GENEVA (Reuters) - George Clooney has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama by headlining an exclusive event for Americans in Geneva, one of the world’s most affluent cities.
The Hollywood actor and director, fresh from the world premiere of the Coen brothers’ comedy “Burn After Reading” in Venice, slipped without fanfare into the Swiss city on Tuesday for his first appearance on behalf of the Democratic nominee.
Dressed in a black suit and tie, Clooney signed autographs but did not comment as he squeezed his way past fans gathered in the narrow streets of Geneva.
Some 170 contributors paid $1,000 a head to hear him speak at a cocktail party held at a museum in Geneva’s Old Town.
And 75 high-rolling supporters spent $10,000 each to attend “an intimate seated dinner” with the 47-year-old star which followed at the organizer’s nearby apartment, according to the American lawyer who set up the twin “private” events.
“Mr. Clooney gave an excellent speech tonight; it was very stirring and moving. Barack Obama is the right person to repair our relations with the rest of the world,” an American man told Reuters Television as he left the cocktail on his way to the dinner.
An American woman said of Clooney’s remarks: “Everybody who was there was already fired up, but it only sort of affirmed what we believe already. He definitely had his talking points down, with great deliveries. He was very funny.”
Earlier, organizer Charles Adams said on local morning radio that the event was “fully subscribed.”
“Actually most of our guests for dinner are coming from elsewhere — people are flying in from Los Angeles, Prague, London, Zurich and so on,” said Adams, who serves on Obama’s National Finance Committee.
“I personally assured George Clooney that Geneva is a city where reserve is a way of life, that he won’t be attacked by fans trying to tear off his shirt,” he told the daily Le Temps.
The two events could infuse more than $900,000 into the Democratic war chest ahead of the November 4 election which pits the Illinois senator against Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, who is due to be formally nominated on Wednesday.
In keeping with U.S. laws, only American citizens were allowed to buy tickets to the fundraiser which has had normally sober Geneva buzzing. The scenic city featured in Clooney’s 2005 film “Syriana,” for which he won a best supporting actor Oscar.
“It is the most anticipated ‘people’ event of the year, but also the most discreet,” Geneva daily Le Temps said.
Hollywood has long had a strong connection with U.S. politics. Actors Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger were both elected Republican governors of California, and Reagan went on to become the 40th U.S. president.
Gwyneth Paltrow currently appears in a film ad on YouTube for Democrats Abroad, encouraging American expatriates to register and cast their ballots.
Nearly 6 million Americans live abroad, including some 16,400 in Switzerland. About 4,500 of them reside in Geneva, known for its high-end jewelers and watchmakers, as well as its private banks catering to the very rich.
Editing by Robert Hart