State dinner for Cameron includes musicians and actors from both sides of the pond
The guest list was heavy on celebrities but also included donors to the President's re-election campaign.
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During his dinner toast, Cameron complimented both wives while joking about his Tuesday night out with Obama at a college basketball game in Ohio.Skip to next paragraph
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"We have to have a guys' night out because so often we find we are completely overshadowed by our beautiful wives," the prime minister said.
The White House made sure to save a seat at the table for more than 30 of Obama's top fundraisers — the so-called bundlers who each have helped raise at least $50,000 for the president's re-election effort.
A number of coveted seats went to supporters who have raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama, and at least nine went to donors who have raised more than a half-million dollars for his campaign, according to the AP review. They include Weinstein, New York financier Orin Kramer and Miami public policy consultant Joseph Falk.
Kramer and Falk also have given more than $10,000 apiece to Priorities USA Action, a "super" political action committee supporting Obama's re-election bid. Priorities has struggled to raise the kind of big cash flowing to super PACs supporting Republican candidates, although Obama recently encouraged his supporters to donate to the group.
The Obama campaign said it had no comment on the donor-heavy guest list.
Big names sat at the head table, Clooney included. But also Elaine Brye, an Winona, Ohio, mother of four children serving in the military. Mrs. Obama invited Brye after she wrote to the first lady about her campaign to support military families.
After passing through the White house, guests had the option of walking or taking a trolley to the tent on the South Lawn. And this was no ordinary party tent: The giant structure featured a 150-foot-wide glass wall overlooking the White House grounds.
Even the rich and famous feel the "wow" factor of a state dinner: Actor Idris Elba said it was like visiting Disney World, where "you don't know what to expect next." British Olympic gold medalist Denise Lewis pronounced herself as giddy as a schoolgirl. Richard Branson, who arrived sans spouse, said his wife was "very jealous" to miss it.
Weinstein, a state dinner veteran, said he was thrilled to attend — and thrilled that Obama's seeking re-election. His only complaint about the president: "He's too humble." The man needs to talk up his accomplishments more, Weinstein counseled.
The entire menu was a U.K.-U.S. blend, featuring bison Wellington, using buffalo tenderloin from North Dakota instead of beef. It also included crisped halibut served on braised baby kale from the White House garden. The salad greens, too, came from the White House backyard.
During an afternoon preview event, Mrs. Obama told schoolgirls from the U.S. and the U.K. that the dinner emerges from a "little-bitty kitchen," but that the chefs would have a little extra elbow room Wednesday with the dinner taking place outside.
One tidbit that didn't appear on the extremely detailed menu: the specifics of the "American wine" selections. Without explanation, the White House stopped listing the wines after catching criticism for serving some pricey bottles at earlier state dinners.
Executive chef Cristeta Comerford told the schoolgirls that the garden was a big inspiration for the evening's menu.
"It just came from the backyard, which is kind of cool," she said.
It was one more way to find common ground with the Camerons, who have their own vegetable patch at the official 10 Downing St. residence.
The meal was all about fostering that oft-spoken-of "special relationship" between the U.S. and Britain. And so while the prime minister is not a head of state, making this an "official visit" rather than a "state visit" by the Camerons, the Obamas nonetheless chose to call it a "state dinner," with all of the attendant ceremony and pomp.
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