Gay-marriage stand wins Obama cheers inside, outside Clooney event
Despite concerns about traffic nightmares and possible protests, President Obama's fundraiser at the home of actor George Clooney went off without a hitch.
Outside, people, some cheering, lined the route of Obama's motorcade near Clooney's Studio City home. Some noted the president's announcement this week that he supported gay marriage.
Inside, Obama addressed the issue in his remarks.
"Obviously yesterday we made some news," he said to applause at the fundraiser. "But the truth is it was a logical extension of what America is supposed to be. It grew directly out of this difference in visions. Are we a country that includes everybody and gives everybody a shot and treats everybody fairly, and is that going to make us stronger? Are we welcoming to immigrants? Are we welcoming to people who aren't like us -- does that make us stronger? I believe it does. So that's what's at stake."
Even in the celebrity-laden neighborhood, a presidential motorcade rolling down the street was something special.
About 200 people gathered at the corner of Fryman Canyon Road and Iredell Street to cheer as Obama glided past in a long line of black SUVs, CHP motorcycles and other vehicles. The problem was figuring out which one held the president.
Obama didn't stop or roll down a window to wave as the motorcade went by and turned up Iredell to Clooney's home. Devin Arnold, 14, who came with a friend to catch a glimpse of the president, said he was "a little disappointed."
"In the first car there were like seven Obama lookalikes!" he said.
His father, Danny Arnold, an airport police officer, explained the need for tight security: "The days of open presidential vehicles and shaking hands are over."
Ellen Bryon, who brought her 12-year-old daughter, Eliza Remillong, said the girl at first couldn't understand the excitement. "She said I was acting like Obama was Justin Bieber," said Bryon, a TV writer.
Nearby at the corner of Fryman Canyon Road and Laurel Canyon Boulevard, an assortment of activists held signs. Among them was Dan Fatou of Get Equal, a group lobbying for gay and lesbian rights.
"We thank him for his support of equal rights in marriage," Fatou said, "but we need him to do more."
Jon Epstein and his friend, Daniel Fradin, both 15, pedaled their bikes up Fryman Canyon Road toward Clooney's residence to try to catch a glimpse of the president.
Fradin, whose family lives nearby, said he is upset by Republicans putting barriers in the way of Obama fully reviving the economy. "This is a country about compromise," he said. "And the Republicans are doing everything to stand in his way. That's not right."
The fundraiser, which reported raised $15 million, had many bold-face names.
Wolfgang Puck cooked for the attendees, including Robert Downey Jr., Diane Von Furstenberg, Trina Turk, Barbra Streisand, James Brolin, Tobey Maguire, Billy Crystal, Jack Black, Salma Hayek, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village).
During the event, the president joked about his age.
"People have commented on the fact I've got gray hair now. There was a blog post about look how wrinkly Obama is getting. Sort of distressing. George doesn't have to go through these things," Obama said.
Clooney interjected: "You look good to me!"
Although traffic around the Laurel Canyon area was delayed, the so-called "Starmageddon" surrounding the event was not as bad as some feared.
Obama spent the night in Beverly Hills and is scheduled to depart today.
-- Catherine Saillant and Seema Mehta in Studio City
Photo: A group of young women share cellphone photos of President Obama's motorcade in Studio City. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times