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CAUSE CELEBRE / TINA DAUNT

Obama's Swiss bash

August 08, 2008|TINA DAUNT

THERE WAS a celebrity drama in both presidential campaigns this week, although the casts and outcomes couldn't have been more different.

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign announced that uberstar George Clooney will host an exclusive -- that means expensive -- fundraiser for the Democratic candidate in, get this, Geneva, Switzerland, on Sept. 2.

For $1,000, guests will get to attend a reception and hear Clooney give a speech, presumably praising Obama (who will be otherwise engaged back in the States). Ten thousand dollars gets you dinner with Clooney at the grand manse of Charles Adams, an international American attorney who has represented such clients as Euro Disney. The event is expected to sell out, as are all the five-star suites in Geneva hotels that week.

There's a back story to this event with at least as much drama as one of Clooney's movies, involving the Obama campaign's favorite accessory -- the BlackBerry.

Like all Obamaites, Clooney is tethered to the device and frequently text messages the Illinois senator with whom he's been friends for many years. The problem is that Clooney, who spends his summers at his vacation home on the shores of Italy's Lake Como and other Mediterranean locales, has a BlackBerry old enough to have belonged to Steve Jobs' father. The last time this columnist got a glimpse of it, it was about the size of a brick.

The actor also has been known to mistreat it slightly (for example, it went on the blink after Clooney dropped it into a sink). Lately, the battered device's SIM card has been malfunctioning, so talks between the candidate and the star -- and everyone else in Clooney's far-flung entourage -- have been spotty.

Obama, not the kind of guy to be put off by a balky BlackBerry, reached Clooney last week the old-fashioned way: by phone. The two men, according to one associate, quickly finalized the plans for the Geneva fundraiser.

The event is the first Clooney has held since Obama entered the presidential race. The actor has intentionally stayed off the campaign trail because he feared the senator's Republican opponent would make an issue of Obama's celebrity support. (Who would ever do that?)

In any event, the fundraiser will cap a busy summer for Clooney, who has been spending time recently with his good friend Rande Gerber and Gerber's wife, Cindy Crawford, in St. Tropez.

Later this month, he will leave Lake Como for the Venice Film Festival, where his comedy -- the Coen brothers' movie "Burn After Reading," also starring Brad Pitt -- will premiere. While Clooney is there, he'll hold a fundraiser for Darfur, his key cause.

And then it's off to Geneva.

Meanwhile, John McCain -- campaigning in Ohio and elsewhere -- continued this week to make an issue of Obama's "celebrity" status, following up his Paris Hilton/Britney Spears ad with yet another swipe at his opponent's glittery popularity.

Hilton, not one to shy from attention, decided to enter the debate. She released a video of her own in which -- donning a bathing suit -- she discusses her energy plan for America and calls McCain "the wrinkly, white-haired" dude.

McCain seemed to take it as a compliment. The senator's spokesman, Tucker Bounds, said: "Paris Hilton might not be as big a celebrity as Barack Obama, but she obviously has a better energy plan."

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Clinton returns to shake hands

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be swinging through Los Angeles today to thank supporters -- and maybe suggest that they help with her lingering campaign debt.

Democratic fundraiser Sim Farar and wife Debra are set to host the New York senator at their Pacific Palisades estate in the evening. Among those expected to attend is entrepreneur Alex Avant, just back from a tour of Africa with former President Bill Clinton, which included an emotional stop in Rwanda. (In his memoirs, Clinton called his failure to halt the genocide there as his biggest regret.)

Avant -- whose sister, Nicole Avant, is one of Obama's major fundraisers and whose father, former Motown head Clarence Avant, is a longtime friend of the Clintons -- called the experience "humbling" and "moving."

"We saw thousands of thousands of kids throughout the trip," Avant said. "For the rest of my life, I will see their eyes in my soul."

(Also on the journey were Ted Danson and wife Mary Steenburgen.)

One of the questions that still lingers around Hillary Clinton's Hollywood core is whether any of its members may opt to support McCain instead of Obama.

This week, Republican campaign operatives speculated that Power Rangers mogul Haim Saban was thinking about joining the McCain camp.

Saban, who is also vacationing abroad, although with a functioning BlackBerry, isn't commenting.

But friends and associates think it's unlikely that Saban will ditch the Democratic party. (After all, he is one of its top contributors.)

Perhaps he, Clooney and Obama can talk the whole thing over -- once they get their BlackBerrys working at the same time.

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tina.daunt@latimes.com

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