Published January 13, 2015
Oprah Winfrey rolled out the red carpet Saturday for Barack Obama at a gala fundraiser attended by high-wattage stars that was expected to raise $3 million for the Democratic presidential candidate.
The most powerful woman in show business celebrated her favorite candidate with 1,500 guests at her palatial estate in this coastal enclave south of Santa Barbara Tickets to the sold-out private event went for $2,300 apiece, keeping them within campaign finance limits.
Stevie Wonder performed for guests, who included Sidney Poitier, Forest Whitaker, Chris Rock, Cindy Crawford, Jimmy Connors, Linda Evans, Dennis Haysbert and many others. Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and Halle Berry also were expected, though it was unclear if they were in attendance. The media were barred from the fundraiser.
Visitors were bused to Winfrey's secluded home from an equestrian center about 10 miles away. A solid line of limousines, BMWs, Bentleys and a few hybrid Priuses disgorged well-dressed guests. Some sported stiletto heels despite official instructions to wear flat shoes for walking on Winfrey's meadow.
Visitors were subjected to strict security procedures and relieved of cameras and recording devices. Instructions sent to guests noted that Winfrey and Obama would not be accepting gifts.
Earlier in the day, Obama made a quick, lunchtime stop to speak to a crowd of about 1,000 eager supporters who gathered on a hillside overlooking the Pacific at Santa Barabara City College. It was his only public appearance of the day.
Obama, wearing his usual white shirt open at the collar and sleeves rolled up, shook his way down a line of outstretched hands as the song "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" blared from speakers.
He spoke for about 20 minutes, hitting his core themes of optimism and accountability.
"What's called for is a level of responsibility and seriousness that we haven't seen in a very long time," he told the cheering crowd, which included college students in short sundresses and big sunglasses and older couples in peace symbols.
A woman standing in front of the stage appeared to faint as Obama spoke about Iraq. The candidate paused and asked the crowd to make way for firefighters.
One supporter shouted, "You're a good man," leaving Obama momentarily at a loss for words.
"Well, I'm not the only one stopping to help her," he said, sounding almost embarrassed.
He talked briefly about his last trip to California in August, when he spent a morning helping a home health care worker clean a house, wringing out mops and making breakfast through a program sponsored by SEIU, the Service Employees International Union.
"Listening to her talk about the hardships of her life, talking about her struggles without a trace of self-pity ... I thought, there is the essence of what America is about, this generosity of spirit," Obama said.
Then it was off to a private luncheon and on to Winfrey's cocktail-hour shindig, where a different brand of very American generosity would be on display.
Obama already enjoys the support of Hollywood moguls like David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Winfrey's fundraiser is another chance for him to tap California, which was his top donor state from April through June with a total take of $4.2 million.
Obama has raised more than $58 million for his White House bid. Forbes magazine estimates that Winfrey, the Chicago-based talk-show host, is worth about $1.5 billion.
Winfrey is a well-known fan of Obama, calling him "my favorite guy" and "my choice" in a cable news interview last year before he announced he would run for president.