BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Feb. 19 — Tom Hanks has bought a $2,300 ticket. So have Jennifer Aniston, Eddie Murphy and Denzel Washington. The studio bosses from Universal, Paramount, Disney and 20th Century Fox have all sent checks or faxed their credit card numbers, too.
Given the A-list stars, movie and music moguls, and top Hollywood dealmakers who have sent their R.S.V.P.’s, one would think the man of honor at Tuesday night’s benefit at the Beverly Hilton would be getting a lifetime achievement award. But the toast of the evening is Barack Obama, the 45-year-old first-term Democratic senator from Illinois, in his first foray to Los Angeles as a declared presidential candidate.
It is hard to say whether the unusual heat behind the evening owes more to interest in Mr. Obama or to the three men who spearheaded the fund-raiser: the DreamWorks co-founders David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg.
The haul is expected to be at least $1 million, making it the first major event here of the presidential campaign. (Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, will get a chance to flex her own Hollywood fund-raising muscles on March 24 at the estate of Ronald Burkle, the supermarket tycoon.) Originally set for a restaurant with room for 400 people, the Obama event was moved over the weekend to a hotel ballroom with a capacity of 600, and payments were still filtering in by fax.
Of chief concern to a much smaller group of fund-raisers was that they be credited for any attendees they invited; those with at least 20 tickets to their name have been asked to dine with Mr. Obama at Mr. Geffen’s Beverly Hills mansion after the reception.
One movie producer who raised enough money to attend the dinner said he had done so merely because many of his friends wanted to meet the senator but would have had no other way of buying a ticket — though he confessed that he also wanted to “kick the tires” on Mr. Obama himself. Yet he insisted on anonymity, saying he was also a supporter of Mrs. Clinton, and “I just don’t want to hurt her feelings.”
Neither the reception nor the dinner is limited to Hollywood people; Alan C. Fox, a shopping mall owner and manager in Studio City, Calif., said he had raised about $150,000 from friends in real estate and finance, some already Obama enthusiasts, others skeptical but curious.
The ticket price of $2,300 reflects the maximum individual donation to a federal campaign, and, unlike those behind so many other Hollywood galas, organizers of this one vowed to bar the door to freeloaders, no matter how famous.
“We’ve turned down people who asked to bring a guest,” said Andy Spahn, a political adviser to Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Katzenberg, among other industry people. “There will be no comps. Celebs are writing checks. Everybody’s writing.”