Fears of massive Obamajam traffic tie-ups were overshadowed Thursday as hundreds of fans and onlookers lined the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of President Barack Obama as he attended a star-studded fundraiser in
Obama made his first visit as president to a San Fernando Valley neighborhood to attend a record-breaking fundraiser at George Clooney's estate. The event, expected to be attended by Hollywood A-listers like Barbra Streisand, Robert Downey Jr. and Tobey Maguire, was predicted to raise $12 million to $15 million, both from the attendees as well as an online contest for a pair of tickets at Obama's and Clooney's table.
Inside the event, Obama told supporters that his decision Wednesday to announce his support for same-sex marriage demonstrates the difference in visions for the country between himself and Republicans.
His remarks about the issue were brief, and he did not mention the word marriage. He began by simply saying: "Obviously, yesterday we made some news," drawing enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
Earlier in the day outside the event, a number of local roads were blocked off to cars, but residents said traffic through the neighborhood did not get too jammed, apparently because drivers heeded warnings to avoid the area altogether.
As the presidential motorcade passed the intersection of Laurel Canyon and Ventura boulevards, the crowd of several hundred lining the streets cheered, screamed, clapped and took pictures.
"It was crazy," said Studio City resident Cindy Cassutt, 57. "I started to cry. Because he's a pivotal person in American history. And I personally think he's a wonderful human being. It was great. I'm not going to get over this for a long time."
Others were less impressed. Derek Fetty, 27, of
Northridge, had waited since about 4 p.m. for the president to pass by. When Obama finally drove by, "He didn't even roll down his window," Fetty lamented.
"It would've been worth it if he skydived out of the helicopter... and then shook everyone's hand," he joked.
Business was slower than usual for Studio Yogurt on Laurel Canyon, most likely because officials had warned people to stay away from the area to avoid traffic, according to worker Brenda Ruiz.
"It's exciting that he's coming, but he's keeping away business," said Ruiz, 23. "But it's fine. We don't mind. He's the president."
Tama Winograd, a member of Studio City/NoHo/Valley Village for Obama, had entered a drawing by the campaign in hopes of winning entry to the fundraiser.
She didn't win, so instead she held a ValleyForObama.com sign along Obama's motorcade route on Laurel Canyon Boulevard.
"I would've fainted seeing George Clooney and the president at the same time," said Winograd, a Valley Village resident. "I would've been a puddle of goo."
Obama landed at LAX around 6:15 p.m. and then flew by Marine One helicopter to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, where he was greeted by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Van Nuys.
The event at Clooney's 7,500- square-foot home on Iredell Street -- which features a screening room with 3-D projector, and a basketball court, among other amenities -- was expected to be attended by at least 150 people who paid $40,000 each for a ticket.
Much of the record-breaking fundraising tally came in an online contest from thousands of people who contributed an average of about $23 for a chance at a ticket to the event.
The winners were Beth Topinka, a science teacher from Manalapan, N.J.; and Karen Blutcher, a St. Augustine, Fla., mother of a 5-year-old son with Down syndrome. Both winners brought their husbands to the dinner.
Obama was scheduled to spend the night in Beverly Hills and then head to another event Friday in Reno.
While most of the crowds lining the streets of Studio City were enthusiastic, one group took the opportunity to urge Obama to speed up federal investigations into banks
that they believe caused the foreclosure crisis.
"We can't wait for investigations to take six months to a year," said Nish Suvarnakar, spokesman for Campaign for a Fair Settlement, which had about 45 people rallying outside Wilacre Park.
About 2.1 million homeowners in California are underwater, totaling nearly $196 billion in negative home equity, according to Suvarnakar.
The group also asked Obama to help homeowners reset their mortgages to fair value.
A few in the crowd held a large banner for presidential candidate Ron Paul, but few other protesters were visible.
Around the corner, a resident had strung up red, white and blue balloons and taped a "Welcome President Obama" sign to the front gate.
Studio City resident Ryan Knight was hiking with some friends on the popular Wilacre Park trail, and stopped to snap a photo of the display.
Knight, who is gay, said he was particularly thrilled that Obama was visiting his neighborhood the day after the president announced his support for same-sex marriage.
"After yesterday, it's pretty cool. There is this kind of cool energy in the air," Knight said.
"As a gay American, it feels nice to be recognized by your president."
Neighbor Stu Phillips said Obama should be busy at work leading the country, not flying around holding fundraisers.
"Go back to Washington and work. It's Thursday. It's a working day," Phillips said, adding, "He's tied up the city an awful lot lately. Why does he always have to land in six o'clock traffic?"
City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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