Katzenberg Introduces Obama, Says ‘We Must Keep Fighting for Him’

Earlier in the evening, the president tells Jesse Tyler Ferguson, star of “Modern Family,” that his wife and daughters “love that show”

Last Updated: September 27, 2011 @ 9:49 AM

Updated 9:25 p.m.

President Obama got some Hollywood love — and Hollywood money — Monday night.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jack Black, Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman, Jon Landau, Judd Apatow, Quincy Jones and others gave the president a standing ovation at a dinner and discussion at the Fig & Olive restaurant in West Hollywood.

And the president invoked the language of movies to explain the rough patch the country is now experiencing.

"We're in Hollywood now, so think about movies," he said. "The arc of the story. If things are just smooth the whole way through, not only is it a pretty dull movie, but it doesn’t reflect our experience, it doesn’t reflect life. Character’s tested when things are hard. This country is being tested but I have complete faith in its character. That’s what this election’s about. It’s about value, character, who we are."

Katzenberg introduced the president, saying, "I have a dependency on President Obama. He inherited a crashing economy and two wars and opponents who questioned if he was even board. Yet he kept us moving forward. … He was dealt adversity on all fronts, but he maintained his stature. … We must keep fighting for him so he can keep fighting for us."

The Fig & Olive event was the second West Hollywood fundraiser of the night for the president — and the fancier of the two. Earlier in the evening, he was at the House of Blues, with about 1,000 supporters.

Obama's Fig & Olive appearance was more exclusive.

About 120 people paid $17,900 each to attend the event.

Obama told the wealthy donors that the country is "going through an unprecedented time in our history. We've not seen anything like this in our lifetimes. This financial crisis is as bad as any since the Great Depression."

And he said he was out "to make sure we did not tip into depression … to save a financial system teetering on the brink of meltdown. What got me involved in this president business … was not just to solve a crisis, but a recognition that after decades, the American people felt as if rules had somehow changed on them."

The president talked about his accomplishments — about ending the military's ban on openly gay servicemembers, for instance, and about the health care law.

Obama's message resonated, at least with Landau.

"Hollywood is very positive," the "Titanic" and "Avatar" producer told a pool reporter  with the White House Press Corps. "I think they’re very excited about what’s going to happen next year. I know not everybody around the country is, but I think everybody here believes over the next 14 months you will see who the true leader of this country is.”


Updated 9 p.m.

It turns out the first family likes "Modern Family."

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (below, with the president), one of the stars of the ABC comedy, introduced the president at a campaign event at the House of Blues in West Hollywood Monday and praised the president for leading the effort to repeal the military's ban on gay servicemembers.

"The end of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' is the signature achievement of our time," Ferguson, who is openly gay, said.

The president, to great applause praised Ferguson's sitcom.

"I was telling him that Michelle and the girls love them some 'Modern Family,'" Obama said. "They love that show."

Obama ventured to West Hollywood for a night of fundraising — and to raise enthusiasm for his campaign among his base.

He got money — more than $2 million — and he got enthusiasm.

He also got heckled a bit.

Early in Obama's appearance at the House of Blues — his first stop of the trip — a bearded young man close to the stage start

ed shouting, "Christian God is the one and only true living God."

The crowd booed and the young man was removed. But as he was, he called the president "the antichrist."

Obama being Obama, he took the House of Blues intrusion in stride. After the crowd drowned out the heckler with chants of, "four more years," and security ushered the gentleman out the door, our Leader-in-Chief  paused to make sure the heckler had his jacket.

As it turned out, the coat belonged to someone a woman in the crowd.

"Goodness gracious," the president said. "Don't leave your jacket around like that."

Despite the laughter, it's fair to say that Hollywood — or more specifically, West Hollywood, in this case — has cooled on the president after several years of a sluggish economy and wars that show no sign of ending any time soon.

And Obama acknowledged that.

"I know over the last two-and-a-half years sometimes you've gotten tired, gotten discouraged," he told the crowd. "It's gotten tough … I never promised you easy. If you wanted easy you would not have campaigned for Barack Hussein Obama. What I promised was there was a vision of America out there we believed in, that if we worked hard, we could achieve our vision."

A man in the crowd shouted, "You stay strong!"

And when the president talked about health care, someone in the audience shouted, "Don't forget medical marijuana!"

"Thank you for that," Obama answered.

Also read: Is Hollywood Bailing on Obama?

The president, who had to put his re-election campaigning on hold during the debt crisis, arrived in L.A. Monday for two fundraisers. This visit, at least initially, drew less enthusiasm than his April visit, plus plenty of complaints about traffic disruptions.

There was some star power at the House of Blues event:  Ferguson hosted the fundraiser, where the entertainment was the improbable combination of the Weho Gay Men’s Chorus and the rapper B.o.B.

Also read: President's Visit Already Screwing Up Traffic

B.o.B., incidentally, was ushered in through the House of Blues’ side door a little while after U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat who represents the San Fernando Valley, was seen being directed away from the door and toward a line of people awaiting entrance. A spokesman for Sherman said he wasn't aware of any entry brouhaha, and said the congressman had V.I.P. status and met with the president.

About 1,000 people paid between $250 and $10,000 to attend the House of Blues event – the first of two fund-raisers – Monday afternoon.

The House of Blues was packed when the president arrived at 5:20 p.m., according to a pool reporter with the White House Press Corps, and the Weho Gay Men’s Chorus already was singing.

Outside the House of Blues, the presidential limousine was parked underneath a white tent.

From House of Blues, the president headed to a pricier event — a 120-person fundraising dinner and discussion at the Fig & Olive restaurant on Melrose Place in West Hollywood. The guests paid $17,900 each to attend.

Air Force One landed at Los Angeles International Airport at 4:40. The president immediately boarded a helicopter for the Barrington Recreation Center in Brentwood, where his motorcade awaited to speed him to House of Blues.

Obama’s last visit to Hollywood was a glitzier affair. Several thousand supporters greeted him on the Sony lot in Culver City. After that was a smaller dinner and then another small dinner at Tavern in Brentwood.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, Motown founder Berry Gordy, PayPal cofounder Elon Musk and City National Bank CEO and chairman Russell Goldsmith reportedly attended the Tavern dinner.

That all meant they didn't all go to Monday's event: Although Katzenberg was there, once donors give the maximum amount, they can give no more — and generally don't attend events. Several Democratic activists, in fact, told TheWrap they didn't know anyone attending Monday's events.

The president is scheduled to leave Los Angeles Tuesday morning.


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