Julian Assange's 40th birthday party is difficult to imagine, if only for the juxtapositions in play. The WikiLeaks founder hosted a bash on Sunday at his 650-acre in England, where he's on house arrest, and on Tuesday will face the High Court in London to appeal his extradition to Sweden, where he faces rape charges. British tabloids have been scrambling for details about Assange's fête, and most of the gossip revolves around the apparently star-studded guestlist. The Daily Mail reports on anonymous rumors:
Among those said to be invited to the bash are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and US Vogue editor Anna Wintour. A huge marquee has been put up at Ellingham Hall, the 10-bed Norfolk farmhouse where he has been under house arrest for the past seven months. Party invitations included instructions on where to land helicopters and private jets.
About that invitation, the Evening Standard presumably obtained a copy and they quote, "You can charter a private plane to Norwich International Airport which has a private air strip and is a half-hour taxi journey from Ellingham Hall, or alternatively you can land helicopters on the Ellingham Hall property on the field in the north-west quadrant of this map."
Activists were not thrilled by these rumors. Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, says he received one of the invitations to Assange's party and blogged about it just before he left:
I am not sure who else is going, but the initial invitation did not give train information, but did tell you where to land your private plane or helicopter…
Nonetheless, I worry that the amusing fact that the invitation tells you where to land your private jet or helicopter, actually is an indication of where Wikilleaks is going wrong…
I am one of Assange’s admirers, not one of his detractors. I am going along to show my genuine support. There may in fact be a good turnout, because this is probably the best chance this weekend for the radical chic wealthy to get together and thrill over the wounds of Murdoch. There is an auction of donations to raise funds for his legal expenses, which I hope goes well--personal bids will establish a reserve price, and then the items will go on to ebay. I do hope that goes well too. And I hope when Assange’s celebrity dies down, those helicopter riders will still support him.
I just doubt it.
Ryan Gallagher, another activist who claims to have attended, tweeted Sunday night, "Heading back to London after party in Norfolk. No sign of Branjelina or any helicopters."
Regardless of who else attended, the note about the auction seems telling. Last week, news broke that the $1.5 million book deal for Assange's memoir had fallen through, while WikiLeaks donations are being funneled into the Julian Assange Defense Fund. Depending on what happens Tuesday, Assange may really need the money potentially raised at his Sunday party. But he might also not want to irk the activists who have voraciously defend both him and WikiLeaks all along.
It's unclear whether Assange even threw a party, and until we see the pictures of Brad and Julian playing beer pong, we're reserving a fair amount of doubt about Hollywood's presence on the guest list. One thing seems assured, though. Assange is going to have a tough time in court this week.