1924 at the John Marshall Ballrooms: This was J. Edgar Hoover’s first gala as FBI Director, and he was really anxious to make a good impression, so he had his right-hand man Clyde Tolson compile detailed files on every staffer to make small talk easier. But people got weirded out when Hoover started bringing up random personal details, like “I hear your youngest gave polio to his entire primary school class” and “Didn’t your wife run off with a Swede?” so soon everyone was transparently avoiding him. Hoover left the gala early in a huff, and added everyone who snubbed him to his Enemies file.

1928 at the Hilton Gold Presidential Suite: Hoover was running late to this one, and Tolson had booked Duke Ellington to perform.  In those days jazz made people uncontrollably horny so when Hoover showed up President Coolidge and his wife were making out on the dance floor and the entire FBI recruit class had run off to create a new generation of feds. Hoover was furious about the jazz because he was racist as shit and terrified of his own sexuality, but on his way to the stage to shut things down he tripped and fell into the fondue fountain and had to go home to get all the cheese out of his $80 suit, which in those days was worth more than Delaware. The next day, he started an FBI investigation into the links between jazz and communism.

1938 at the Centennial Ballroom: Right before dinner started, people started chanting “Speech, speech, speech!” at him, but he didn’t realize they were chanting at him so he started chanting too. No one had the courage to tell him because he would destroy anyone who made him look bad so the whole room just chanted “Speech, speech, speech” together for a good fifteen minutes before Tolson pulled the fire alarm to save him from more embarrassment. Hoover thought it was a new trend that he wasn’t a part of, so he started randomly chanting “Speech” around the office the next week and when a Bureau executive finally told him what was going on, he had the guy assassinated.

1946 at the Golden Gate Casino: In his middle years, Hoover was feeling increasingly alienated from his staff, so at the 1946 gala he joined in on the staff poker game to show that he was just one of the guys. Someone joked that they could play strip poker, but Hoover took it seriously and immediately pulled down his pants to reveal his limp, sagging genitals. The data guys were repulsed but they didn’t want to end up on his list so they all pulled their pants down too like that was part of the game, and everybody at the gala was really uncomfortable except Roy Cohn, who was having a ball pouring champagne into the koi pond and casually abusing interns. Hoover felt humiliated when he realized his mistake, and to make himself feel better leaked the sexual histories of the entire gala cooking staff to the Washington Post.

1957 at the Lord Baltimore Hotel: Hoover showed up dressed like Elvis Presley even though it wasn’t a costume party, and when people asked him about it he acted like he didn’t know what they were talking about. It slowly became clear that he genuinely had never heard of Elvis and he was just trying out a new look that he thought was cool. So then everyone had to explain to him that yes, it was a cool look, but it was already taken by a musical icon, and then Hoover got really mad and started yelling “This ‘Elbus’ asshole doesn’t have a monopoly on fashion” then he stormed out and asked Tolson to draft the King into military service. 

1963 at the Sayre Mansion: Hoover somehow convinced himself that he should make a move on Jackie Kennedy just weeks after her husband’s assassination to quash the rumor going around that he liked men. So at the 1963 gala, Hoover sidled up to Jackie and very loudly grunted and said, “You’re ah… you’re looking quite fetching tonight, Mrs. Kennedy. Jack was a lucky man. Would you like to… go for a brisk walk with me?” Jackie was furious and shoved him into the fondue fountain, and he got covered in cheese again and nobody even noticed because Cary Grant was acting out scenes from his hit film That Touch of Mink.

1971 on J. Paul Getty’s Megayacht: Towards the end of his life Hoover suffered from crippling paranoia, so at the 1971 yacht gala he wore a life jacket over his tux and threw olives at anyone who came within six feet. Hoover had been a teetotaler all his life, but he accidentally drank like a quart of the spiked punch because he thought it was non-alcoholic. It turned out that the half-senile Hoover was both a cruel drunk and a sleepy drunk, so he started calling all the women “hussies” and then just kind of passed out on the refreshments table, where he mumbled the names of civil rights leaders he’d had assassinated in his sleep. At some point between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m., Hoover rolled off the table into the inky black of the Atlantic Ocean, bringing his forty-eight year FBI tenure to a close. The gala scene was never the same.

—J. Wickline