Barack Obama’s Hollywood troubles
For a rock-star politician, who rose to fame on a chat-show (left) and achieved stratospheric celebrity status long before he ever got his hands on the levers of power, Barack Obama maintains a curiously schizophrenic relationship with the Hollywood elite.
The 44th President hit Los Angeles today, touching down for an evening generating cash to support his party in the coming mid-term elections. But were it not for the large numbers of men with guns and dark glasses who are creating traffic jams across the city’s west-side, you’d have been hard pressed to notice.
International press are not invited to Obama’s fundraiser, at the Hancock Park home of West Wing producer Jon Wells, where guests will apparently be able to rub shoulders with Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, and le tout Hollywood’s liberal faithful. It seems likely that TV news crews will meanwhile be kept a country mile from the gathering. And despite its huge and glitzy nature, the event appears to have been put together firmly below the radar. It wasn’t even flagged by today’s Los Angeles Times.
One reason for keeping it quiet may involve PR: nothing would say “screw you” to recession-addled voters more vividly than the sight of the Commander in Chief lording it with well-heeled Californians who have paid between $2,500 (for a ticket to the 90-minute drinks reception) and $30,000 (for a pair of seats inside the house for a 100-person dinner).
But another important factor is undoubtedly Barack Obama’s personality. As today’s Hollywood Reporter noted in a fascinating cover story (here) the President has made no attempt to cozy up to the entertainment industry, and has actually neglected many of the issues they take most seriously (not least the environment, and gay rights). This marks only his fourth visit to Hollywood since taking office.
Meanwhile, Obama’s general demeanour – earnest, academic, lawyerly – sits uncomfortably alongside that of the larger-than-life types who tend to make it in entertainment. Even the JJ Abrams, who sits on the committee of tonight’s fundraiser, seems trendy by comparison. And Mr Abrams, in the nicest possible way, is a geek’s geek.
Things couldn’t have been more different in the era of Bill Clinton. Back then, the President would press celebrity flesh furiously during his regular trips to LA, when he would often stay at the Beverly Hills hotel, where he’d drink in the Polo Lounge till the wee hours, and swing by the showroom of the famous Mr Amir (who I interviewed a while back here) to update his wardrobe.
That, however, was during a different era: when fame had not been tainted by the rise of institutions like TMZ, and when film stars were treated as valuable assets and paid accordingly. Nowadays, we have a very different and more complex relationship with celebrity. And though the Hollywood elite remains blisfully in love with Obama, I’m not sure the feeling is being properly reciprocated.Tagged in: abrams, Americas, hollywood, john wells, obama, spielberg
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