It was meant to be the summer party of the year, but a new wave of the Delta variant of the coronavirus led former US president Barack Obama to scale down his star-studded birthday plans.
Obama, who turned 60 on Wednesday, was set to host a garden party with a reported 475-person-strong guest list at his $12 million mansion in Martha’s Vineyard island in Massachussetts.
However, according to The New York Times, many of the A-list guests received a call earlier in the week, to be told that they’d been uninvited, because of growing concerns about the spread of the Delta variant.
Curb Your Enthusiasm actor Larry David, and talk show hosts David Letterman and Conan O’Brien were among those who didn’t make the cut, The New York Times reported, while close friend Oprah Winfrey and filmmaker Ava DuVernay pulled out of the party earlier because of Covid-19 concerns.
For those who did make it, however, the bash was a “magical” event, according to guest Chrissy Teigen, who, along with husband John Legend, are known to be close friends of the former president and his wife Michelle Obama.
“Well, that was magical. Goodnight Martha’s Vineyard. I have fallen in love with you hard,” Teigen posted on Sunday, along with a video of herself singing Happy Birthday.
Teigen and Legend also posted images of themselves at the venue, with one photo featuring Pearl, a basset hound they adopted in July.
The menu at the bash included an extensive meat-free selection, co-ordinated by musician Questlove, according to Bloomberg.
Items included Spam musubi, made with Impossible Foods's faux meat and Eat Just’s plant-based eggs. Questlove also created his cheesesteak eggrolls, made using Impossible “beef” and “cheese sauce” from Perfect Day, a start-up in Berkeley, California, that makes animal-free and non-dairy proteins.
In lieu of gifts, Obama encouraged guests to donate to programmes that support young people, such as My Brother's Keeper, which helps young men of colour; the Girls Opportunity Alliance, which empowers adolescent girls around the world; and the Obama Foundation's Global Leadership Programmes, which aims to equip the next generation of emerging leaders, according to USA Today.
Actress Gabrielle Union and her husband, NBA player Dwyane Wade, were also spotted at the event.
"He rang. I answered," Union posted, along with photos of herself and Wade.
Union also posted another photo of the couple in the same location the next day, suggesting that there may have been several events.
Other guests included Bruce Springsteen, who teamed up with the former president earlier this year for a Spotify podcast, as well as Beyonce and her husband Jay Z. The Late Show host Stephen Colbert also attended.
Guests listed by The Daily Mail also include actors Tom Hanks, Bradley Cooper, Don Cheadle and directors Spike Lee and Steven Spielberg. Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder and Alicia Keys were also in attendance.
Grammy-winning musician HER, who made it to Obama's summer playlist this year, was also spotted at the party, which had performances by rapper Common and singer Erykah Badu.
"Happy birthday to the coolest @barackobama what an amazing night!" HER posted on Sunday, along with a video of her and the former president dancing. She deleted the post a few hours later.
Current US President Joe Biden did not attend, but made sure to wish his former boss a happy birthday on Wednesday.
Critics of Obama, especially those from the Republican Party, have slammed the former Democratic president for hosting such a large-scale event.
Republican congressman Jim Jordan, a loyalist of Obama's successor Donald Trump, took to Twitter to joke that "if this was President Trump's birthday" Democrats would be saying "How can someone be so reckless?" or "They're killing people".
Obama's spokesperson Hannah Hankins said the outdoor event was "planned months ago in accordance with all public health guidelines and with Covid safeguards in place".
"Due to the new spread of the Delta variant over the past week, the [former] president and Mrs Obama have decided to significantly scale back the event to include only family and close friends,” Hankins said. “President Obama is appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”