Host with the most ... George Clooney. Photo: AP
As he put the finishing touches to his dinner party preparations, one could have forgiven George Clooney for being a little nervous. After all, it's not every day the president pops by for a bite to eat.
Fortunately he had 150 close friends, including Barbra Streisand, Robert Downey Jr, Tobey Maguire, Eddie Murphy and Salma Hayek, on hand to keep the conversation flowing. And celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who caters for the Oscars, agreed to whip up some Peking-style roasted duckling.
We have Iron Man, Spider-Man and Batman in the room. We should let the Secret Service take the night off.
The result was "Starmageddon," the dinner party to end all dinner parties, as the elites of Washington and Hollywood came together to swell Barack Obama's re-election campaign coffers by $US15 million, a new record for a presidential fund-raising event.
The presidential SUV arrives outside George Clooney's house. Photo: AFP
The setting was Mr Clooney's multi-million dollar mock Tudor home, which he bought 20 years ago from Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks, in a leafy hillside enclave of Los Angeles. It has six bedrooms and six bathrooms, a wine cellar, and a popcorn machine.
Mr Obama, the guest of honour, turned up with 30 motorcycle outriders, the Secret Service, helicopters, bomb sniffing dogs, and a counter terrorism unit in tow.
The great and good of Tinseltown, each paying $40,000, arrived in a fleet of black limousines, Bentleys and Porsches.
Robert Downey Jr ... one of the guests at the dinner. Photo: AP
Welcoming them, Mr Clooney joked about the superhero roles played by Downey Jr, Maguire and himself. He said: "We have Iron Man, Spider-Man and Batman in the room. We should let the Secret Service take the night off."
Dinner was served on the private basketball court where 14 round tables, decorated with blue hydrangeas, were placed under a tent with a transparent roof lit with white paper lanterns.
The host sat with his girlfriend, Stacy Kiebler, on a table in the middle, hands folded as if in prayer, while he was lauded for his largesse by the commander-in-chief. The presidential tribute, even by Hollywood standards, was gushing.
Mr Obama said: "I want to thank Clooney for letting us use his basketball court. We raised a lot of money because everybody loves George. They like me, they love him. And rightfully so. He seems to occupy a constant state of grace, and uses his extraordinary talents on behalf of something truly important."
The president joked that his famed "Hope" poster from the 2008 campaign was derived from a photograph of himself and Mr Clooney, and that it was "the first time George Clooney has ever been photo-shopped out of a picture." He was applauded as he spoke about his decision to endorse gay marriage earlier in the week. He said: "It was a logical extension of what America is supposed to be."
If he had been in any doubt how the move was received among his supporters in Hollywood, his motorcade passed a sign on one mansion reading "Yay Gay".
The dinner raised $US6 million from ticket sales and another $9?million from an online sweepstake offering two pairs of seats for "dinner with Barack and George," along with air fares. Entry was $3. Winners of the political equivalent of Willy Wonka's golden tickets were Beth Topinka, a teacher from New Jersey, and Karen Blutcher, the mother of a five-year-old son with Downs syndrome. Both brought their husbands as dates.
Mr Obama spent the night at a hotel and met up again with Mr Clooney and Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire in the morning to play basketball.
Kirsten Kukowski, the Republican National Committee spokesman, said Mr Obama's closeness to movie stars would backfire.
She said: "We want someone who will keep their nose to the grindstone, who will create jobs, rather than spend all this time trying to be BFF's with George Clooney."
The Daily Telegraph, London