WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House promised tighter security for Wednesday’s state dinner — and it delivered.
Among the hundreds who lined up to get in, at least one woman was turned away for lack of proper ID.
Kathryne Mudge said her husband, Arturo Valenzuela, an assistant secretary of state, was supposed to bring the necessary identification.
“We tried to be extra careful, but my husband is the absent-minded professor,” Mudge said.
Their evening wasn’t spoiled, however.
Mudge and her husband returned about an hour later and were allowed into the affair that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama held for their Mexican counterparts, Felipe Calderon and his wife, Margarita Zavala.
The White House promised to improve security after Obama’s first state dinner was overshadowed by an uninvited husband-and-wife couple who somehow slipped through security and got close enough to the president to shake his hand.
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As about 200 guests streamed into the White House, the Obamas greeted Mexico’s first couple on the North Portico. Mrs. Obama wore a one-shoulder, shimmery, cobalt blue floor-length gown, with a wide silver belt and dangling silvery earrings. Zavala wore a plum-colored, sleeveless gown with an Aztec-inspired blue border around the square neckline.
Among those with coveted invitations for the four-course dinner in the East Room were a celebrity contingent that included Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria Parker, George Lopez and Olympic speedskater Shani Davis.
Goldberg said it felt like she was “coming home after a long drought.” She said she’d been a frequent visitor during Bill Clinton’s years, but not at all during George W. Bush’s presidency. “I wasn’t here,” she said.
Lopez, a comedian, joked when asked about the security. “The guy with the glove was nice,” he said.
Longoria Parker talked policy, saying it was an important time to be holding such a dinner with Mexican leaders, given the hot temperatures over immigration right now.
“You can’t have these states doing their own punitive laws,” she insisted, referring to Arizona’s tough new immigration law.
Obama and Calderon launched the dinner with a toast to the friendship between their nations. Obama, in toasting Mexico’s contributions to the world, singled out “some very good food, including the food of the gods — chocolate.” Calderon, for his part, congratulated the American people “for having a president like Barack Obama,” and Obama “for having a wife and first lady like Michelle Obama.”
Another 100 or so guests arrived later in the evening for after-dinner entertainment inside a white tent on the South Lawn, where the Mexican duo of Rodrigo y Gabriela strummed acoustic guitars. They were followed by Grammy Award winner Beyonce.
“Today is a celebration of the bonds between the United States and Mexico, including the music that brings us together and moves us a little bit and hopefully gets us literally moving on the dance floor at some point,” Obama said after the party moved outside.
The state dinner was a coming-out party of sorts for new White House social secretary Julianna Smoot, who waved quickly and sprinted away when reporters watching the guests arrive called out for her to stop and chat. Smoot’s predecessor, Desiree Rogers, resigned earlier this year; she’d been criticized for her high-profile approach to the job.
For their second state dinner, Mrs. Obama recruited Chicago chef Rick Bayless — one of the couple’s favorites — to prepare the meal.
Dinner opened with a salad of jicama with oranges, grapefruit and pineapple, followed by herb green seviche of Hawaiian opah. The main course of Oregon wagyu beef came with a Oaxacan black mole sauce that Bayless says uses more than 20 ingredients and takes days to come together. Grilled green beans and black bean tamalon accompanied the main course.
Chocolate cajeta tart with toasted homemade marshmallows was on the dessert menu, along with a graham cracker crumble made with honey from the White House beehive and goat cheese ice cream.
The two presidents and their wives sat at a rectangular head table, with guests at a mix of rectangular and round tables draped in three shades of Mayan blue to simulate rippling water. Bouquets of fuchsia flowers, including roses and orchids, and prickly pear cactus were made into centerpieces.
Several female guests came in strapless gowns and baring cleavage. Vibrant solids seemed to be the color of choice, with blood orange particularly popular and worn by Longoria Parker and Oprah friend Gayle King, among others.
On the lawn, the tent was outfitted with tiered seating and a dance floor. Guests entering the room were to get a feel for Monarch butterflies in flight. The White House said that decor was chosen to honor Calderon’s birthplace of Michoacan, Mexico, where the butterfly’s annual migration from Canada ends each spring.
The duo of Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero formed in Mexico City but moved to Dublin after becoming frustrated with the late ’90s Mexican music scene. They are known for dueling acoustic guitar instrumentals that blend heavy metal sounds with Latin rhythms.