Friday, August 12, 2011

President Obama In New York: A Winning Dinner Courtesy Of Harvey Weinstein & Anna Wintour

Guests at fundraiser included Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Keys, Jimmy Fallon, Vera Wang, Chris Martin...
“This is a pretty good looking crowd,” President Obama said on Thursday night to the celebs and fashionistas gathered for a fundraising dinner at the five-story home of film mogul Harvey Weinstein and his wife, fashion designer Georgina Chapman, located in New York City's West Village. Vogue legend Anna Wintour co-hosted the $35,800/person event. (Above: Wintour, Chapman and Weinstein, the President)

The President wasn't kidding about good looking: His visit to the Big Apple brought out Alicia Keys, Jimmy Fallon, fashion designer Vera Wang, music producer Pharrell Williams, Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin, lead singer for Cold Play. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo was also on hand, as was cosmetics maven Aerin Lauder.

Wintour hosted a fundraiser for the President last summer at her home; that was her second lovefest for her favorite world leader. She was invited to the State Dinner in honor of China's President Hu Jintao in January, and showed up wearing Chanel. On Thursday, there were about 50 guests in total, who dined at tables for ten in the basement of Weinstein's brownstone, and listened to President Obama speak on the debt crisis, the economy and his reelection campaign. It was the second fundraiser of the night: Earlier, the President met with a gathering of 15 donors at the posh Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown NY, who also paid top dollar for the face time. He made no general remarks to the group, and the event was closed to press.

As he introduced the President, Weinstein said he had been trying to persuade his wife to have a housewarming party for three years, and it had taken President Obama to make it happen. He said that last year on Martha’s Vineyard, the President had asked him if he had any movies and he had given him a rough cut of the “King’s Speech.”

President Obama quipped: "It was pretty good.”

Weinstein said this year he will send President Obama a screener of “Iron Lady” to watch during his Aug. 18-27 Vineyard vacation; Meryl Streep plays former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the biofilm.

The President had visited the Johnson Controls, Inc. battery factory in Holland, Michigan earlier in the day, and said it was refreshing to be outside of Washington.

“What I said to them is: You deserve better than you have been getting out of Washington over the last two and a half months, for that matter for the last two and a half years,” President Obama said. “They look at what is happening in Washington and think these folks are from outer space. They don’t seem to understand how critical it is for us to work together.”

About his 2008 campaign promises of change, Mr. Obama said change takes time.

“Democracy is messy and it's tough, and our system is broken to a large degree. And that makes this election more important than 2008."

He riffed on people being deflated, and not being sure if they actually want change.

"They've still got the Obama poster but it's all kind of frayed," he said, to laughter. "And Obama is grayer--he doesn’t seem as cool."

Change takes time, the President said, and likened his struggles to change the country to those of the civil rights movement. He said he will dedicate the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington on Aug. 28, and had already flown over it, hailing it as "spectacular."

“Now that King has his own memorial on the Mall, I think that we forget when he was alive there was nobody who was more vilified, nobody who was more controversial, nobody who was more despairing at times," President Obama said. "There was a decade following the great successes of Birmingham and Selma which was just struggle. What he understood, what kept him going was that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. But it doesn’t bend on its own…it takes time, and it is hard work and it has its frustrations.”

Hundreds of people lined the streets of the West Village to catch a glimpse of the President's motorcade, and marksmen stood on rooftops, according to pool reports. Both fundraisers had been rescheduled from July; they were cancelled due to the month-long debt fight with Congress. The President was heading back to Washington by 8:30 PM.

Tickets for both events were $35,800 per person, the maximum contribution allowed by law. The first $5,000 of each ticket goes to the Obama Victory Fund and the rest to the Democratic National Committee.

*The transcript of the President remarks is here.

*Photo compilation from New York Magazine