Talk show diva opens her Santa Barbara-area estate for Obama fundraiser in September.--MEMO to political Hollywood: Better fuel up the private jet and cancel the chauffeur's night off.
In what may be the most anticipated event of this election cycle, superstar talk-show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey is opening her famed Santa Barbara-area estate to host a four-star fundraiser for fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama on Sept. 8, according to e-mail invites sent out to industry glitterati early Tuesday morning.
The high-powered event revives the Illinois Democrat's campaign in the entertainment industry, which has been forking over tons of money in recent months to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). It shows the fight is far from over: The Obama-Winfrey headliner is like a glitzy re-release of a film in anticipation of Oscar season.
"It's a trifecta for Obama," said Hollywood politico and Huffington Post blogger Rick Jacobs, one of the recipients of Tuesday's fundraiser e-mail. "New donors, a rarefied ball with the queen of celebrities and a chance to glimpse the woman everyone seems to want at least for vice president. This one's hard to top."
Details about the event were not being disclosed, but in true Hollywood fashion it was being touted in the e-mail as "the most exciting Barack Obama event of the year anywhere."
A ticket in the door starts at $2,300, the most allowable under federal campaign laws. If you want to stick around for a VIP reception — mingling with a list of yet-to-be announced celebs — better be prepared to raise at least $25,000 from friends, family and a few high-class strangers. For $50,000, you can stay for dinner (and wander through the house while searching for a bathroom).
Kerman Maddox, a Los Angeles-based political consultant and an Obama fundraiser, said the event has invigorated the senator's local loyalists.
"It was a blow when Steven Spielberg endorsed Hillary," Maddox said. "But this is a huge shot in the arm. Everyone is motivated. They don't get any bigger than Oprah."
Winfrey told Larry King recently that she decided to back Obama because she knows him personally: "I think that what he stands for, what he has proven that he can stand for, what he has shown was worth me going out on a limb for and I haven't done it in the past because I haven't felt that anybody — I didn't know anybody well enough to be able to say, I believe in this person."
King asked if "there is a side of you, the woman side, that would lean toward a Hillary?"
Winfrey told King she has "great respect" for Clinton: "I think I've said this before and it's true, because I am for
Barack does not mean I am against Hillary or anybody
else. So the fact that I would endorse Barack Obama and the fact that I would support Barack Obama, I have not one negative thing to say about Hillary Clinton."
Winfrey is America's diva of chat, and now the question is: Can she transfer her Midas touch to politics? Can Winfrey, the political fundraiser, do for her candidate what Winfrey, the book club hostess, has done for American publishing, change the financial landscape?
Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, also on the Winfrey invite list, says her endorsement is simply "better than the Good Housekeeping seal."
"She has the power to change people's minds," Bragman said.