopes for America."
Guests were Obama for America staff, White House and Administration staff, and Presidential Inaugural Committee staff, according to PIC, and they paid $10 per ticket. Gaga's appearance at the Ball was the subject of much speculation since it was tipped to media last week, and staffers were thrilled to find out it was true. The superstar tweeted "#WhiteHausBall" at 7:15 PM, and from there Twitter took off with Gaga fans retweeting images of her performance. Staffers used the hashtag #Staffball. (Above, the President and Mrs. Obama greet supporters)
Mrs. Obama wore a glittering top and black bell bottom pants, her hair pulled back, and the President mentioned her fringy new bangs, the subject of headlines since it was first unveiled last week, as he introduced his wife to the crowd.
"Here's the First Lady, bangs and all, looking very sparkly!" President Obama said.
Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden spoke to the thrilled crowd before the President arrived. Proceeds from the Ball go to a memorial fund in memory of Alex Okrent, a 29-year-old paid campaign staffer who died after collapsing at the Chicago headquarters last July. He'd worked for Mr. Obama since his 2004 run for the Senate, and specialized in paid advertisements. (Above, Gaga singing "Born This Way")
President Obama called Okrent's early demise "heartbreaking" as he paid tribute.
"Alex was one of you," President Obama said. "This incredibly thoughtful, talented, compassionate, caring young person who decided to get involved because he thought he could make a difference...it reminded us of how precious our time on this earth is.”
The crowd, who were held back from the stage in the massive hall by a blue fabric barrier, serendaded the First Couple with an impromptu rendition of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours," one of the many campaign theme songs.
The President's speech ended with the campaign call-and response: "Fired up! Ready to go!," with the crowd chanting it over and over.
"I think Lady Gaga’s fired up, too,” President Obama said, and with that the superstar took the stage. The President was back at the White House at 9:53 PM, and the party raged on.
Gaga wore her white-blonde hair partially pulled back, and a dramatic white costume with "bubbles" on it and a full skirt. She sang a number of her hits, including "Born This Way," "You and I" and " Edge Of Glory" while seated at a dramatic white piano. That was followed by a duet with Bennett, singing his signature "The Lady Is A Tramp." (Above: Gaga performs "Edge of Glory")
Gaga paused between songs to comment on President Obama's reelection, and to thank him for his support of LGBT initiatives. She dedicated "Born This Way" to him.
"Here's to a beautiful and prosperous second term," Gaga said.
Before doing an encore of "You and I," Gaga told the crowd "He won. Twice."
Even Bennett got in on the Twitter action: "On a date with my Lady tonight... "@ladygaga: #whitehausball”' he wrote on his @ItsTonyBennett account.
Some of Gaga's fans thought the Ball was at the White House, as noted on this video of her singing "Born This Way":
The Ball Food...
The food at the Ball was simple: Pretzels and chips--and one 500-pound cheesecake, a masterpiece created by Eli's Cheesecake Company, which is headquartered in the Obamas' hometown of Chicago.
The gargantuan cake featured a replica of the Capitol Dome on top, complete with the gold Statue of Freedom, and the Presidential Seal, with the names "Obama" and "Biden" added. The cake also got plenty of tweets.
"Michelle wasn't joking on her food initiative. Were only eating pretzels and cake tonight," tweeted @ClotureClub (sic) with a photo of sliced cheesecake and pretzels. The liquor, however, was flowing: "I just ordered "vodka and vodka" on a mixed drink ticket and it worked. #staffball," tweeted @ejacqui.
The other Inaugural Balls...
On Monday night, the President and Mrs. Obama attended the only two other official inaugural balls, The Inaugural Ball and The Commander-in Chief's Ball, where they had their first dance of the second term, as Mrs. Obama wore a custom-made, ruby-red Jason Wu gown, anointing the young designer for a second time. Those Balls were also star-studded, with Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, fun., Chris Cornell, Smokey Robinson and a host of other stars performing. (Above, a long shot of the Staff Ball crowd as the President and Mrs. Obama stood on stage)
After, the President and Mrs. Obama partied until well after 3:00 AM at the White House at their own private, closed-press after party, where guests included Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Congress and more stars: Beyoncé, Katy Perry, John Mayer, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys and her husband Swizz Beatz, actress Ashley Judd, singer Eric Benet, John Legend and his fiancee, model Chrissy Teigen.
The inaugural festivities officially kicked off on Saturday, and the President returns to business as usual on Wednesday. He's scheduled to have his traditional closed-press luncheon with the Vice President...and is now staring down the debt ceiling and gun control. The inaugural celebration was swell while it lasted. (Above: The Bidens speak to the crowd at the Ball)
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*Top photo by @Tiffany_Worthy; second by @TomyKMonster, from Lady Gaga's digital media team; third by @GagaChapel; fourth by @BTWTyson; crowd photo by @JulianJMiller; Biden photo by Ta'Kindra Westbrook