Tinseltown Teamwork

(Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)
(Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)

George Clooney and director Jeffrey Katzenberg raked in nearly $15 million at the Obama fundraiser hosted at Clooney’s home.

And: Guest list included Billy Crystal, Barbara Streisand, Robert Downey Jr. and designer Diane Von Furstenberg.

Travel Pool Report 9 — Clooney’s house

First, here’s the gay marriage snippet from Potus’s remarks at Clooney-Katzenberg dinner, which was in keeping with his mostly indirect references at all three fundraisers on Thursday:

“And obviously yesterday we made some news. [Big 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.”

After 7 pm PT, as the pool waited to be taken into the party tent on George Clooney’s basketball court, we could hear snatches of the actor’s welcoming remarks to his guests. Clooney introduced DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg and credited him with putting the dinner together. He joked that when Katzenberg calls, as he often does, “don’t answer.”

Still listening from outside, pool could hear Katzenberg say that “Candidate Obama…told us there would be challenges.” But, Katzenberg added, Obama also told us, “Yes, we can.” And, he continued, “Yes, we have. Yesterday he did the right thing yet again” – sparking applause and cheers at the obvious reference to the same-sex marriage announcement on Wednesday.

Katzenberg said the fundraiser had raised “a record nearly $15 million” (note: that includes both the $40,000-a-person seats in the tent, and the proceeds from the online sweepstakes for two people to join the Hollywood set).

“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.

POTUS, in dark suit and white shirt (surprised?), took a mic, thanked the donors, and recognized Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Representative Howard Berman, the Democrat who has represented this LA district for decades. (Berman also greeted POTUS when he arrived at Burbank airport aboard Marine One, and rode in the motorcade with him to Clooney’s.)

What follows are remarks transcribed with help from co-pooler Tangi Quemener and local pooler Seema Mehta of the LA Times:

“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.”

As usual in his political stump speech, Potus said the 2008 campaign is sometimes “romanticised” by supporters, and “I have to remind them, no, I was there!”

“The only person I don’t have to remind is Jeffrey because he was there, 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.”

Did you know? Potus said in walking through Clooney’s house, he had seen the “HOPE” poster from the 2008 campaign by Shepard Fairey, and he told the donors, “People don’t realize that the photograph of me is actually me sitting next to George” at an event when Clooney was advocating on behalf of Darfur.

“We struck up a friendship,” Potus said, and then joked, to much laughter: “This is the first time that George Clooney has actually been photo-shopped out of a picture. Never happened before, will never happen again.”

Potus said Fairey did a poster for Clooney with both men on 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 Potus veered into his familiar stump speech on how bad the situation was when he took office. “Despite all this, the American people are pulling through…slowly, things are coming back.”

“….The other side has got a different view. Their attitude is you’re on your own. If you’re a kid born in a poor neighborhood in LA, tough luck, you’re on your own. If you’re a senior citizen who because of bad luck got laid off or your company ended up dissolving without your pension being vested, tough luck, you didn’t plan well enough. That’s not the America I believe in. That’s not the America you believe in.”

“And 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.”

“I will just close by saying this is going to be harder than it was the last time. This is going to be harder than it was last time, not only because I’m older and grayer and your HOPE posters are dog-eared. 2008 in some ways was lightening in a bottle. That’s not going to be replicated and we shouldn’t expect it to. I’ve been president for three and a half years but part of the reason it’s going to be harder is because folks are still hurting out there and those frustrations with Washington and with the nonsense they see on the news is making them more cynical than they were in 2008.

“So we’re going to have to fight against cynicism and the belief maybe things can’t happen and maybe the game is rigged, what’s the point? That’s what we’re going to be fighting against this time.

“That means we’re going to have to work harder, that means we’re going to have to be more determined, that means that passion that we brought to bear in 2008 is going to have to express itself maybe not in such flashy form. It’s going to have to be steady but we’re going to have to keep those fires burning all the way through November and beyond because I’m not interesting in just winning the election. I’m interested in making sure we can finish what we started in 2008.” (Applause)

Frankly, Potus didn’t seem on his game exactly. But briefly at his close, he gained energy: “Bottom line is I still believe in the American people and I still believe in you and I hope you still believe in me.” (Applause)

“Because I’m as determined as I’ve ever been to make sure that this country stays on the right path. We’re moving forward, we’re not going backward.”


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.

Clooney listened intently to Potus throughout, his hands folded as if in prayer and his chin resting on them.

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.

At the rear of the tent were the two winners of the Obama campaign’s online sweepstakes: Beth Topinka, from Manalapan, N.J., a science teacher, and Karen Blutcher, from St. Augustine, Fla., a utility company employee and mother of a five-year-old son with Down syndrome; both women brought their husbands.

Related Topics: george clooney, Hollywood, Obama, 2012 Elections

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