SOMEWHERE OVER TEXAS---I’m enroute to California this Friday afternoon to cover Oprah Winfrey’s chock-full-of-stars fund-raiser for Barack Obama. I am concerned I am so out of touch with celebrity society I won’t recognize anyone.
The press won’t be allowed anywhere near the grounds surrounding Winfrey’s mansion in Montecito where the fund-raiser will be held Saturday afternoon. My plan is to stake out the guest valet parking area in Santa Barbara eight miles from Winfrey’s place and see if I can interview people when they get on or off the shuttle bus and work the phone.
I just borrowed the People Magazine my seatmate brought aboard on this flight to Burbank to study up. I recognized most of the stars in the ad for Desperate Housewives even if I didn’t get their names right. I flunked in identifying even one actor in the Grey’s Anatomy ad. Seatmate, a young actor, nailed everyone. I need flashcards.
“Do you know Aisha Tyler? Seatmate is briefing.
“Justin? He’s definitely going to show up there,” Seatmate said, a speculative reference to Mr. Timberlake.
“Star Jones? All the African-American famous actors will be there because they all love Oprah,” Seatmate opines.
We’re looking at the ad for “Brothers and Sisters.” I recognize Sally Field. I should have gotten Ally McBeal. Rob Lowe was easy.
I totally missed Shai LaBeof in the ad, even though he is on the cover of the Vanity Fair that has been on my lap for hours. I skipped over the story about LaBeof to read Dominick Dunne’s latest installment on the Phil Spector murder trial he is covering. I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago to cover a Democratic presidential forum on gay issues and I was invited to a salon in a lovely home in Pacific Palisades one afternoon where Dunne was recounting tales from the trial along with Linda Deutsch, the ace Associated Press reporter who owns the celebrity trial beat.
Feeling invested, I wanted to know Dunne’s latest take on the situation.
I returned to the Vanity Fair article I’m reading, David Halberstam’s last story, “How the White House Flunks History” when Seatmate makes more guesses who will be at Oprahs’
“David Beckham and Victoria (Posh Spice) his wife, who just moved to L.A. Ludacris might be there too. Terrence Howard was on Oprah last year when the movie Crash was out……
“It might be a really good publicity stunt for the “Cavemen” to show up,” Seatmate muses. “They got their own show now on ABC. …George Lopez? She loves him.”
I remind Seatmate that it’s a fund-raiser and everyone has to donate $2,300 to Obama to get in. No matter, says Seatmate. “The money is nothing. It’s networking!’’
This summer I saw Hairspray and High School Musical 2 (I caught the Disney movie by chance, not choice. I shared a beach house with friends who had young daughters). I’m ready for Zac Efron.
This is Obama’s second fund-raiser with the stars.
Last February I staked out the lobby in the Beverly Hilton for a story on Obama’s Hollywood supporters. The event, drawing several hundred people, was closed to the press.
I booked a room at the hotel for that night guessing that hotel security would kick reporters out of the lobby. They tried, but could not get rid of the journalists who were staying at the hotel, so I was able to see who was coming and going.
The hotel, by the way, is popular with Democratic figures. After the Obama funder I ran into Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in the lobby. He was in town for his own fund-raiser. And as soon as Durbin left, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, in town for some speechs, came by.
Earlier that night at the Hilton, I was able to snare a few words with a celebrity who I actually recognized. I am a fan of “Scrubs.” I stopped Scrubs star Zach Braff in a Hilton hallway as he was headed towards the reception and he was nice enough to take a few questions from me about why he was backing Obama just as some security man was giving me the hook.
I froze and could not get Braffs’ name out of my brain. I decided to simply asked him to spell it out and not let on I could not remember his name.
It was a strategy. And I'll think of one for Saturday. That is, if I ever get close enough to see anything.
Seatmate, by the way, is 25-year-old Arnie Pagan, who lives in Hollywood.