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Obama’s state dinner for Hollande a star-studded affair

U.S. President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande share a toast during the State Dinner in honour of Hollande at the White House in Washington February 11, 2014.

KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

There were two Veeps but no gate crashers amid the bonhomie on a frigid night in the nation's capital.

In a huge, heated tent on the south lawn of the White House while temperatures outside were well below freezing, more than 350 celebrities, big-league Democratic fundraisers, business leaders and politicians, filled out an A-level guest list.

There were two Veeps; Vice-President Joe Biden and actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays a U.S. vice-president in Veep, the HBO TV series. "Look who I'm sitting next to," Ms. Louis-Dreyfus said, pointing to Mr. Biden, when a media contingent was briefly allowed in. The real vice-president interrupted a reporter's inquiry. "Hey, stop screwin' around, she's my date," said the always-earthy Mr. Biden.

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Without a date, of course, was the guest of honour, French President François Hollande, who arrived solo.

Still, the state dinner for the president of America's oldest ally went off with nary a gaffe despite the media focus on Mr. Hollande's suddenly public and complicated romantic entanglements.

"We love Americans, although we don't always say so," Mr. Hollande said during the exchange of toasts that echoed the chorus of mutual admiration during the three-day visit. "And you love the French, but you're sometimes too shy to say so," he added.

President Barack Obama was equally gushing. "It is true that we Americans have grown to love all things French – the films, the food, the wine. Especially the wine," he said.

That Mr. Hollande, 59, was travelling tout seul, has been the unspoken but ever-present sub-text of the visit. His long-time partner Valerie Trierweiler left the relationship last month after Mr. Hollande was photographed on his motor scooter visiting the Paris apartment of actress Julie Gayet.

Ain't Nobody, sang Mary J. Blige, the Bronx-born singer who entertained after dinner.

No irony was apparently intended.

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"Gonna be so much fun! Thank you Barack Obama," she posted on her Facebook page.

And, unlike Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the infamous pair of wanna-be celebrities who sneaked in to sully the Obama's first state dinner five years ago, creating a brouhaha over lax security, no one managed to crash the French affair.

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