TUESDAY UPDATE: The White House announced today that also invited from showbiz were GE chairman Jeff Immelt whose corporation runs NBC Universal, Oprah Winfrey galpal Gayle King, director M. Night Shyamalan, and actors Alfre Woodard and Blair E Underwood.
EXCLUSIVE: If tradition stands, the details of the guest list will be revealed only a few hours before the Obama administration’s first state dinner tomorrow. The welcome for India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be the biggest social event of the Obama White House. Already the Washington DC press corp is buzzing about the “got-to-be-there” fever. But this first dinner is primarily a thank you to the Obamas’ most important political supporters. So I’ve learned that, among the Hollywood contingent asked to attend, are onetime DreamWorks partners David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg; Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Michael Lynton; and WME Entertainment Agency co-CEO Ari Emanuel.
Spielberg’s inclusion is interesting since he was a much ballyhooed Hillary Clinton supporter during the first months of her primary campaign when she looked like a sure thing, then quietly threw his clout behind Obama after he became the clear winner. But, given that the guest of honor is India’s highest ranking statesman, Spielberg’s new financial relationship with India’s giant corporation Reliance more than explains his presence. Geffen was an early Obama backer who publicly took on the Clintons with pointed criticism at the start of the primary season. Katzenberg was one of Obama’s earliest supporters, and became a faithful fundraiser. Both he and Geffen were considered Obama’s biggest Hollywood bundlers during the campaign.
Lynton was a longtime supporter primarily because of the influence of his wife Jamie whose Chicago family has longtime political connections to the Obamas. Her mother Joanne Alter, the first female Democrat elected in Cook County, talent-spotted Obama in 2003 and convinced her daughter to support him. As a result, Lynton co-hosted an early fundraiser for Obama’s Senate bid in 2004 in addition to hosting one of the earliest Hollywood campaign events for him when most showbiz types were still supporting Hillary. (Will.i.am, who composed the viral video for the Obama campaign anthem “Yes, We Can,” met the candidate during a fundraiser at the Lyntons’ home.)
And Chicago native Emanuel not only was one of Obama’s first Hollywood political and financial backers, but, like duh, his brother Rahm is the White House chief of staff. They’ll join the President and First Lady and 400 guests in an elaborate tent erected on the South Lawn. As for who has been chosen to provide the evening’s entertainment, this White House has shown eclectic taste: Stevie Wonder already has played a concert in the East Room, Marc Anthony already took to the South Lawn for an evening of Latin music, and the Foo Fighters played the Fourth of July party.