Never mind the Oscars, Grammys or Golden Globes: The red carpet extravaganza that every discerning celebrity wants to be seen at this year is Barack Obama’s inauguration as US president.
An unprecedented galaxy of stars is poised to light up festivities surrounding the inauguration, giving a high-voltage jolt of glamor to the serious business of swearing in the leader of the free world.
Exactly which members of the “glitterati” will be heading to Washington is unclear. Only a handful of stars have been officially confirmed.
Some, such as “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin, will be performing in an official capacity, belting out songs at the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony.
Others, such as two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks, are planning to watch the proceedings from among the crowd, reports said.
But there seems little doubt that dozens of entertainment industry figures will descend on the nation’s capital for what People magazine described as possibly the “most star-spangled” inauguration in history.
Die-hard Obama supporter Oprah Winfrey is certain to be on hand, while Bruce Springsteen, Blackeyed Peas frontman will.i.am, and divas Beyonce and Mary Blige are all expected to attend.
Several reports have suggested Springsteen may perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 18.
The Presidential Inauguration Committee has confirmed an “opening celebration” at the site on the same date but has not revealed whether Springsteen will play there.
The Creative Coalition, a non-profit set up by members of the creative community in 1989 to raise awareness about issues of public importance, has confirmed a stellar cast for its ball on inauguration day.
Elvis Costello and Sting are both performing at the event, which will be attended by celebrities including Spike Lee, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard and Ron Howard.
Obama is not expected to make an appearance at the benefit bash, where sponsorships are reported to be selling for US$150,000.
The Creative Coalition event is one of several unofficial balls being held around the US capital during inauguration week.
The American Music Inaugural Ball is to be hosted by Dionne Warwick and will feature two events — a “Legends Ball” and an “Urban Ball.”
Performers at the US$650-a-ticket party include Chaka Khan, The Temptations, George Clinton, The Cheetah Girls, Lil Jon and T-Pain.
Other stars reported to be in town for the presidential inauguration include Chris Rock, George Clooney, Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette and Ed Harris.
Experts said the stampede of celebrities heading to Washington reflects a shift in the way the entertainment industry is adjusting to the next US leader, anxious to be associated with a politician who projects charisma and cool.
“I think that celebrities are basking in the street cred of being associated with Barack Obama,” said Robert Thompson, professor of communications at the University of Syracuse. “He’s so articulate, he’s so attractive, his family is so beautiful, he dresses so well. He trumps every other celebrity out there.”
“Any celebrity is happy to co-star in the Barack Obama show,” he said.
“Even celebrities who are used to having their names above the movie title are happy to be co-starring with Saint Barack,” Thompson said.