*With the tailwinds of a fresh same-sex marriage endorsement at his back, President Barack Obama flew into Los Angeles on Thursday to attend a star-studded fundraiser hosted by George Clooney.
Chef Wolfgang Puck fed the roughly 150 guests, including Barbara Streisand and her husband James Brolin, Billy Crystal, Selma Hayak and Robert Downey Jr. The event, held under a stretched transparent tent outside Clooney’s sprawling tudor-styled canyon home, raised nearly $15 million, a record for a single fundraiser.
The guests paid $40,000 to attend, accounting for about $6 million of the evening’s financial haul for Obama’s campaign and the Democratic Party. The remainder came from a raffle for small dollar donors. Two winners — both women — got to take part in the dinner and, even though Clooney was the host, they brought their husbands.
According to the AP, Obama didn’t even need to mention gay marriage to get a vigorous applause. “Obviously,” the president said obliquely, “yesterday we made some news.”
After a round of applause, Obama continued: “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.”
He also told the crowd that his iconic Hope poster from the 2008 campaign was derived from a photograph of him sitting next to Clooney when Obama was a U.S. senator. Clooney had been in Washington advocating on behalf of Darfur.
“This is the first time that George Clooney has ever been photo-shopped out of a picture,” Obama said. “Never happened before, never happen again.”
In fact, the artist who created the poster, Shepard Fairey, used another photograph of Obama but said he relied on the Obama-Clooney picture to avoid a copyright infringement case with The Associated Press. He pleaded guilty in February to criminal contempt for fabricating and destroying evidence.
“We raised a lot of money because people love George,” Obama said. “They like me; they love George.”
Then seriously, he added: “He seems to occupy a constant state of grace, and uses his extraordinary talents on behalf of something truly important.”
Puck’s dinner menu included an artichoke salad followed by roasted duckling “Peking style” with tiny buns, a duo of lamb and beef cheek with potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and sweet corn tortelloni.
Also attending the dinner were actors Jack Black and Tobey Maguire, who shared a table with Clooney and Clooney’s girlfriend Stacey Kiebler.
Heading to Clooney’s house, along the exclusive canyon roads, families gathered at dinner time to gawk, wave and cheer the presidential motorcade. Children manned a lemonade stand with a sign: “Presidents drink free.”
Around the corner, a boy held up another hand-drawn piece of cardboard: “Will trade Lakers for Bulls if you stop.”
And yet one more: “Our gay family says thanks Mr. President.”