President Obama to Hollywood: 'I Never Promised You Easy'
President Barack Obama swept through Hollywood on Monday night, snarling traffic and headlining a pair of sold-out fundraisers attended by a broad cross section of the local business community and a sprinkling of entertainment executives and celebrities.
The first of the night’s events -- at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard -- drew an estimated 800 Democratic loyalists, while a later dinner at the Fig & Olive restaurant on chic Melrose Place attracted about 100 people, who paid $17,900 apiece to dine and participate in a question-and-answer session with the president. No official dollar figures were released, but if you assume an average contribution of $400 for the House of Blues event, Obama’s re-election campaign may have gleaned more than $2 million on the evening.
“There is a very solid contingency of Los Angeles based-business people stepping up,” said Ken Solomon, CEO of the Tennis Network and co-chairman of Obama’s California reielection campaign. “We have blown by our targets.”
The celebrities who attended Monday’s dinner included Danny DeVito, Jack Black, will.i.am, Eva Longoria, Quincy Jones, Aaron Sorkin, Gina Gershon and Jamie Foxx.
Obama stepped onto the stage at the House of Blues shortly after 6 p.m. He was introduced by event MC Jesse Tyler Ferguson, an actor on the ABC comedy Modern Family, came out to introduce Obama. Ferguson said: “The end of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is the signature achievement of our time." The West Hollywood crowd clapped and cheered.
"The end of 'don't ask don't tell' was a major, major accomplishment and the mention brought the biggest applause point of the night," said Thom Lynch, executive director the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, which was asked by the Obama campaign to perform at the event. (They also performed for Bill Clinton when he was president.) "It's always an honor to perform for a sitting president. And tonight was wonderful. It was a packed house. It was very warm. It was a very excited crowd."
Obama spoke mostly about the economy and his tax plan.
"I know over the last two and a half years sometimes you've gotten tired, gotten discouraged," the president told the House of Blues crowd. "It's gotten tough. ... Here’s the thing, I never promised you easy. If you wanted easy you would not have campaigned for Barrack Hussein Obama. What I promised was there was a vision of America out there we believed in, that if we worked hard we could achieve our vision. What I promised was that I would wake up every single day fighting for you. ... But what I said was if you are willing to stick with me, hang in there, I was positive we could achieve our dreams. America has been through tougher times."
At Fig & Olive, the group included DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who introduced the president, along with Avatar producer Jon Landau, director Judd Apatow and Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, among others.
The celebs were seated at round tables with white table linens in the hip, modern, sleek restaurant, with high ceilings and a wall of wines in front of which Obama spoke.
In his introduction, Katzenberg said: "I have a dependency on President Obama. He inherited a crashing economy and two wars and opponents who questioned if he was even born [in America]. Yet he kept us moving fowrad... He has dealt adversity on all fronts, but he maintained his stature. ... We must keep fighting for him so he can keep fighting for us."
Obama got a standing ovation.
Obama's remarks included him trying to sell the jobs plan -- and his proposed Buffett Rule tax hike -- to the wealthy crowd: "We’re going through an unprecedented time in our history. We've not seen anything like this in our lifetimes. This financial crisis is as bad as any since the Great Depression.
"My job was to make sure we did not tip into depression... to save a financial system teetering on the brink of meltdown. What got me involved in this president business... was not just to solve a crisis, but a recognition that after decades the American people felt as if rules had somehow changed on them."
Monday’s West Hollywood events capped a busy round of California appearances by the president that included a televised town hall at the Silicon Valley headquarters of social media provider LinkedIn and a $35,800-a-plate dinner at the Bay area home of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. Before heading to Los Angeles on Monday, the chief executive lunched at the La Jolla mansion of local Democratic heavy-hitters Elizabeth and Mason Phelps, where $5,000 got you a meal and $10,000 bought a picture with the President. Among those attending that event were Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm and J. Craig Venter, the scientist credited with decoding the human genome.
Tuesday, Obama flies on to Denver for another fundraiser. Officials in his re0election campaign estimate that the chief executive’s three-day swing through the West will bring in about $7 million. The President has picked up the fund-raising pace in recent weeks and has attended nine different campaign events since he delivered his jobs proposal to Congress on Sept. 8.