2ND UPDATE, 12:25 AM: First there was the $35,800-per-person fundraising dinner tonight with Will Smith hosted by his Overbrook Entertainment producing partner and manager James Lassiter. Then President Obama headed over to the home of Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith for a somewhat lower-key event aimed at Latino supporters. He was introduced by Eva Longoria who said Obama “knows he’s the president of all Americans” and that “we thank you for everything you’re doing.” Obama leaves town after Tuesday’s Jay Leno taping.
UPDATE (correcting misidentification), 8:01 p.m.: This evening’s Los Angeles traffic snarl at rush hour was just that much worse because President Barack Obama arrived at LAX on board Air Force One at 4:30 PM. He’s attending two Hollywood political fundraisers for the Democratic Party tonight, first at producer James Lassiter’s mansion and then Melanie Griffith’s and Antonio Banderas’ home. Potus will be making a Tonight Show appearance with Jay Leno tomorrow before jetting out of town. According to the White House pool report, Obama first helicoptered to a landing zone in Brentwood and the motorcade made an “off-the-record” visit to Roscoe’s chicken and waffle house. The president ordered at the counter for himself (and nearby aides) the No. 9 “Country Boy” – 3 wings with choice of waffle, potato salad or French fries ($8.90). He then started chatting with diners. I say who cares if you like Obama’s politics or not: he’s got good taste when it comes to LA’s favorite eats.
Then the motorcade traveled to Hancock Park for the first fundraiser hosted by Lassiter, who is Will Smith’s production partner in Overbrook Entertainment which manages the entire Pinkett-Smith family. Here is the pool report written by the Los Angeles Times‘ Peter Nicholas:
The President appeared at an intimate fund-raising dinner at the home of James and Mai Lassiter in LA’s Hancock Park area. He spoke softly to guests sitting at four tables, 8-10 seats per table. Tickets cost $35,800 per person.
Actor Will Smith, looking dapper in a three piece suit, stood near the back of the room and watched. Boston Celtics nemesis Magic Johnson sat at a table to the president’s right.
Some quotes about the campaign.
“I’ve said this before – this election will not be as sexy as the first one,’’ the president said. “Back then it was still fresh and new. I didn’t have any gray hair. Everybody loved the ‘Hope’ posters and all that. This time it’s –we’ve got to grind it out a little bit. We’ve got to grind it out. But the cause is the same. And my passion is the same. And my commitment is the same.’’
The president talked about his new mortgage refinance program. Consumers who refinance at lower rates would then have more money to “shop, go to Will’s movies …’’ and patronize Magic’s businesses.
Smith and Johnson laughed appreciatively.
Potus repeated a theme from past fund-raising appearances — that he’s accomplished a lot, but needs a second term to finish the job.
“We’ve made great progress but we’ve got so much more work to do,’’ he said. “Obviously in Washington, the politics that I think people are hoping for is not what they’re getting. It’s still dysfunctional. It’s still perversely partisan.’’
Pool was ushered out after 10 minutes, as potus opened it up for questions. As we slithered out, potus asked if we’d gotten any of the chicken from his earlier stop at Roscoes. Reuters’ Jeff Mason assured him that there was pizza waiting for us outside.
Pool is holding contentedly near the Lassiter’s lighted backyard pool, enjoying a cool LA breeze and snacking on individual-size pizzas.
Next stop was Antonio Banderas’ and Melanie Griffith’s home. Here’s the White House pool report:
About 8:20 p.m. local time, pool was led to the rear of the imposing Spanish-style mansion of Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith and into a large white tent where about 200 people sat in folding chairs, just as someone said “the program” would continue soon. That gave the crowd, who paid at least $5,000 each, time to ogle the riff-raff of the Fourth Estate as we took our seats at the rear.
Soon, to enthusiastic applause, the hosts and POTUS entered with Eva Longoria, who introduced the president, as folks stood holding cameras and cellphones above their heads.
In her remarks, Longoria said that potus “speaks to the Latino community because he knows he’s the president of all Americans. And we applaud you from our community; we thank you for everything you’re doing.’’
The event was billed by organizers as the “first ever Latino fundraiser’’ for the Obama candidacy.
POTUS began by telling the story of the Bonillas, the family he met with in Las Vegas earlier in the day, and of Jose and Lisette’s effort to realize the American dream and ultimately to put all three children through college.
“Jose said our dream is not compete,’’ the president recounted. “Our dream will not be complete until my children have all gone to college and they have a home of their own.
He also said: “The American ideal, the American creed, is one that animates the entire world,” he said. Said that the other side has fought us every step of the way, but despite that — and here he ticked off, to applause at each point, passing the health care law, averting Depression, passing financial reform, ending Iraq war (big applause).
” But we’ve got so much work left to do,” he said. As in the earlier fundraising dinner, he said he keeps a check list in his desk and this time he took out a pen and acted as if he were checking off some items, but not others. “We’ve got about 60 pct done,” he said, adding, “I’m pretty confident we can get the next 40 pct done in the next five years.”
“The economy is still hurting right now,” he said, segueing to his usual riff on the jobs bill, and how Republicans have stopped it.
Moving on to immigration, potus said “We have a system that is broken. We are doing everything we can administratively to try to lessen the pain and hardship that it’s causing. Yes, to make sure our borders are secure but also to say that families like the Bonillas are … building this country, they are making it better, they are making it stronger.’’
He’ll need help getting an immigration reform bill passed, he said.
“We’re going to have to mobilize and we’re going to have to organize and we’re going to have to tap into the best instincts of the American people in order to make it happen.’’
We’ve heard him talk about his gray hair. We’ve heard him say Michelle thinks his hair makes him look old. But have we heard him say this?
“These presidential years are dog years,” he joked.
That said, he urged the crowd to stay in the fight.
“Don’t get weary. Don’t get tired. Because I’m not tired. I may be gray, but I’m not tired.’’
After the event, motorcade arrived back at potus’s hotel in Beverly Hills at 9:15 p.m.
Lid called at 9:39 p.m.
FYI: I initially misidentified James Lassiter as Disney/Pixar’s John Lasseter. Mea culpa, this is what happens when I’ve been sick all night… I become a moron.