The ladies Obama — Michelle, her mother, Malia and Sasha — swept into Los Angeles on Sunday as tourists on a summer idyll.
Well, maybe not quite typical tourists — since they were shepherded around in a convoy of black SUVs with numerous Secret Service agents in tow.
FOR THE RECORD:
Michelle Obama in L.A.: An article in Wednesday's LATExtra section about the visit of First Lady Michelle Obama to Los Angeles included a photo of her, her daughter Malia and her mother, Marian Robinson, at Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center on Tuesday. The caption erred in stating that the game was played Wednesday. —
Still, the first lady and her daughters, 11-year-old Malia and Sasha, who just turned 9, managed to move surprisingly below the radar as they dined at trendy foodie havens, motored through Hollywood streets and headed to the Staples Center to catch the Lakers and Celtics play Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
The visit kicked off sometime Sunday, after the First Lady finished her speech at Camp Pendleton. It was a private tour — so the White House had nothing official to say about it. But the sightings reported on Twitter were plentiful. And, if you go by them, the agenda was mostly un-Westside and un-Malibu.
On Sunday evening, Michelle Obama sipped a Stoli straight up over supper at Lucques with her girls, her mother, Marian Robinson, and three others (at least one of whom was drinking J & H chardonnay). Food is served family style on Sunday nights at Lucques, with just two main course choices. The Obama party — which indeed ordered from the menu and paid its bill — chose the slow-roasted lamb. But chef and co-owner Suzanne Goin sent out the Alaskan halibut as well.
"It was like a family hanging out over dinner," said one of the restaurant's managers, who added that they ate at a banquette in the dining room guarded by about a dozen Secret Service agents. No one tried to get an autograph.
"They were flanked by two Secret Service officers on the sides of where they were sitting. I don't think it was an ideal situation for someone to go up and approach," the manager said.
They left some time after 9 p.m., he said: "As they were leaving, the security detail and Michelle stopped into the kitchen to say how much they appreciated the meal." The family ventured further east the next night, to eat at Pizzeria Mozza on Highland Avenue off Melrose Avenue. There they were ensconced in the private Jack Warner Room — the legendary studio mogul's hangout when the location was Emilio's. "The girls were charming. There was lots of laughter," said one person who was there Monday night.
The mere presence of the Obama women — even if mostly hidden away — sent a frisson through the packed restaurant, where well-heeled diners are inured to the frequent sight of celebrities eating. ( Ryan Seacrest, it so happened, was also at Mozza that evening.) Those arriving at the restaurant were greeted by a swarm of security. "I'm sorry, Ma'am, I'm Secret Service and I need to wand you," an agent told one patron about to enter.
By late Tuesday afternoon, any chance that they could move through town more or less unnoticed was blown by cyber-savvy Twitterers who tweeted sightings so promptly one could practically cobble together a real-time road map.
"She was here just now," said Gloria Pink, co-owner of Pink's, when reached by phone Tuesday afternoon to confirm a tweeted Michelle Obama sighting at the hot dog emporium. "It was fabulous," said Pink, still sounding a bit dazed by the flurry over the Obama party's late lunch on the patio. "No one bothered them, they just enjoyed their dogs," she said.
The girls, who have just kicked off summer vacation from the private Sidwell Friends school, ate hot dogs with ketchup while their mother had a mild Polish sausage with mustard, grilled onions and jalapenos, according to Pink. They didn't have to wait in line, Pink said:
"They were just so gracious. She said, 'Thank you so much for having us.'…They insisted on paying."
They stayed about half an hour, Pink estimates.
"Everybody applauded as they left."