After all these years, I can now truly say I’ve been to the Promised Land. Oprah’s “Promised Land” that is - in Montecito. That’s what she named her $50-million , 42-acre drop dead gorgeous estate near Santa Barbara and let me just say for the record -- it is all that and much much more.
By now, you’ve heard about the star-studded fundraiser for Oprah’s other man - Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama. I was one of the 1600 people including mainly big named stars, entertainment and political insiders who paid $2300 to witness the historic event and for the right to say we strutted our stuff (some in six-inch heels, even though she advised everyone to wear flat shoes) through Oprah’s meadow.
Munching on fried chicken bites, pigs in a blanket, organic potato chips, apple tarts and the most delicious ‘Obama 08 chocolate chip cookies (I must confess I grabbed extras to take to my friends), I kept wondering did most people come just to see Oprah’s house or to get a real up close and personal look with the man Lady O calls, “the next president of the United States.” I have to admit, I came to see it all.
I have interviewed the Senator before. On this day, I didn’t push for political comments, but more for his amazement at this much publicized event. (see his comments below). I also wanted to see more of Michelle Obama. She and Oprah seemed as close as two little girls who were sharing a secret. Michelle looked stunning in her black eyelet designer dress. It was dressy casual and very elegant. She looks like a first lady. When Obama arrived, someone asked where was his wife? With a big smile, he said, “she and Oprah are inside the house taking care of some last minute makeup issues.”
It was quite nice to see such a diverse crowd, but much more interesting was the impressive list of African Americans who happily doled out the thousands to be apart of history. Let’s be clear this meeting in the meadow was History.
Never in the history of the Democratic Party primary elections has there been a fundraising event sponsored by a high profile African American entertainer for an African American candidate with a real chance of winning the primary with the record setting proceeds coming significantly from American Americans. This proves that African Americans will spend their almighty dollar if they have a candidate they believe in. Truly - only Obama and Oprah could pull off such an event and make us lovingly and willingly cough up the dough.
“I just want you to know everyone here today paid to be here,” Oprah told the high-octane crowd. “Right before breakfast, I asked Stedman where’s your check? And Gayle and her children paid too.” Lady O was serious about raising big bucks for Senator Obama and his bid for the presidency. Before the afternoon was over, Sen. Obama walked away with $3 million. Not bad for a four-hour event. If campaign finance laws would have permitted, many of us would have paid much more simply too hang out with this power group all day. There was just this feeling in the air we were witnessing something unprecedented.
Among those sharing in the moment, Mr. Sidney Poitier, Stevie Wonder, Chris Rock and his wife Malaak, Tyler Perry, George Lucas, John Travolta, Forest Whitaker, Nia Long, Music Mogul Kevin Liles, Gospel Star Donnie McClurkin, Cindy Crawford, Nicole Ari Parker, Boris Kudjoe, Rueben Cannon, Jenifer Lewis, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Chief Bernard Parks, political consultant Kerman Maddox, Tom Joyner, Harvard Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates and actor Hill Harper.
Harper, who went to Harvard and was Obama’s roommate, can take part of the credit for helping to raise more than $3-million dollars at Oprah’s estate. Harper alone pulled in more than $400,000. “This feels good. I’m so happy to help my friend and I know he’s gonna be great for this country,” Harper said.
“I just want to be on record saying when we as African Americans had a real chance to win the White House, I was part of the effort,” said one political observer. “This is huge.”
Dancing her way through the meadow and enjoying the music and mostly the sounds of Stevie Wonder was actress Jenifer Lewis. “This is living, baby, This is what life is supposed to be like.” I have to agree.
“Yeah, this is nice,” said Obama with a tongue planted firmly in his cheek. “This is nice” as he looked back and winked at his new best friend, Oprah while addressing the crowd.
“Ya’ll look nice too.”
Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time the Obamas have visited Oprah’s Southern California estate. In 2004, when she held her “Legends” weekend honoring all those phenomenal African Americans who had influenced her life, Oprah had walked the grounds with Obama and his wife. “I remember saying to him, don’t you think this would be a great place for a fundraiser,” she recalled. “He was still acting like he hadn’t been called.” When you’re called to do an assignment, nothing can stand in your way,” she told the crowd.
Since Oprah didn’t allow any cameras on the property, the crowd - many who didn’t get a photo with the Big O’s (Oprah and Obama), had to settle for memories of the phenomenal day. I would have loved to have a photo, but in the back of my mind I knew I was witnessing something very special, something very unique and something I’d talk about for the rest of my life.
As I left the meadow, I was thinking with Obama there’s a good chance we may all get to “Promised Land.”