South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday for two days of meetings, fund raising and dinners with local community leaders and Hollywood powerbrokers.
Mandela, who was welcomed here three years ago in a series of euphoric celebrations, was greeted quietly at noon on the windy runway of a private aviation company at Los Angeles International Airport.
Awaiting his arrival was a small entourage that included Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and Mayor Richard Riordan, welcoming his first foreign dignitary to the city since taking office. Mandela embraced Waters and chatted with her briefly before stepping into a limousine in a waiting motorcade.
Mandela, who heads the African National Congress, has already made several U.S. stops, arriving here from Chicago on a private Gulfstream jet provided by R.J.R Nabisco Inc. During his tour, Mandela has been accompanied by the ANC's Washington representative and his two daughters and a grandchild.
He has left behind a South Africa embroiled in violence between warring political factions in the townships as the country prepares for free elections scheduled for April.
"We hope his trip here will raise some money and send a lot of love and support back with him, right, Mr. Mayor?" Waters said before Mandela's plane landed.
"Right on!" said Riordan, who downplayed questions about a meeting scheduled for later in the day to criticize his lack of appointments from African-American and Latino communities. He said his appointments eventually would reflect the area's diversity.
Mandela, 74, accompanied by the mayor and Waters, left for his hotel, the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, without talking to reporters. "He's resting. It's a down day," explained Waters before his arrival.
But as it turned out, the day was not all that quiet. Early Thursday evening, Mandela was expected to make a tour of South-Central Los Angeles. Later, he was scheduled to attend a screening at Paramount Pictures of a new film to be released in the fall called "Bopha!" the story of a black policeman in South Africa.
And shortly after arriving at his hotel, Mandela met with Peter Guber, chief executive officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment, who will be host of a private dinner for Mandela tonight.
Among the hundred or so well-heeled guests expected to dine outdoors in the Thalberg Gardens on the Sony lot are Barbra Streisand; TriStar Chairman Mike Medavoy and his wife, Patricia Duff Medavoy; Whoopi Goldberg; Sidney Poitier; director-choreographer Debbie Allen and her husband, Norm Nixon, the former basketball star; former Mayor Tom Bradley, and Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles).
Mandela is expected to talk about the financial needs of the ANC and a nonpartisan American organization, the South Africa Free Election Fund, designed to support free elections in South Africa.
Mandela will start today with a news conference at his hotel, followed by a speech to religious leaders at the First AME Church in the Mid-City area.