Big bash on tap as Michelle Obama turns 50

The first lady plans to celebrate the occasion with ‘Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert.”

STATESMAN WASHINGTON BUREAUJanuary 17, 2014 

She’s musing about becoming a grandmother and not ruling out plastic surgery as she turns 50 on Friday. But Michelle Obama can still “shake a tail feather” and plans to as she celebrates the milestone the next day at the White House.

The invite to “Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert,” obtained by a hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, which says guests have been told to wear comfortable shoes, practice their dance moves and eat before arriving.

The White House wouldn’t divulge details, but it coyly tweeted a picture this week of the first lady and the president cutting the rug in the White House, along with the words “Let’s dance.” Reporters at the White House on Thursday spotted boxes of champagne arriving.

Longtime pal Donna Brazile told the Tribune Obama’s expecting to lace up her dance shoes. “That woman can still shake a tail feather,” she said of the first lady.

Obama offered a hint during a recent visit to the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington when a 12-year-old — and fellow Capricorn, the first lady noted — asked how she planned to celebrate.

Obama acknowledged that she’d be turning “50 and fabulous.” As for the party, “I’m not exactly sure yet what I’m going to do,” she said. “But it might involve some dancing.”

The White House has sought to swat down rumors fueled by a British tabloid that British crooner Adele and Obama’s pal Beyonce — whose husband, Jay Z, was to perform in Washington on the eve of Obama’s birthday — will sing at the private party.

The celebration isn’t the first first lady birthday bash to raise eyebrows.

Mamie Eisenhower’s 1956 birthday party at the White House was nationally televised on CBS — just weeks after her husband announced his bid for re-election. That prompted squawking by Democrats, who viewed the show as a presidential campaign ad.

Hillary Clinton’s 50th birthday in 1997 was a multiday celebration, a bit of a “blowout,” wrote Carl Anthony, a historian for the National First Ladies Library. Nearly 500 people attended the private birthday party on the White House’s South Lawn, which was outfitted with a tent “decorated with a motif to reflect each decade of her life,” The Associated Press said at the time.

Obama has already started celebrating. She stayed in Hawaii after the rest of the family returned to Washington from winter break; reports said she spent time at Oprah Winfrey’s Maui home.

Etiquette experts told The Washington Post that the invitation to the party — with its eat-first instruction — is “a bit unusual” and breaks with protocol.

For Obama, who remains more popular than the president in polls but has often been a lightning rod for conservatives, the controversy that a presumably posh party has engendered is almost to be expected.

“No matter what she does seems to be savaged,” said Robert Watson, a professor at Florida’s Lynn University who studies the presidency and first ladies.

“Critics will have a field day, from questioning how much it will cost to watching A-list celebrities walk through the door.”

But in her husband’s last term and hitting the half-century mark, Obama is coming into her own as first lady, balancing a tricky public and private role, he said.

“It’s difficult to pull off, and I believe she’s done a better job than just about any first lady before her,” Watson said.

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