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Stars For Obama

By Mike Szymanski

An unprecedented bizarrely-diverse list of celebrities has thrown their endorsements toward Barack Obama. Hollywood celebrities who have once voted Republican, some who have once supported the Clintons and those who have never voted ever before are all now lining up to push for the first African-American president.

From an African American U.S. president on TV (Dennis Haysbert from "24") to an African American who actually ran for U.S. president (Rev. Jesse Jackson); from the alien Vulcan Mr. Spock from "Star Trek" (Leonard Nimoy) to "Friends" cutie Jennifer Anniston; from the first Willie Wonka (Gene Wilder) to the latest Superman (Brandon Routh from "Superman Returns"), from hairstylist Vidal Sassoon to "Spider-Man" star Tobey Maguire who has never combed his hair it seems—all support Obama.

That support runs the gamut. Funny guys like "Bad Company" Chris Rock, Zach Braff from "Scrubs," "The Nutty Professor" Eddie Murphy and "Zoolander" Ben Stiller are among his backers. On the more serious side, Alfre Woodard (who was nominated for an Oscar for "Cross Creek"), Robert De Niro ("You talkin' to me?") and Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne (both nominated for their Ike and Tina Turner roles in "What's Love Got to Do With It") are enamored by Barack.

Woodard hosted a recent house party for 250 women in her posh Brentwood neighborhood near Beverly Hills, Calif. and compared Obama to a new mixed drink. "It's like when you go get a drink you get a Coke because you don't know any better. Well, if you take orange juice and mix it with a little seltzer you get then same effect and it's good for you. And that's Obama — he's good for this country, they just may not know it yet."

Just the musical range of endorsers show the politician's range of appeal. From 1960's protest singer Joan Baez to the Dave Miller Band, from Nas and Jay-Z to Wyclef Jean and Beyonce, as well as Usher, Harry Connick Jr. and 50 Cent; blues, rap, hip-hop, rock, pop, easy listening—they've all expressed support for Obama.

Also, OK Go to former members of the Grateful Dead have had Obama-gasms over the candidate after they've heard him speak.

Wyclef Jean hip-hopped about Obama during the Grammys saying the crowd was moved "just like Obama" and rapper Common said in a song "Why don't we impeach Bush and elect Obama?" And rapper Nas says simply, "Obama is an exciting cat."

Multiple Grammy winner John Legend said, "Part of the joy of this campaign is the tremendous amount of positive creativity it has inspired. I think this contest is a powerful way for ordinary citizens to be involved in an extraordinary moment in our history. I'm thrilled to be a part of it."

Jazz legend Herbie Hancock sings in a music video with actress Scarlett Johansson in a music video created by Will i. am from the Black Eyed Peas. Will said he was moved by an Obama speech "that touched my inner core like nothing in a very long time."

If a candidate is worth his weight in gold, then the golden Academy statuettes certainly weigh heavy for Obama. Two-time Oscar winners back Barack such as Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, De Niro and Jane Fonda as well as three-time winner, director Oliver Stone. Others with Academy Awards like Halle Berry, Forest Whitaker, Morgan Freeman, George Clooney and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are among his supporters.

"He has already proven himself to be the most galvanizing leader to come out of either party in my opinion in at least a decade and a half, if not more," Affleck said when introducing Obama at one rally. "He is very, very likely—though good luck in getting him or anyone else to say so—at one point, eventually down the road, at some point, in my opinion and many others, the future of this country."

While a lot of establishment in Hollywood back Hillary Clinton, such as Steven Spielberg, Jack Nichols, Barbra Streisand and Madonna, the younger hipper and edgier crowd back Barack. Hollywood mogul and former Clinton supporter David Geffen surprised everyone when he backed Barack early on in the campaign. Will Smith, Chris Rock and Branford Marsalis have donated $4,600 to his campaign while Ed Norton, Brooke Shields, Isaiah Washington, Tyra Banks and John Cleese are among the $2,300 donors. Hill Harper from "CSI: NY," who knew Obama for 17 years when they attended Harvard Law School together, is also a major donor.

Halley Berry was shaky when she first met Obama in Philadelphia and gushed, "I'll do whatever he says to do. I'll collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear."

His appeal is very cross-cultural as well, with celebrities such as Kal Penn with immigrant parents from India, Asian star Kelly Hu, Latino star Adam Rodriquez, and many others.

Emilio Estevez, who just directed "Bobby" about the Robert F. Kennedy, said "We need to do something to inspire the young people to re-engage, and I think it's going to take somebody who is charismatic, who speaks from his heart and who is not afraid to, you know, flub. Barack Obama, I think, has a ton of potential."

Sharon Stone added, "Obama understands that we are a multicultural, multiparty nation. He tries to think of us as a 'united' states."

He's also scored with the sports world. Basketball star Charles Barclay proclaims, "He would make a fantastic president" while legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar met Obama and said, "I was very impressed with his knowledge of the issues and the fact that throughout his lifetime he has been a consensus builder and someone who can build bridges to different segments of America society. I think that's something we need at this point."

In Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's household, his Kennedy-related wife Maria Shriver is an Obama fan, and his daughter, who will vote for the first time, also backs the candidate.

No one perhaps has had more affect on Obama's campaign than Oprah Winfrey, who touches the mainstream housewife more than any other talk show host. Winfrey admitted voting for a few Republicans in the past, but has been bowled over by Obama. "I think his sense of hope and optimism for this country and what is possible for the United States is the kind of thing that I would like to get behind," she said. Media pundit Bill Carroll of Katz Television summed up: "She's unbelievably influential." And a University of Southern California professor, Steve Ross, who's writing a book about the power of celebrity endorsements, said, "Her reputation as an activist and a serious, thoughtful person is much greater than any other movie star." Most importantly, Oprah could touch the more than one-third of the population (36 percent) who didn't turn out to vote in the last presidential race. "If she increased turnout by just one percentage point in key states that could swing an election. That's why Oprah's endorsement is different."

But for all the celebrity endorsements, even a few of his backers are skeptical. Always outspoken Fiddy, 50 Cent, is an Obama supporter, but also said, "I just think there's people that might not be ready for an African-American president. It'll be an issue, believe it or not."

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