President Barack Obama Arrives in Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon to press his agenda over a two-day visit in what might be called an “outside the regular channels tour.”
In Burbank Tuesday afternoon, the chief executive will tape his sixth appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and, on Wednesday morning, he will travel south to Camp Pendleton for private meetings with Marines who have served in Afghanistan and members of their families.
On the flight out from Washington earlier Tuesday, White House press Secretary Jay Carney explained that Obama decided to appear on Leno’s show to communicate with Americans who are “not necessarily readers of newspapers or wire services or necessarily the viewers of cable or broadcast news shows.”
“Some of his most substantive interviews have appeared in non-traditional settings so you never know what you might get,” Carney told reporters.
During his L.A. layover, Obama also will hold at least one private meeting with supporters, sources told The Hollywood Reporter, though the White House Tuesday remained studiously mum on its subject or guest list.
Several times over the past two years, Obama’s visits to Los Angeles have had both an announced public dimension and a more private and personal — pointedly unannounced — aspect, though the purposes of both are strategic and political.
In at least two instances, the president met privately with groups he considers not only campaign donors, but “influencers” — as he once labeled them — Hollywood stars and executives with the ability to help convey his message to important segments of the electorate. Like his frequent fund-raising forays into Southern California, these meeting are a reflection of the entertainment industry’s increasing importance to Democratic aspirations — not as a source of monetary support, but also as a reservoir of high-value campaign surrogates, the sort who can draw crowds around the country.
In late October of 2011, for example, Obama held an unannounced early morning meeting the Beverly Wilshire Hotel with Weinstein Co. studio head Harvey Weinstein, CAA managing partner and music head Rob Light, ICM president Chris Silbermann, Modern Family creator Steve Levitan, Atlantic Records chairman Craig Kallman, producer/songwriter Bruce Roberts, talent manger and producer Jason Weinberg, UTA music agent Rob Prinz, and talent manager and producer Eric Ortner.
Also included in that “casual”, closed-door meeting were Warner Bros. Records president Livia Tortella, talent manager Greg Mertz, ID PR publicists Kelly Bush and Mara Buxbaum, talent managers Bruce Flohr, Michael Green, Steve Moir and Bill Silva, Universial Music Publishing Group executive vice president and head of creative Tom Sturges, entertainment attorney Chuck Ortner and actor/activist Kal Penn.
At the time, sources told THR that all were selected because the White House felt they were enthusiastic supporters of the president with the ability to help shape the public conversation in what was shaping up to be a tough 2012 election cycle. Characteristically, the political press corps traveling with the chief executive never was informed of the gathering.
Eight months later, when Obama was in town for a series of fun-raisers, he held another private pre-breakfast meeting at the Beverly Hilton with two dozen of Hollywood’s hottest young stars, who he urged to become even more deeply involved in his campaign. That group included Jeremy Renner, Glee actress Dianna Agron, Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, Southland’s Ben McKenzie, Jessica Alba, Bryan Greenberg, Adam Rodriguez, Zach Braff, Brandon Routh, Ian Somerhalder, Jared Leto and Sophia Bush.
Just two months prior to last fall’s general election, Obama used the private meeting format to offer special thanks to a dozen extraordinarily deep-pocketed Democratic donors quietly gathered on Sunday morning at the home of DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg. On that occasion, the chief executive was joined by former President Bill Clinton, whose deep Hollywood ties are well known. At the time, two Obama finance campaign staffers also told THR that the donors, all of whom had given the personal maximum allowed, also were encouraged to consider the needs of the Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA.