Obama laughs it up with Clooney at Hollywood fundraiser

LOS ANGELES — George Clooney played the suave host, chef Wolfgang Puck whipped up something for dinner and President Barack Obama and about 150 of his Hollywood-set donors enjoyed a few laughs at Clooney’s good-humored expense.

Obama told the crowd that his famed “Hope” poster from the 2008 campaign was based on a photograph of Obama sitting next to Clooney when Obama was a U.S. senator. Clooney had been in Washington advocating on behalf of Darfur.

“This is the first time that George Clooney has ever been photo-shopped out of a picture,” Obama said. “Never happened before, never happen again.”

In fact, the artist who created the poster, Shepard Fairey, used another photograph of Obama but said he relied on the Obama-Clooney picture to avoid a copyright infringement case with The Associated Press. He pleaded guilty in February to criminal contempt for fabricating and destroying evidence.

In this crowd, Obama didn’t even need to mention gay marriage to get vigorous applause. “Obviously,” the president said obliquely, “yesterday we made some news.”

The event, held under a stretched transparent tent outside Clooney’s sprawling Tudor-styled canyon home, raised nearly $15 million, a record for a single fundraiser.

Guests paid $40,000 to attend, accounting for about $6 million of the evening’s financial haul for Obama’s campaign and the Democratic Party. The remainder came from a raffle for small dollar donors. Two winners — both women — got to attend the dinner and, even though Clooney was the host, they brought their husbands.

Puck’s dinner menu included an artichoke salad followed by roasted duckling “Peking style” with tiny buns, a duo of lamb and beef cheek with potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and sweet corn tortelloni.

“We raised a lot of money because people love George,” Obama said. “They like me; they love George.”

Then seriously, he added: “He seems to occupy a constant state of grace, and uses his extraordinary talents on behalf of something truly important.”

For Obama, the A-list party was not only a financial hit, it gave the president the kind of Hollywood buzz a Republican seldom gets. But the glitzy event, with its glamour and wealth, also has its risks and it set up a stark contrast with Obama’s mission Friday to highlight the plight of struggling homeowners in Nevada.

Among those at the dinner were actors and performers Robert Downey Jr., Barbra Streisand and her husband James Brolin, Jack Black, Salma Hayek and Tobey Maguire, who shared a table with Clooney and Clooney’s girlfriend Stacey Kiebler.

Heading to Clooney’s house, along the exclusive canyon roads, families gathered at dinner time to gawk, wave and cheer the presidential motorcade. Children manned a lemonade stand with a sign: “Presidents drink free.”

Around the corner, a boy held up another hand-drawn piece of cardboard: “Will trade Lakers for Bulls if you stop.”

And yet one more: “Our gay family says thanks Mr. President.”

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