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Page last updated at 09:33 GMT, Monday, 19 January 2009

Stars bring glitz to Washington

By Rajini Vaidyanathan
BBC News, Washington

U2 amid preparations for the Obama concert in Washington DC on Sunday
Bono and U2 performed at Sunday's concert at the Lincoln Memorial

The guest list is a party planner's dream.

Bono, Beyonce, Aretha Franklin, Oprah Winfrey, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Denzel Washington, George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Jay-Z.

The names, a who's who of the rich, famous and successful in the world of music and film, are just some of the stars who are descending on Washington DC this week.

They're all here in town to celebrate the inauguration of a politician who has become a celebrity in his own right.

Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday is bringing with it a sense of glitz and glamour usually associated with Los Angeles and New York.

'Better than Hollywood'

"Washington will be the coolest place on earth this weekend," says Garrett Graff, editor-at-large of the DC style magazine, The Washingtonian.

"The city has just never seen an inauguration like what it's about to see… It's going to better than a lot of the Hollywood award ceremonies this year."

The number of events and parties being planned suggest even those whose names are always on the guest list might struggle to choose where to go.

On Sunday a free concert at the Lincoln Memorial saw many A-listers perform to crowds of thousands.

Obama merchandise in Washington DC
Inauguration merchandise is on sale in Washington DC
The names on that billing included Beyonce, golfer Tiger Woods giving a reading, actress Queen Latifah, Bono, Shakira, Denzel Washington and Bruce Springsteen.

Away from the public events there are many private bashes being hosted by stars.

Among some of the hottest include a party being thrown by the Hollywood lobby group the Creative Coalition.

Basic tickets for the sold-out event started at $5,000 (£3,400), with VIP packages in the tens of thousands. Actress Anne Hathaway, directors Ron Howard and Spike Lee, singer Stevie Wonder and actress Susan Sarandon are all expected to appear.

The Recording Industry Association of America hopes to draw big names to its event, including Rhianna, Courtney Cox and husband David Arquette, Akon, Ludacris and Jamie Foxx.

Def Jam records founder Russell Simmons' hip-hop ball boasts names including LL Cool J, rapper TI, Dave Chappelle and Ashanti, and rapper Mos Def.

DJ Moby is doing a set and a special Rock the Vote gig is taking place with Sheryl Crow and the Beastie Boys on the billing.

Winfrey speculation?

Al Gore is hosting a green ball, and even former South African President Nelson Mandela is expected to show up at some events in the city.

Obama supporter and talkshow host Oprah Winfrey is also getting in on the action. She is hosting her show from DC's Kennedy Center for two days. Free tickets to the special tapings went in a day.

With Oprah's ability to draw top names, there is much speculation about who might appear on her show. Ms Winfrey was regularly seen on the campaign trail with Mr Obama. Will he return the favour?

Barack Obama himself is set to attend 10 official balls on inauguration night.

These include one for the military, a youth ball for 18-35 year olds and a neighbourhood ball.

Hillary and Bill Clinton dance during one of his inauguration balls.
The Clintons danced several times to the same song on his inauguration day
Tickets for the latter were given out free to Washington DC residents through community groups, and Mr Obama is hoping that event will make the Inaugural Ball a bit more accessible to everyone.

But even this year the clamour for tickets has been frenzied, and many of them go to those with the biggest cheque books and the right connections.

It is tradition for the president and his wife to dance for the assembled crowds at these events.

In 1997, the Clintons famously danced to the song Unforgettable a number of times as they hopped from party to party.

This year Beyonce Knowles will have the honour of performing the first dance for the famous first couple.

For many the song she will sing sums up a sentiment many Americans feel about the inauguration of Barack Obama.

The tune of choice? The Etta James classic At Last.

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