Rather than watch the Republican National Convention or the U.S. Open in tennis, I covered Michelle Obama's visit to Los Angeles on Wednesday night as a "pool reporter."
A pool reporter is someone who's chosen by a political campaign to cover an event that would otherwise be closed to the press. It's a way to keep a media horde from showing up at someone's private residence, for example, and creating a circus of sorts. A "pool report" is then distributed to newspapers and magazines across the nation. So if the New York Times or Wall Street Journal wants to know what Michelle Obama said last night, they request what I wrote.
One of the goals of Obama's visit was to reach out to the gay community...and to raise money in the process. So without further ado, here's the pool report, which has its own kind of straightforward style:
Obama Victory Fund events with Michelle Obama
Holmby Hills and Beverly Hills
Michelle Obama, wife of Barack Obama, spoke at two fund raisers in front of heavily entertainment industry crowds on Wednesday night.
Dressed in a purple tank top with a purple floral skirt and black high heels, Obama first addressed a largely gay and lesbian audience at the home of Bryan Lourd, managing partner of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and Bruce Bozzi, Lourd’s companion. The event was described by the Obama campaign as an “LGBT Reception.”
Approximately 300 donors attended the fund raiser, which took place in the wealthy, Los Angeles neighborhood of Holmby Hills. Minimum contribution for a guest was $1,000 to get through the door. Supporters who raised $25,000 were given access to a VIP room, where Obama met with them and briefly spoke. All money went to the Obama Victory Fund.
Some of the entertainment industry figures who attended the fund raiser were Kevin Huvane, managing partner of CAA, actress Kate Bosworth, actress Helen Hunt, producer Paula Weinstein, actress Salma Hayek, openly gay fashion designer Tom Ford, openly gay producer Bruce Cohen, and actress Reese Witherspoon. Former South Dakota senator Tom Daschle, who was in Los Angeles campaigning for Barack Obama, was also a guest.
Los Angeles gay community leaders who attended the event were Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, and restaurateur David Cooley, all of whom are openly gay.
Michelle Obama arrived at the Holmby Hills home at 6:15 p.m. as guests drank red and white wine and ate tuna tartar on wonton chips and ginger chicken cakes in the backyard near a lap pool. Obama came directly from taping a segment for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Kevin Huvane introduced Obama at 6:50 p.m. “In a city of stars,” said Huvane, “we have the biggest one right here.”
Obama then took the podium, and told the crowd how her daughters, Malia and Sasha, met the pop group the Jonas Brothers at the “Ellen” taping. The daughters were not present at either fund raiser.
Obama then moved on to politics, where she first brought up her husband’s vice-presidential choice. “I think it was a really good pick—Senator Joe Biden,” she said, and later added, “People say they have amazing chemistry, and it’s true.”
Obama continued with talk about Biden when she said, “What you learn about Barack from his choice is that he’s not afraid of smart people.” The crowd softly chuckled.
Obama then spoke about the time she first went on a date with Barack and instantly saw his “specialness.” She told the crowd, “All I’ve been trying to say the past nine months is that Barack has a gift, and he’s willing to share it.”
Mindful of the audience in front of her, she then touched up gay and lesbian issues. “In a world as it should be,” Obama said, “we repeal laws like DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’” She also said an Obama Administration would “recognize” gay adoption rights. Both lines received loud applause. Another crowd pleasing line was about the Iraq war. “In a world as it should be,” Obama said, “we end this war responsibly.”
Obama then asked the audience to get involved in the campaign. “You’re going to have to share your passion,” she said. “You’re going to have to advocate.”
She ended her 20-minute speech by saying, “Not only can we have Barack Obama as the next president of the United States, but we can change the world.”
Obama then shook hands with the donors and left the site about 15 minutes later.
Her next stop was the home of actor Samuel L. Jackson and his wife, LaTanya Richardson. Located in the gated community of Beverly Park Estates South in the city of Beverly Hills, approximately 300 people attended the event. Minimum contribution for a guest was $2,300, with VIP access for supporters who raised $25,000. All money went to the Obama Victory Fund.
Another star-studded crowd was on hand. Among the celebrities were actor Denzel Washington, actress and singer Barbra Streisand, actor and Streisand’s husband, James Brolin, former Lakers star Magic Johnson, actress Scarlett Johansson, actor Ryan Reynolds, and former California governor Gray Davis. Guests gathered poolside in the backyard of Jackson’s home and drank red and white wine. Golden shallot pancakes with brie and fig preserves and grilled vegetable torte bites with roasted pepper sauce were served. Bread & Butter Catering provided the food at both fund raisers.
At 8:35 p.m., Michelle Obama was escorted to the back patio by Samuel L. Jackson, their arms inter-locked. Jackson wore a white jacket with gray slacks. His wife, LaTanya, walked behind them, wearing a black dress. “All of you people are here for a common cause,” said Jackson, “and you know what that common cause is.” He then introduced his wife, who spoke briefly and turned it over to Obama.
Obama didn’t stray much from her early speech at Holmby Hills. She did compliment the Clintons’ speeches at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. “Hillary and Bill were amazing,” Obama said. She also said of her husband’s campaign, “There has been a momentum. There hasn’t been a drop off. It’s been growing and growing and growing.”
Confronting questions if the country is ready for a woman or African American president, Obama said, “I think this primary season has shown us we’re ready for a true president, a leader.” She also said the primary fight with Sen. Hillary Clinton made her husband a “better candidate.”
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Obama implored the audience to get involved. “We need people to get people registered to vote.” She later added, “We need you, and we need your prayers.”
Obama did not mention anything about gay issues, but much of the rest of the speech was the same. By 9 p.m., she finished up and shook hands with the audience. By 9:30 p.m., her motorcade left the Jackson estate.
Check out this link for celebrity opposition to Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage ballot measure.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.