Monday, October 08, 2012

Wolfgang Puck Dinner: President Obama Regales Hollywood Crowd With 20th Anniversary Story

Guests include George Clooney, Harvey Weinstein, Seth MacFarlane, Jeffrey Katzenberg; President raises almost $7 million on Sunday...
Los Angeles, CA-- Call it a tale of two dinners:  Speaking at a pricey fundraising dinner on Sunday night, President Obama regaled his 150 silk-pocketed donors with a story from his twentieth anniversary dinner the evening before in Washington.  Hosted by Wolfgang Puck at his aptly named 'WP24' restaurant on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the $25,000/plate event with an Asian-inflected menu attracted A-list supporters, including George Clooney, filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, seated at a table closest to the President as he spoke about the "wonderful" waiter who'd told him an inspiring tale when he and First Lady Michelle Obama dined on Saturday at Georgetown's Bourbon Steak(Above: The President speaking earlier in the evening at the Nokia Theater)

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife Marilyn and entertainment industry execs were also guests.

"The actual anniversary date was not that romantic," the President admitted to laughter; on October 3rd, he was in Denver for the first Presidential Debate. "There was some speculation as to whether this had an impact on my performance."

"But I did make it up to her on Saturday.  We went out to dinner, a date night.  And it was a wonderful evening.   It was a private room, because people kind of lean over and start listening if we're in the booth next to them. And Secret Service gets nervous."

The waiter, the President said, shared a personal story about his mother being helped by the Affordable Care Act.  The staff at Bourbon Steak were very excited about the Presidential visit:   Executive Chef Adam Sobel tweeted a photo of a special Presidential tasting menu, which he later deleted, saying that the President and Mrs. Obama did not select from it.

"We had this wonderful young waiter, and he brought us all our stuff, and he was patient with us as we were dawdling over the menu," the President said.  "And we were milking it for all it was worth because we don't get out that often."

"But at the end of the dinner -- it was very professional, very unobtrusive -- but at the end of the dinner he just said, 'I wanted to just say how much I appreciate you because you saved my mother's life -- because my mother had a stroke, she wasn’t yet qualifying for Medicare, and because of the Affordable Care Act, we were able to get her coverage that allows her to take her medicines and is keeping her alive.'"

The President and Mrs. Obama have milked their love affair for all it is worth for the campaign, with Mrs. Obama using the story of falling in love with her husband as a centerpiece of her own stump speech, and the Campaign putting out a special anniversary video to support an anniversary card/donation campaign.  The President's dinner tale on Sunday continued the theme, with the addition of his favorite legislation.

Clooney also got a shout out as the President discussed his campaign.  The actor hosted a multi-million dollar fundraising dinner for the President at his Studio City mansion last May, catered by Puck.  The next morning, the President and the actor and shot hoops on his private home court.

"I am a fairly competitive guy," President Obama said.  "Clooney has played basketball with me.  And I don't like to lose--especially not to actors."

"We were on the same team," Clooney called out, to laughter from the guests.

"We were on the same team," the President said.  "I put him on the team -- and we did win."

"That's right, we did," Clooney said. They trounced Spiderman star Tobey Maguire and White House aides.

Guests enjoyed Puck's dim sum as they sat at round tables for ten, and the Katzenbergs got a shout-out from the President. On Sunday afternoon, the couple hosted President Obama and President Bill Clinton at their Beverly Hills home for a closed-press event, a thank-you for twleve unidentified mega-watt donors, according to the campaign.

"They have been tireless and stalwart and have never wavered through good times and bad, since my first presidential race, back when a lot of people couldn't pronounce my name," the President said of the Katzenbergs.  Jeffrey Katzenberg co-hosted the Clooney dinner.

Also at the Puck dinner were John Emerson, DNC Southern California finance co-chair, Ken Solomon, chairman and chief executive officer of The Tennis Channel and also a campaign co-chair, Sony's Michael Lynton, Fox's Jim Gianopulos, AEG's Tim Leiweke, The Big Bang Theory creator Chuck Lorre, Friends creator Marta Kauffman, Burt Bahcarach, and designer Michael Smith, a frequent campaign event hots, who decorated the White House.  San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro introduced the President before his remarks.  Press photographers were not allowed in.

The President used entertainment industry lingo as he closed his speech, which included the standard blasting of Mitt Romney.

"I’m a big believer in closing the deal," the President said to applause.  "So you will see me working as hard as I have ever worked for the next three years -- or for the next 30 days. It will seem like three years, but it will be 30 days."

"And then, you’ll see me working as hard as I ever have over the next four years," he added.

The President departed the restaurant shortly after his remarks, and was back at his hotel, the Beverly Hilton, at 9:09 PM, having raised close to $7 million in half a day.

Clooney and Castro joined the President at his second fundraiser of the day, ahead of the Puck dinner, a celebrity "30 Days to Victory" concert at the Nokia Theater in Hollywood.  Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Katy Perry, Earth Wind & Fire, and Jon Bon Jovi performed for a crowd of 6,000, with tickets starting at $250, and a limited number of Gen44 tickets available for $44.

The President for the first time publicly admitted he'd underperformed at the debate during his remarks to the concert crowd.

"They just perform flawlessly, night after night," he said of the celebrity musicians.  "I can't always say the same."  He also told the crowd that "everything is on the line."

On Monday morning, the President makes his first visit to the San Joaquin Valley, to dedicate the César E. Chávez National Monument.  The President will be joined by Lo Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

After, the President flies to Northern California for three more fundraising events, including a $20,000/plate dinner hosted by chef Alice Waters and cooked with the help of chef Tyler Florence.  Singer John Legend will perform.

*Getty photo