The White House is set to announce the guest list for its first state dinner, and among the few invitees from Hollywood are Messieurs Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen, sealing the DreamWorks trio's rep as any Democratic President's BFFs in Hollywood.
Sitting at the head of the political table in a one-party town is no mean feat, and for the men of Dreamworks, their lock on that much-contested position now looks to set to run into its third decade. Throughout the Clinton era, the President saw in Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen his veritable Hollywood soulmates in the international union of self-adoring baby boomers. The Dreamworks SKG company was in fact founded during a visit to White House, modeled in the heady sense of specialness that dominated those days.
After the diaspora for Hollywood Democrats of the Bush years, there was a mad scramble to see who would emerge as the new President's showbiz BFF, the 2008 campaign setting off a frenzy of industry fundraisers and check-writing. But when the dust cleared and when, just today, the ultimate announcement came, sitting at the head table once again was a certain trio of former partners, initialed SKG.
A couple others made the cut. Of course super-agent Ari Emanuel, having a certain White House Chief of Staff for a brother, got the nod. Also making the list, Sony Chief Michael Lynton, whom has been a heavyweight Democratic fundraiser with, as Nikki Finke outlines, ties to Obama since his first Senate run through his Chicago-raised wife.
Why however, did Obama give three of his five Hollywood seats to the retreads of the Clinton days? Why would he not use the dinner to elevate some brighter, younger activists?
Well, first there is always money. And they gives a lot of it. Katzenberg has written personal checks totally over $800,000 in the past decade while Geffen has shelled out over half a million out of his own pocket to various party coffers, not counting what they've raised from others (Interestingly, as is often the case with Hollywood fundraising the talent rarely feels the need to put much cash on the table, thinking they are doing more than enough by lending their name or showing their face. Steven Spielberg, in contrast to his partners, appears to have donated only around $100,000 from his deep as the Mariana Trench pockets.)
But most important perhaps, the former Dreamworks partners, perhaps more than any other showmen in the corporate age of Hollywood, look the part of elder statesmen. They have managed to consistently cultivate their public persona's — led by Spielberg's America's Director shtick — to keep themselves, through all the heavy turmoil of their career and company, looking like the grand old wise men of Hollywood; the boomers graduated into what passes in Hollywood for seriousness.
And even more than Hollywood, politics, above all, respects those who look the part. And so Hollywood's next generation of young upstarts will just have to cool their heels for a cycle or two more.