Barack Obama reaped a record-breaking $10 million in one last swing through Hollywood and Los Angeles fund-raising circles on Tuesday evening, at a series of events that drew a who’s who of industry figures and a performance by Barbra Streisand.
Speaking before a crowd of some 800 people packed into an intimate ballroom at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Obama sought to reassure donors concerned as polls show him in a dead heat with John McCain.
“People wonder sometimes, ‘He seems pretty calm,’” Obama said, to an audience that included Quincy Jones, Pierce Brosnan and Jamie Foxx. “The reason I am calm is I have confidence in the American people.”
Obama noted some of the nervousness among donors, and suggested that there was no shortage of advice coming his way from politically charged industry creative types.
“Whenever I come to L.A. I get a lot of suggestions of what we should be doing,” he said to some laughter. “I get a lot of suggestions for TV ads. ‘This is killer. This is the one that will put you over the top.’ ”
The $2,500-per-person event was preceded by a $28,500-per-person steak dinner at the Greystone Estate for some 280 people, who sat in an inner courtyard of the historic Doheny mansion. Obama’s Southern California co-chairs finance Charles Rivkin and Nicole Avant spoke briefly, as did DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Among those present were Leonardo DiCaprio, Jodie Foster, Tobey Maguire, Will Ferrell, Chris Rock, Larry David, Jamie Lee Curtis, Barry Meyer, Chris Albrecht, Bruce Cohen, Ari Emanuel, Jim Wiatt, Peter Chernin, Darren Star, Bob Daly, Skip Brittenham, Skip Paul, Joe Calabrese, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, Eric Paquette and Jessica Postigo, Clarence Avant, Kelly Meyer, David Geffen and Steven Spielberg.
Even in that crowd, the well-heeled donors snapped pictures with their cell phones and Blackberrys, perhaps mindful that Obama is unlikely to return to Los Angeles to raise money before the general election.
Obama’s huge windfall is believed to be a record amount raised in a single evening by a candidate.
But it came with a price: Criticism from his rival McCain, who tried to characterize Obama’s appearance in well-heeled circles as more evidence that he is beholden to entertainment elites.
Campaigning in Vienna, Ohio, on Tuesday, McCain told a crowd, “He talked about siding with the people, siding with the people, just before he flew off to Hollywood for a fund-raiser with Barbra Streisand and his celebrity friends. Let me tell you, my friends, there is no place I’d rather be, than here, with the working men and women of Ohio.”
In fact, McCain, too, has tapped into industry money, having appeared at a star-filled event at the Beverly Hilton on Aug. 25 that drew such notables as Robert Duvall, Patricia Heaton, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Voight and James Caan.
But the Obama campaign was worried about overdoing it, fearing an unflattering contrast of their candidate mingling with a parade of stars as Wall Street reels and the economy worsens.
Right off the bat, Obama made a point of telling the Beverly Wilshire crowd, “I am not in a celebratory mood,” before citing a host of problems with falling incomes and joblessness.
“A whole lot of Americans have been going through their own quiet storm,” he said.
Appearing on a simple Beverly Wilshire stage with a gold curtain as a backdrop, Streisand sang a series of standards, including a version of “My Shining Hour” in which she sang, “This will be our shining hour in the White House again,” and “Make Someone Happy” with the line, “He is the answer. We know Barack is the answer.”
Wearing a black sequin top and black slacks, she only once criticized the Republican ticket. “I woke up this morning with this slogan in my head. ‘McCain. Palin. Change.’ And I thought, change? What, from bad to worse?’”
She said that she would have more to say on her website in the coming days.
Also appearing onstage was Ben Harper, playing several sets unplugged on guitar, and Raul Esparza, who sang “America the Beautiful.”
The one drawback of the evening was a chaotic entrance with a two-hour wait in line. Hundreds of donors, including Magic Johnson and Rhea Perlman, waited for a bit in a line that extended the length of the hotel’s valet area. Some left, and others, like Jerry Springer, chatted with reporters. One woman quipped that the last time she waited in a line so long “was in 1974 to see ‘The Exorcist.’ ”
Campaign officials tried to calm the crowd by noting a fire marshal’s demand that guests only enter through one door, and a Secret Service security precautions that had just one metal detector.
The night of music, however, seemed to calm at least some of the frayed nerves.