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“Nice-looking crowd,” Obama joked, looking out into the star-studded audience. “You all got dressed up.”
Actress Kerry Washington and ICM’s Chris Silbermann co-hosted the event, where Janelle Monae performed, and Obama spent a few minutes chatting up the crowd before segueing into his traditional fundraising remarks. He singled out Monae, who danced on a table in the East Room of the White House during an inaugural afterparty for the president in 2013, for special praise.
“She’s played so often at the White House, there should be a room named for her,” the president said. According to a pool report, Obama also joked about Monae having a video of him trying to keep up with Usher on the dance floor. “She can blackmail me at any time,” he said of the video. “I did not drop and split, but I did bust a move.”
Tickets for the Rhimes gathering, which drew about 450 people, were scaled from $1,000 to $32,000, with proceeds going to the Democratic National Committee. The higher priced entries allowed donors access to the president’s photo line, as well as to an “intimate” dinner for just 30 couples. Attendees included Scandal actors Tony Goldwyn and Scott Foley, HBO’s Michael Lombardo, a number of ABC executives including entertainment group president Paul Lee, Berry Gordy, and Silbermann’s wife Julia Franz, also a co-host for the evening. Rhimes, the TV creator behind Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice and Obama’s appointee to the Kennedy Center’s Board of Trustees, was joined at the event by members of her family.
Obama spend more than a hour talking with a small group of VIPs about immigration reform, equality, the midterms and a range of other topics, according to one attendee. The president also sought to reassure the Hollywood crowd that he stands firmly behind Israel. “Clearly this is something that’s very important to all of us,” said the guest, adding that president told the group that he “believes that Israel has a right to defend itself.” But, Obama added, he wants to “figure out a way to end the bloodshed.”
“He really spoke from his heart,” said the guest. “This is the most relaxed I’ve ever seen him.”
Obama will attend a second entertainment industry fundraiser tomorrow at the Mandeville Canyon home of Live Nation exec Michael Rapino.
Obama’s fundraising trip to Los Angeles came with more than the usual critical baggage. The president has been taken to task for leaving the White House to raise money during ongoing domestic and international crises. In addition, Obama’s local travel plans seem likely to have a worse-than-usual impact on L.A.’s traffic problems, with major streets closing from the Westside to downtown on Thursday to accommodate the president’s motorcade.
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