Obama stars at Clooney fundraiser
STUDIO CITY, California — US President Barack Obama said gay marriage is a “logical” milestone towards a fairer America, as he was feted at a Hollywood fundraiser tipped to make a cool $15 million.
In a Tinseltown love-in at George Clooney’s Hollywood Hills home on Thursday, the US president praised his host’s support for liberal causes but also gently teased the A-list actor and Democrat supporter.
“Does that make us stronger? I believe it does,” he said to applause at the dinner in a party tent on Clooney’s basketball court, beneath the trees of the wooded hillside property.
Dubbed “Starmageddon,” the event at the Oscar-winning star’s mansion, which united Hollywood glitz and Washington power, was aimed at swelling Obama’s campaign coffers six months before he asks voters for a second term.
Around 150 well-heeled guests paid $40,000 a ticket to get into the exclusive soiree, the latest in a string of big money events as Obama builds an expensive campaign machine for his re-election and buys top dollar advertising slots.
The Obama campaign also conducted an online draw for tickets, asking less wealthy supporters for contributions of at least $3 for a chance to chow down with the star of “Ocean’s Eleven” and the leader of the free world.
The winners were a science teacher from Florida and utility company employee from New Jersey who is also the mother of a child with Down syndrome. Both women brought their husbands.
DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, who organized the fundraiser, introduced Obama after remarks by Clooney himself, and recalled Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan “Yes we can.”
He continued: “Yes, we have. Yesterday he did the right thing yet again” — sparking renewed cheers. Katzenberg said the fundraiser had raised “nearly $15 million,” which included tickets from the guests and money from the online sweepstakes.
Obama paid tribute to Clooney in remarks at the start of the evening, saying: “We raised a lot of money because everybody loves George. They like me, they love him. And rightfully so.”
Referring to the iconic “HOPE” poster from 2008 by Shepard Fairey, he said: “People don’t realize that the photograph of me is actually me sitting next to George,” who was advocating on behalf of Darfur.
“We struck up a friendship. This is the first time that George Clooney has actually been photoshopped out of a picture,” he quipped.
In fact, Fairey did a poster for Clooney with both men on the same picture, Obama revealed. “Why he said at the bottom, ‘Dope and Hope,’ I don’t know”, he joked.
The guest list included A-listers from Barbra Streisand and Robert Downey Jr. to Jack Black, Billy Crystal, Tobey Maguire and Salma Hayek, and fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg.
Obama’s decision to publicly endorse gay marriage has electrified his liberal base and restored some of the transformative luster that had dimmed since his 2008 campaign.
“Pretty darn happy today. Thanks Mr President, for supporting the dignity of my family and so many others!” said actress Jane Lynch of hit TV series “Glee” on her Twitter feed.
Hollywood is a traditional source of funding and adulation for Democratic presidents, though there have been persistent reports that Tinseltown feels it has not been feeling sufficient love from Obama.
Many in California remember the attention that former president Bill Clinton lavished on them. Hollywood was also a prime source of funding for Clinton’s wife Hillary when she ran against Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008.
Republicans seized on Obama’s evening rubbing shoulders with the stars to claim that the “Celebrity in Chief” was out of touch with ordinary Americans.
“With middle class Americans reeling from the effects of Obama’s failed leadership, not even Hollywood magic can cover up the truth,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on the Red State conservative blog.
“With a first term this disastrous, we can’t afford to see the second — because if we’ve learned anything from Hollywood, it’s that the sequel is always worse.”