Friday, September 14, 2007

The Lowdown, Obama at Oprah's

I’ve lived in Santa Barbara a long time, over 30 years, and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen this town as abuzz as it was after this past weekend’s Barack Obama blitz. Since Saturday, everywhere I’ve gone people are asking, “Did you see Obama?”

Take the town by storm? Take the South Coast by earthquake would be more accurate. The candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination shook things up and shook hands all over town on Saturday. From his appearance at Santa Barbara City College before a crowd of 5,000 to a private luncheon for 100 at the home of Nancy Koppelman in Montecito to the afternoon piece de resistance, the garden party at Oprah Winfrey’s Montecito estate.

Not only was the party at Oprah’s the hottest ticket in town, it was the hottest ticket in the entire country even making it as a topic of conversation on NBC’s Meet the Press the morning after.

The entry fee was a steep $2,300, which means it costs more than the first new car I ever bought, a 1969 Volkswagen, and it took me three years to pay that off. But a willingness to lay down that much scratch didn’t guarantee that you could get a ticket to the party. If you wanted to hang with Obama at Oprah’s you had a lot of competition for an invite. She had room for “only” 1600 and a lot more people than that wanted to get in to see Obama turn out. And according to Oprah herself, no one got in free.

Did any locals actually attend Oprah’s party? As you’ve probably figured out by now there’s at least one who didn’t, me. But no less than a dozen or more did including Michael and Ann Towbes, Village Properties realtor John Sener and wife Linda, author Patricia Bisch, painter, Arden Rose, human rights activist, Vicki Riskin, Catherine and Terrence Ladd, all of Montecito, former News-Press gossip columnist Beverly Jackson Elaine Duffins, Alan Harrison and Jonatha King.

One fear that many people had was that with so many guests in attendance would you actually get a chance to mingle with Obama or Oprah? The answer was yes. Obama and his wife Michelle, as well as Oprah and her main squeeze Stedman Graham (who apparently are still very much together) spent plenty of time mingling with the non “A” listers at the party.

And just who were the “A listers” in attendance? Oprah’s best friend, Gayle King, director, George Lucas, actors, Forrest Whitaker, Jasmine Guy, Louis Gossett, Jr., Ellen Pompeo from Grey’s Anatomy, Dennis Haysbert from the TV shows “24,” and “The Unit,” (and probably most recognizable from those Allstate Insurance commercials,) Boston Celtic great, Bill Russell, former NBA player, Charles Oakley, Whoopie Goldberg, rap producer Russell Simmons, and recording artist and music producer, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds just to name a few.

Then there was the entertainment. Stevie Wonder had nearly every one in attendance up and dancing. He even performed one number with his daughter Aisha Morris. Gospel singer Bebe Winans performed the final number of the evening.

Obama spoke for 20 to 30 minutes. He talked about how power comes from the bottom up, not the top down and how it’s possible to bring about change in Washington. He said he wanted to help restore America’s dignity in the world.

After he spoke the most common comparison being made among those in the crowd was that the feeling of inspiration they got from Obama was much like the feeling of inspiration they got from Bobby Kennedy.

According to guest Linda Sener, “Obama was mesmerizing, charismatic, inspired and inspiring. He called for people to speak their voice and he would hear them, he assured us that the country would always know clearly where he stands on everything, no hidden agendas or untruths to confuse or mislead. He even admitted he might not be the perfect president, but one that the American people can trust.”

Yeah, but should your entry-level job be President?

“People may say he is naive and inexperienced and maybe I am too about politics, but I saw a visionary and a man willing to step into his place and stand up to lead a nation with grace, intelligence, hope and honesty,” said Sneer.

When she addressed the gathering Oprah noted that it’s almost never that she opens up her home for a public event and that she hasn’t supported any politicians for many years as there hasn’t been anyone who inspired her, until now.

“I want a president who has good sense, not just intelligence,” Oprah said. She spoke about Obama’s authenticity, honesty, passion, commitment, and convictions.

So for $2,300 a head was the champagne and caviar flowing? Not quite. The menu consisted of corn on the cob, hamburgers, chips and guacamole. Drink choices were wine, lemonade or sparkling water.

Just as well, I always thought caviar was overrated.

And if Obama loves Santa Barbara as much as Santa Barbara seems to love him, who knows, we may once again be home to the Western White House.

Return to top of page       E-Mail Me       Print This Page