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June 29, 2017

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Obama hosts 'bittersweet' final state dinner

WASHINGTON--"Bittersweet" was the word of the night, the one often used to describe President Barack Obama's final State Dinner.

"We saved the best for last," he said Tuesday as he welcomed Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife, Agnese Landini, to the White House.

He wasn't joking.

The final gala meant everything was big or bigger, from the personality of the guest chef (Mario Batali) who collaborated on the menu to the size of the white tent (huge) on the South Lawn where the soiree was held, to the guest list (nearly 400 people).

Representative Gerald Connolly said it's "a little sad" that it's Obama's last State Dinner. But to make the occasion even more memorable, he said: "For tonight only, I pronounce my name 'Canoli,' not 'Connolly.'"

Michelle Obama's hairstylist, Johnny Wright, also described the moment as "bittersweet," but he was still excited to have been invited. The first lady also invited her makeup artist, Carl Ray; her trainer, Cornell McClellan; and Meredith Koop, who helps Mrs. Obama with her wardrobe.

"I'm excited that it's the last State Dinner, so it's a bittersweet thing," said actress-comedian Alexandra Wentworth. "I love the Obamas."

Others, meanwhile, sought to inject some levity into the evening.

"We're Jews, but we identify as Italian," joked Jerry Seinfeld. By way of explaining why the Obamas may have invited the comedian and his wife, Jessica, Seinfeld said the couple spends a lot of time traveling in Italy "and we almost exclusively go out for Italian food, but that's as far as I can figure."

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