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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. See main page for full contents

January 27, 2009

HOPE YOU COULDN'T COUNT ON

Reliable Source, Washington Post - Ludacris was just as shocked as anyone when the inaugural bash he was slated to headline was canceled, a spokesman told us. The rapper simply lent his name to the American Music Inaugural Ball and "was not an organizer [nor] party to any of the operational discussions," said Barry Florence. "His heart goes out to everybody" who bought a ticket. "He hopes everyone that did not have a culpable role gets reimbursed for their time and energy and expense."

Organizers led by singer Dionne Warwick failed to sell enough tickets, leading to the event's abrupt collapse barely 24 hours out. Many performers only got word via notes slipped under their doors at the Marriott Wardman Park, the ball's venue, saying they needed to leave their comped rooms or pay up.

Now people who paid at least $450 a ticket are wondering how to get reimbursed, not satisfied with a bare-bones Web site promising refunds "within 30-45 days." The voice mail is full at the ticket-sale number. Promoter Guy Draper didn't reply to e-mails; his voice mail is not taking messages. A North Carolina lawyer trying to get her money back told us she traced her bank charge to a Dallas firm where the phone was disconnected. She's filed a complaint with police.

We were unable to connect with Warwick's rep, Kevin Sasaki, though he returned one of our calls. So we tried Warwick. "You'll have to ask the committee," she said. How do we reach them? She hung up.

Add the official Youth Ball to the list of events that left hundreds out in the cold -- campaign volunteers who paid $75 a ticket and never even made it inside the Hilton Washington.

Other ticket holders complained last week that, while admitted, they were stuck in an overflow lounge, able to see the Obamas, Kanye West or Fall Out Boy only on TV, though the Presidential Inaugural Committee insisted everyone at least got into something resembling a party.

Karl Johnson, 26, told us he spent the night standing in "absolutely freezing" temperatures. After two hours in line, he and three friends were stopped near the security check at 9 p.m., then spent the next two hours . . . waiting. Friends inside sent frantic texts: "Are you in? Obama's coming!"

Johnson got in at 11:30 -- long after the motorcade was gone -- but estimates that hundreds in line behind him gave up and went home. So far, no explanations or refunds. The PIC did not respond to our calls or e-mail yesterday.

Update:


We also learned the "Dionne and Friends Foundation Inc." that ticket buyers wrote checks to has not had incorporation status for nearly three years -- and there's no record it ever had IRS nonprofit status. We tried their temporary leased offices on Thomas Circle: vacated over the weekend, a building supervisor told us.

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