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Vote Early, Vote Often

The Power of Words fundraiser raises big bucks for Barack Obama.

A golden sun set o'er the Bay out along the tony Gold Coast as Blue State belletrists gathered to raise big bucks (more than $200K) for Sen. Barack Obama.

Organized by authors Ayelet Waldman, Stephen Elliott and Lori Bonn (with an assist from super Dem donor Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis),The Power of Words: A Literary Evening in support of the next President of the United States, Barack Obama was hosted by Robert Mailer Anderson and his wife, Nicola Miner, in their home that Robert righteously dubs, The People's Mansion.

Apropos of that moniker, a pile of free books greeted guests, who arrived in such droves that Robert and Nicola's gracious and modernist manse was SRO, all night long.

Not surprising, as this benefit starred readings by top-shelf writers (Tobias Wolff, Michael Chabon, Anne Lamott, Tamim Ansary, Isabel Allende) as well as top-shelf cocktails (Plymouth Sloe Gin martinis), mixed-up by the master of the house, himself.

Within the rollicking crowd: Mayor Gavin Newsom; Jane and Doug Wolf; actress Connie Nielsen; Susie Tompkins Buell; Billy Getty; Doug and Leslie Frankel; author Tom Barbash; artist Larry Sultan; Jim and Sheryl Reuben; Primus bass player Les Claypool; ACT's Rock and Roll star Manoel Feliciano; Benjamin Au; Bradley and Chris James; sax man Joshua Redman; Stanford University Associate Professor Sean Reardon; Ann Packer and Daniel Lurie and Becca Prowda.

In fact it was so busy at the bar, Mailer Anderson was stuck behind the plank most of the evening mixing up those yummy martinis.

"More important, we all got together and didn't feel so goddamn alone in this election," said Mailer Anderson, author of Boonville and producer-writer of the new film, Pig Hunt. "Normally there would been someone from the Obama camp, or Biden, or something. But it was a testament to the written word that all we have here tonight are writers."


"Tonight is about going back to the roots of our government," said Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, "Bringing together writers and political thinkers."

Her husband, Washington Monthly Publisher Markos Kounalakis agreed: "This election is an exciting time -- it reminds me of Eastern Europe during the sixties when playwrights could become presidents and poets became prime ministers."

The format of this gathering of literary lights was supposed to impose a time limit upon each reading by the authors.

But delivering a mic, the stage and an eager audience to such august authors had Stephen Elliott a bit worried: "It's not easy telling Toby Wolff, whom I know from Stanford and is a hero of mine, 'Just six minutes, man, or I'm coming out with the hook'!"

Ayelet Waldman has organized numerous such literary events for Obama, a friend from their days at law school, and was thrilled with the turnout. She also plans to be in Chicago on election night to cheer on her pal.

"Tonight is a celebration of literature in support of Obama's candidacy," said Ayelet, who delights in the fact that Obama is the most literate and literary politician she knows.

However, Ayelet said there would be no stumping at this soiree: "Some politicians had asked to speak tonight. But we said, 'No'."

But politics were well-represented within in the stacks of colorful Obama T-shirts for sale and pledge forms for those who had yet to pony up.

For the high-rollers, author Amy Tan and crafted her own unique political pins that featured different photos of each of her dogs (past and present) and read Bark Obama.

"I don't know why other dog lovers didn't think of it," said Tan, laughing of her creations. "For me, it was a no-brainer!"

Ayelet introduced Anne Lamott as Crinkle Bear Cap, the name that was created by the kooky Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator, and said she would continue using that moniker for Anne until the election was over.

Lamott, had the crowd in stitches as her reading morphed into a sort of stand-up routine as she described, at length, her great agita and angst over this election and what she could do about it.

"Then I thought, 'Wait, I'm a writer'!"

So she read from her recent and hilarious Salon column about wolves and Gov. Sarah Palin. She also suggested to guests a way they, too, could contribute in small ways.

"Send a check, whatever amount you can afford, to Planned Parenthood in the name of Sarah Palin!"

Opening his reading, Tobias Wolff first pondered: "Wouldn't it be nice to turn on the TV in the morning, see the supreme leader of our country and not be embarrassed?"

Then he mentioned that he was trying to contain his enthusiasm about the election's outcome by following the advice of Ayelet Waldman who, as a Jewish woman, said that her culture believed it was potentially bad luck to be hopeful of a certain outcome.

"So I'm trying to contain my exuberance," said Wolff, wryly, "By channeling my inner Jew."

As the revelry continued long into the night, some in the crowd couldn't help but feel exuberant.

"All political fundraisers should be as fun as this one is," enthused Eleni. "I'm not leaving until they throw me out!"

Political P.S.: Haute haberdasher Wilkes Bashford hosts the Pursuit of Equality: Celebrating a Fundamental Freedom
fundraiser on Friday (Oct. 24, 7 p.m.) at the Bentley Reserve (301 Battery Street) in support of No on Prop. 8.

Co-hosted by filmmaker Geoff Callan and Christopher Bently, the black-tie event features food, fashion, entertainment and toasts by former Mayor Willie Brown, actress Rita Moreno and, of course, Mayor Gavin Newsom. As well as a few nuptial-themed surprises

Hint: Bring some rice, sweetie!