This story was written for Frontiers magazine - but because that publication won't come out until next week and this report is timely, including information about a mix up between the Obama campaign and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, I'm posting it now with my publishers' permission - KO
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was clearly uncomfortable raising big bucks in Beverly Hills during the worst Wall Street crisis since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"It's reminded people that this is not a game. This is not a reality show, no offense to any of you," Obama told a standing room-only crowd of about 800 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel Sept. 16. "This is not a sitcom."
According to a pool report (LAObserved.com has the full report), Obama said the same thing to a gathering of about 300 at the Greystone Mansion who paid $28,500 each for a reception and dinner earlier in the evening. Those in attendance included Jodie Foster, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Lee Curtis and DreamWorks founders Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
At the hotel event, some angry contributors who paid $2,500 waited two hours to get through one door and the metal detector. All was forgiven once inside the curiously intimate ballroom, however, as Raul Esparza sang an a capella version of "America the Beautiful" that merited a standing ovation and Ben Harper elegantly performed "Lifeline."
The day before the event there was a kerfluffle over an invitation to the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles to open for Streisand. Organizers in L.A. thought the Obama campaign had signed off on the performance, but in a flurry of last minute email exchanges, the campaign said they had not actually agreed for logistical reasons. (Indeed, Streisand's five-piece band took up much of the stage.) Nonetheless, gay Obama supporters were concerned that the apparent cancellation might leave the impression that the campaign was homophobic, especially after LGBT complaints about the lack of LGBT visibility from the stage of the Democratic Convention. Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe subsequently said the chorus would be asked to perform at a future Obama event, though there is no other event scheduled in L.A. before the election.
Perhaps conscious of how the media and Obama rival John McCain might spin a "Hollywood" fundraiser - though McCain also has celebrity backers - the campaign declined to feature cheer-leading celebrities on stage. In the audience, however, sat Jamie Fox, Pierce Brosnan, Kathy Najimi, Magic Johnson, and Qunicy Jones, a former Hillary Clinton supporter, who told Frontiers and Variety's Ted Johnson that he was rounding up rappers to press for a voter registration drive. ACLU legend Stanley Sheinbaum, who stood up for gay rights as an LA Police Commissioner under Mayor Tom Bradley, was also there in a wheelchair.
Introduced as a civil rights hero, Streisand received a rousing standing ovation and launched into four songs, changing the lyrics of "Make Someone Happy" to include: "He is the answer; we know Barack is the answer."
Reading from a teleprompter, she derided McCain for saying that Obama would raise taxes when he has proposed tax cuts for the middle class. "I woke up this morning with this slogan in my head. McCain. Palin. Change. And I thought. Change? What, from bad to worse?" Streisand said, promising more comments on her blog.
Streisand introduced Obama, they hugged, he whispered in her ear, and she left. Ready to be wowed, the crowd was instead instantly subdued.
"This should be a celebratory evening," Obama said. "We've got 48 days to go in a campaign, a campaign that started 19 months ago, at a time when a lot of folks thought we might not get here." But "I'm not in a celebratory mood" - noting the economic crisis, the hurricane in Texas, and the fatal Metrolink train crash in Chatsworth.
Obama seemed to deliver much of his stump speech, refusing to be drawn into crowd participation. For instance, saying he was confident of winning because, "I've looked at John McCain, I've looked at Sarah Palin, I've looked at their agenda, and they don't have one" - Obama ignored shouted comments that McCain and Palin were "liars." (Though the event was closed to the media, Lewis Payton snuck in a camera and posted video on Towleroad.com.)
LGBT people hoping to hear Obama mention the fight against the antigay initiative Prop 8 were disappointed. The two events raised $9 million, some of which went to the Democratic Party.