In Concerted Effort, Kerry Pulls In Big Names, Big Bucks

Times Staff Writers

John F. Kerry’s presidential caravan rolled from San Diego to Los Angeles on Tuesday in search of cash, but the Democratic presidential hopeful needed to stop at the homes of just one man to fatten his campaign wallet considerably.

That’s because investment banker and one-time Ralphs supermarket mogul Ron Burkle invited a lot of his wealthy friends in to meet Kerry, first at his palatial beach home in La Jolla for a luncheon, then at his hillside mansion in Beverly Hills for a night of music and politics.

The total take: an estimated $3 million.

In La Jolla, about 400 supporters contributed from $500 to $2,000 each, according to the campaign. The luminaries included former California Gov. Gray Davis and former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who welcomed Kerry to the luncheon under an expansive white tent. The event raised an estimated $500,000 for the candidate.


Kerry and his entourage flew to Los Angeles after the luncheon.

At Burkle’s home in Beverly Hills, the media was herded into a small patio as the glitterati began to arrive.

First came Paramount Motion Picture Group Chairwoman Sherry Lansing and Larry David, savant behind “Seinfeld” and creator and star of the HBO hit series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Barbra Streisand and husband James Brolin were also hurried inside before most of the guests arrived.

Others in attendance were fashion designer Tom Ford, Academy Award-winning composer John Williams and singer James Taylor and his wife, Kim. Williams said he had known Kerry since he first went to Massachusetts to conduct the Boston Pops in 1979.

By the time Los Angeles City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa took the stage at 8 p.m. to get the official program started, the crowd had swelled to well over 1,500.

Some guests complained about the tardiness in getting the event underway, but most seemed pleased to be there.

Actress Rhea Perlman, standing with husband Danny DeVito, summed up the feelings of many in the crowd.


“I really think he is going to do a great job as president,” she said of Kerry. “We really need someone in there who is willing to make those tough decisions.”

The gala, which cost a minimum of $1,000 per ticket, ballooned from an expected 750 guests. Organizers said that was because of the antipathy for Bush and enthusiasm for Kerry in Hollywood and around the country.

Guests were taken by bus to the mansion. In addition to hearing Kerry speak, the crowd heard Taylor sing some of his old-time favorites such as “Fire and Rain,” “Carolina in My Mind,” and “You’ve Got a Friend.”

Others making the scene at Burkle’s lush five-acre compound, built in 1927 by silent screen star Harold Lloyd, were Hollywood’s Jennifer Aniston, Jason Alexander, Lucy Liu, Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Christina Applegate, Oliver Stone, Dustin Hoffman and Anjelica Huston and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown.

The total take from the two-day campaign swing through California promised to come in at close to $6 million. The events at the Burkle homes also raised about $1 million for the Democratic National Committee, officials said.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and I have never seen anything like this before,” said Kerry’s finance chairman, Louis Susman.


But Kerry needs to gather money like no Democrat has before. The Republican incumbent plans on spending a record $200 million, or more.

Kerry’s remarks at the evening event were much like those in La Jolla.

In his half-hour speech, Kerry first treated his donors to a joke on the theme of the day -- spiraling gas prices. He quipped that the price at the pump has risen so high that even billionaire Burkle “may have to start carpooling to work.”

“Today, we are raising a record amount of money in San Diego and in California, but more importantly, we are coming together from all walks of life to set this great country of ours back on track and to reclaim our democracy again,” Kerry said. “We are here to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush presidency.”

Kerry covered a number of his campaign topics, including his disdain for President Bush’s tax cuts for those who make more than $200,000 a year. Kerry said he would roll back those tax breaks for the wealthy to trim the deficit and pay for better education and health programs.

Kerry ended the speech, as he has in recent days, by recalling that he returned from one of his Navy tours in Vietnam just in time to hear of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

Kerry cited Kennedy’s invocation of George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not.?’ ”