Billy Bob Thornton on headlining a pre-White House correspondents’ dinner concert with Chuck Leavell
Many celebrities aren’t exactly jazzed about this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner or the parties surrounding it, but here’s a notable exception: Billy Bob Thornton.
The actor-musician is slated to headline the third annual White House Correspondents’ Jam, a concert the evening before the dinner that features bands made up of journalists, with a few professional ringers thrown in the mix — that’s where Thornton and his “Southern-Gothic” band, the Boxmasters, come in, as well as Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell, who founded the annual event and sponsors it with his environmental-news organization, Mother Nature Network.
Thornton, it seems, views his upcoming engagement the way some might eagerly anticipate a visit to an exotic zoo.
“Coming to Washington and being so close to the White House, I have no idea what it’s going to be like — are we going to be sequestered in some kind of capsule? Am I going to see Dana Bash?” he asked, name-dropping the CNN correspondent with ease. So is that his dream Washington-journo sighting?
Nope. “That would be Brooke Baldwin.”
Thornton is obviously up on his cable news. But it wasn’t just the opportunity to fanboy with his favorite newsfolk that led him to sign on. Thornton says his longtime pal Leavell tried to book him in previous years, and this year the timing just worked out for him and his band.
For his part, Leavell says he considered nixing the party this year, as some news organizations have, faced with dwindling interest in the party circuit by boldfacers who want nothing to do with the divisive Trump administration. But he ultimately figured that the Fourth Estate needed to blow off steam now more than ever.
“In my mind, the weekend is such a traditional weekend of partying, and we thought it was appropriate to keep going even when others haven’t,” he said. “I think it’s important to let everyone drop all that mess for just a minute and hear some music and have some fun.”
This year’s lineup taking the stage at the Hamilton includes CNBC reporter Steve Liesman and his folk/rock band, the Mooncussers; New York Times chief Washington correspondent Carl Hulse and his group, the Native Makers; Wall Street Journal senior editor Michael Siconolfi with Six Stars; and Tom Toles, The Washington Post’s editorial cartoonist, and Suspicious Package, which is practically the house band of Official Washington.
And there’s a possibility of nonmusical entertainment, too. Get ready — Thornton might try his hand at comedy. If he meets CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, the actor-musician has a self-imposed challenge: “I’m going to make him laugh,” he says. “Have you noticed? I’ve never seen him laugh.”