BREAKING… 11:45 PM, 5TH UPDATE: President Obama sat at each of the 14 tables — “This is like speed-dating. I’m a Leo.” — and chatted up his Hollywood donors and “spent longer at this fundraiser than any in memory, by a lot”. But he also used the occasion of his record $15 million reelection fundraiser at George Clooney’s Studio City home tonight to praise the host — “We raised a lot of money because everybody loves George. They like me, they love him.” — but also refer to himself and the actor as “Dope and Hope”. Obama also talked about what every $40,000-a-ticket guest there also was talking about: Obama’s new support for gay marriage. “Obviously yesterday we made some news. [Applause] But the truth is it was a logical extension of what America is supposed to be. It grew directly out of this difference in visions. Are we a country that includes everybody and gives everybody a shot and treats everybody fairly and is that going to make us stronger. Are we welcoming to immigrants? Are we welcoming to people who aren’t like us, does that make us stronger? I believe it does. So that’s what’s at stake.”
Here are the latest White House pool reports (combined and edited for length). The journalists really snarked at Hollywood at several points. Read and enjoy:
Per a campaign source, 150 people attended who paid $40,000 each. The proceeds will benefit the Obama Victory Fund, which is OFA, the DNC and several state parties. Attendees included Clooney, his girlfriend Stacy Kiebler, Robert Downey Jr., Diane Von Furstenberg, Trina Turk, Barbra Streisand, James Brolin, Tobey Maguire, Billy Crystal, Jack Black, Salma Hayek, Antonio Villaraigosa and Howard Berman. The campaign declined to say how much they expected to raise, though host Jeffrey Katzenberg was overheard telling the crowd that it was a “record nearly $15 million,” two-thirds of which came from the supporters who took part in a contest to win a seat here.
Guests had to pass two security checkpoints before they reached the valet station in front of Clooney’s house. Once they dropped off their cars, they rode golf carts up his steep curving driveway to the party. Your pooler saw little of the Tudor-style ivy-covered stone house, aside from the three-car garage she was housed in. And the garage doors were shut once people started being shuttled up, so we couldn’t see who all entered (though I did catch a brief glimpse of Tobey Maguire – Spider-Man is short). Garage was spotless with few visible signs of life aside from a bike helmet, a garden hose, a few jackets and some Pellegrino.
As LA/Hollywood fundraisers go, the trappings of this one didn’t put it in the top 10. While Clooney has a charming Tudor house in a verdant setting (a group favorite: the sign on a tree on the winding drive that said “Pot-bellied pig Crossing,” for Clooney’s late pet, Max), the tented setting on his b’ball court was just so-so. The tent had black walls that one person in the pool likened to garbage bags, and a clear roof so that you could see the sky and trees of the wooded hillside property. White paper lanterns of different sizes hung from the roof, celadon-green wallboards with mirrors were at the front and rear, centerpieces of blue hydrangeas graced each table and two slender, tall white urns flanked the short stage with branches of white blossoms.
About 14 round tables with 10 people each filled the tent. In a table in the middle, actor Tobey Maguire sat to the right of Clooney and his girlfriend, Stacy Kiebler. Nearby, on the edge closest to pool, was Diane Von Furstenberg. Also spotted: actors and entertainers Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Salma Hayek, Barbra Streisand (at a rear table and looking serious throughout, in black beret) and husband James Brolin. Said to be there: designer Trina Turk and Billy Crystal.
Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck cooked for the guests, but there was no food on the table for the brief period that the pool was allowed in and the campaign declined to discuss the menu.
Clooney and Katzenberg spoke first, before the pool was allowed inside. Standing outside, we heard brief snippets. Clooney joke about receiving emails inviting him to enter a raffle to win dinner at his own house. We could hear Katzenberg’s intro more clearly: “As all of us can remember all too well, back in 2008, things were very, very scary,” he said, noting that unemployment was high, the nation was embroiled in two wars. “Then candidate Barack Obama told us they want back would not be easy. He told us yes you can. I think it’s fair to say yes we have. We are headed today in the right direction. Just yesterday he did the right thing yet again. [Applause]. He did the right thing by confirming his support for every American to enjoy the blessing, privilege and dignity of marriage.”
“Once again the entertainment industry has stepped forward in a very big way,” Katzenberg said, naming John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama as beneficiaries.
Just as he introduced POTUS, pool was led in to see a standing ovation greeting the president as both Clooney and Katzenberg exited to take their seats among the round tables. Obama began his remarks at 7:27 p.m. OBAMA spoke 19 minutes.
“I want to thank Jeffrey (Katzenberg) not just for this evening, but for his tenacious support and advocacy since we started back in 2007. He has consistently been there for me, through thick and through thin, through all the ups and downs, and occasionally he would call, and he would say, ‘Barack, I don’t think that things are working the way they’re supposed to.’ Over the last three and a half years he remained an extraordinary friend. So Jeffrey, thank you.
“And I want to thank Clooney for letting us use his basketball court. This man has been talking smack about his basketball game ever since I’ve known him.” Obama said he and the actor had known each other for quite a while, and that famous ‘Hope’ poster from the 2008 campaign by Shepard Fairey of him was actually a picture of him and Clooney when the latter was advocating for Darfur. He told the donors, “People don’t realize that the photograph of me is actually me sitting next to George. And this is the first time that George Clooney has actually been photo-shopped out of a picture.” (Laughter and applause.) Never happened before. (Laughter.) Never happened before, will never happen again. (Laughter.)
Potus said Fairey did a poster for Clooney with both men in the same picture. “Why he said at the bottom ‘Dope and Hope,’ I don’t know.” More laughter. “We raised a lot of money because everybody loves George. They like me, they love him. And rightfully so. Not only is he an unbelievable actor, but he is one of those rare individuals who is at ease with everybody, he seems to occupy a constant state of grace, and uses his extraordinary talents on behalf of something truly important.”
Then went into his familiar stump speech… He joked that he has aged. “People have comment on the fact I’ve got gray hair now. There was a blog post about look how wrinkly Obama is getting. [Laughter]. Sort of distressing. George doesn’t have to go through these things.”
Clooney interjected, “You look good to me!”
Clooney listened intently to Potus throughout, his hands folded as if in prayer and his chin resting on them.
Frankly, Potus didn’t seem on his game exactly. But briefly at his close, he gained energy.
At nearly 10 pm PT, prematurely, the pool made its way down Mr. Clooney’s curving hillside drive to the waiting motorcade. But even though Potus has spent longer at this fundraiser than any in poolers’ memory, by a lot, he was not through. It was another 45 minutes before the motorcade engines fired up to signal departure was nigh — it is approaching 4 hours since we arrived. Potus had said he would spend time at each of the 14 tables, so you do the math. At 10:55 PT, 3 hours and 48 minutes after we arrived, motorcade is leaving. Pool did not see Potus emerge. Some residents are out to see the departure, including a couple women in bathrobes.
7:45 PM, 2ND UPDATE: As the White House pool reporter wrote en route, “George Clooney, we’re on our way.” At the actor/director/writer/producer’s Studio City home, the Hollywood sign is clearly visible on the hillside over the pool where showbiz types are milling and chatting for the $15M record fundraiser for President Obama’s reelection. Guests include actors Barbra Streisand and Tobey Maguire, UTA agent Jeremy Zimmer, Lionsgate/Summit movie co-chairman Rob Friedman, The Hunger Gamesproducer Nina Jacobson, former Fox topper Barry Diller and his wife designer Diane Von Furstenberg. Dinner will be served on the
tennis basketball court.
Accompanying Jacobson were Centerview Partners’ senior media adviser Skip Paul and husband Van Fletcher who were among the prominent members of Hollywood’s Gay/Lesbian community wanting to show support for Obama tonight. More dollars like theirs are coming in after the president came out in favor of gay marriage. Paul, a longtime Democratic party trustee, ‘doubled down’ on his donations to Obama, according to my sources. Another immediate payoff came from legendary TV producer Norman Lear, who told The New York Times that he bought two $40,000 tickets to tonight’s fundraiser after months of sitting on the sidelines with his wallet shut. New LGBT fundraisers attended by Obama are planned, including one May 14th with Latino superstar Ricky Martin and a gala/concert with Pink on June 6th in Beverly Hills that already needs a bigger venue. Its ticket prices range from $1,250 to $25,000. Political reporter Tina Daunt today scooped that Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) and his fiancé David Miller will host a separate dinner that night to raise additional money for the Obama campaign at $40,000/couple or $25,000/solo.
President Obama’s transport, Air Force One, touched down at LAX at 6:15 PM after leaving Seattle 2 hours earlier. From LAX Obama boarded helicopter Marine One to Burbank Airport. “Wheels up to the Valley at 6:28,” the WH pool report from AFP’s Tangi Quemener said. “Everyone gives me shit for living in the Valley,” Clooney told guests tonight. Maybe so but the motorcade trip through the San Fernando Valley to Clooney’s home brought out crowds:
Thanks to the sunset, wonderful views of the San Gabriel mountains in the backdrop as POTUS boarded his SUV at 6:46. Motorcade rolled through the Valley on Sherman Way, with throngs of gawkers waving and taking pictures at each crossing. Then we took the 170 Freeway, ruining several thousand commutes at the tail end of rush hour. Friendly people dotted the streets by the hundreds as we got into Studio City by Laurel Canyon boulevard. Signs: “Obama 2012”, “Welcome to Studio City”, “We (heart) U Obama”. Crowds grew even thicker south of Ventura as the motorcade made its way into the hills. Other signs seen on the way: “Our gay family says thanks Mr. President”. And: “Will trade Lakers for Bulls if you stop!” Clooney compound in sight at 7:07.
Tonight’s traffic snarl because of massive security is being branded ‘Starmeggedon’ as the president and his 150 celebrity and executive and politician supporters made their way to Clooney’s Studio City home. Clooney’s dinner was organized by DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg who initially planned a spring gala at his own house under renovation. When the home wasn’t ready, Clooney offered his own. Insiders tell Deadline that close to $15 million has been raised. The breakdown was about $6+M for the Wolfgang Puck-catered dinner and nearly $9M for the accompanying online raffle which attracted public donations for a chance to hobnob with Hollywood. It’s the largest amount ever raised for a single Obama campaign event with proceeds going to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee authorized by Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties. Today’s fundraising total exceeds the sum that the Obama campaign raised from the entire entertainment industry in the 2008 presidential race when Hollywood types were slow to embrace Obama as their candidate over Hillary Clinton.
As for the online raffle which brought in 2/3s of tonight’s reelection moolah, tens of thousands of people participated. The campaign’s pitch was, “for a chance to hang out with President Obama at George Clooney’s house, donate $3 or whatever you can to be automatically entered to win.” The names of the two winners who’ll attend with their husbands were announced tonight: grassroots supporters Beth Topinka (a New Jersey science teacher) and Karen Blutcher (a Florida utility company communications coordinator).