President Obama has more than his loaded Hollywood pals to thank for a record-setting $15 million fund-raiser at George Clooney’s house in Studio City, California, last night. Yes, 150 Über-rich supporters ponied up $40,000 apiece to attend the Wolfgang Puck–catered soiree, which took place in a tent on Clooney’s gussied-up basketball court. But the rest of the haul came from tens of thousands of Normals who had sent in donations of as little as $3 for a chance to win a ticket to the ritzy affair. On Monday, Beth Topinka, a science teacher from Manalapan, New Jersey, found out that she was one of those lucky Normals. She and her husband would be flown out to California, put up in a hotel, and invited to rub shoulders with the likes of Clooney, Barbara Streisand, Robert Downey Jr., Billy Crystal, Jack Black, and Tobey Maguire. She had only donated $5, twice, to the Obama campaign.
“The most incredible day of my life,” Topinka told us on the phone as she was heading to the airport this afternoon, just after finishing an interview with Entertainment Tonight. “This kind of thing doesn’t happen in my life.”
We wanted to know what it was like to mingle with some of the world’s most famous actors, but it turns out Topinka was one of the night’s main attractions. “What was really special for us being there was how any celebrities came up to us — you’re not going to believe this — how many celebrities came up to us and said, ‘We want our picture taken with the contest winner!’” she told us. “They were handing their cell phones to, like, other celebrities to have their pictures taken with us.”
Even though Topinka had a personal conversation with President Obama — they discussed “his daughters and his support for science education” — because she is a human with a pulse, it sounds like she was most smitten with Clooney. “The friendliest, nicest, warmest, most charming man on the planet,” she said. And his place wasn’t bad either. “It was gorgeous,” she recalled. “It was so warm and comfortable and a home, you could tell it was really a home.”
It was, Topinka says “the best thing that will ever happen to me, ever,” and in a weird way, she owes it all to Rick Santorum. “Rick Santorum put me over the edge,” she says. “Whenever he irritated me, I would donate to Obama.”