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Inauguration, Google style

WASHINGTON -- What sort of social occasion would bring Ben Affleck and John Kerry together? Why, Google's inaugural ball, what else!

On a night when President Obama made the rounds to 10 official balls with headliners like Jay-Z and Mary J Blige, Google's ball was hardly the marquee social event here in town.

So it wasn't the first stop for the A-listers (might explain why I was there).

But Google, an increasingly assertive Washington presence, still put on a pretty good show, and scored a few celebrities on a night when the capital was full of them.

Cordoned off from the revelers by a rather stern looking security escort, Kerry chatted it up with Google CEO Eric Schmidt (an Obama campaign surrogate and advisor) in a side room while Affleck and Larry Page, Google's cofounder, caught up on old times, or so I imagine.

Also making the scene were Sarah Silverman, Jessica Alba and, I'm told, John Cusack.

The search giant co-hosted the ball with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and offered to match donations to five nonprofit organizations, including One Economy, a group working to bring technology to low-income Americans.

For a venue, Google chose the Andrew Mellon Auditorium, a federal building at 13th St. and Constitution Ave., just across from the national mall and surrounded by streets paved with soda cans, hamburger wrappers and other detritus left by the two million folks who laid siege to the capital for the inauguration and parade.

Google had the basic elements of a gala party covered: thumping music blasted out by a rather innovative deejay (mashing up Fergie's "My Humps" with Guns and Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine"), a stark white Apple-chic decor, and, to the delight of many, an open bar.

In addition to the smattering of celebrities, the geek contingent was well represented. It was, after all, a Google party. So it came to be that a popular area of the party was the game room just off from the bar, where partygoers could play Wii Rock Band and bowling on the flat-screen TVs, or, for the more cerebral, sidle up to one the tables for a game of checkers, backgammon or chess. Yup, people were playing chess at the party. But not Affleck.

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