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Vanity Too Fair 

Michael Ovitz ’s gay problem

Wednesday, Jul 3 2002
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BARRY DILLER FOUND IT PATHETIC. RON Meyer considered it foolish. And David Geffen loved it in the way a lion king relishes the kill. The blurry faxed and re-faxed feature article whirred its way around Hollywood last weekend (one mogul even enlisted his wife to send it hither and yon). Officially, the August issue of Vanity Fair doesn’t hit newsstands until next week, but the moguls wanted an early copy before heading for the July Fourth long weekend in Hawaii, followed by the July 9–13 Camp Allen investment conference in Sun Valley. Still, the timing was disconcerting as Gay Pride Month drew to a close. That’s because, no bromide this, Bryan Burrough’s apocalyptic interview with Michael Ovitz consisted of page after page of the one-time most powerful man in Hollywood blaming a “Gay Mafia” for his professional demise and obvious personal dementia. What astonished was not that Ovitz was saying such appalling stuff, rather that Graydon Carter’s magazine didn’t bother to challenge any of it.

Welcome to journalist-as-microphone substituting for journalist-as-skeptic, the print media’s even more embarrassing equivalent of Lisa Myers’ sit-down with Kenneth Lay’s wife — just as bizarre and, in the end,just as unbearable. Inconceivable especially at a time when all business executives, Hollywood or otherwise, can expect to face heated grilling by journalists, Barbarians at the Gate author Burrough abandoned his reputation for hard-hitting reporting and instead became, in Ovitz’s presence, just another Southern gentleman whose courtliness demanded he sit and listen quietly to an eccentric uncle raving about them thar faggots and their friends who are controlling American culture just as the Trilateral Commission controls world commerce.

If Ovitz had ranted about the Jewish Mafia, Vanity Fair would never have floated his allegations without weighting them down with at least a little context for ballast. But since it’s the Gay Mafia, the article just lets Ovitz hang himself (giggle, giggle). What’s next? WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers fingering phone-fetish fiends? The point is not supposed to be just The Get, but The Get It Right.

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In response to the L.A.Weekly’s query, Vanity Fair spokeswoman Beth Kseniak released this statement: “The primary value of the article was in getting Michael Ovitz’s viewpoint. If his views clash with those of others, that’s hardly surprising. Various principals of the story were contacted. Several declined to respond to Ovitz’s comments. The story was thoroughly fact checked.” Actually, the article contains more than 22 non–Gay Mafia factual assertions coming from Ovitz’s mouth that, if investigated, could have been exposed as false.

For instance, the average Hollywood insider knows full well that David Geffen has not always hated Ovitz, but that the Geffen-Ovitz schism dates back to 1982, when Ovitz represented screenwriter Robert Towne, and Geffen and Towne were battling over the movies Personal Best and Greystoke. Or that Michael Eisner didn’t abandon Ovitz at Disney first day out but, because of that peculiar mogul-bred trait of absolute certainty bordering somewhere between obsessiveness and megalomania, the Disney chairman/CEO demonstrated stubborn optimism about Ovitz’s prospects as president longer than any semisane person would have. Or that Ron Meyer didn’t turn on Ovitz because of Geffen’s persistent prodding; it occurred when new MCA owner Edgar Bronfman Jr. walked away from Ovitz’s outrageous CEO compensation demands and ran toward Meyer, only to have Ovitz leak the news to the press to try to queer the deal, thus earning his CAA partner and best friend’s eternal enmity. Or that Livent didn’t represent some piddling investment for Ovitz, because he was not only a board member of a publicly owned corporation but also the chairman of its executive committee and thus responsible to shareholders. Or that Ovitz didn’t just meet the Yorns on his own but was introduced to them by none other than New York financial manager–turned–convicted jailbird Dana Giachetto.

According to sources who talked with Burrough, there also were accusations from Ovitz that VF deemed too offensive to run, targeting any tough journalist as being either in the pay of or in bed with (literally)Hollywood’s powers that be. But those were heterosexual sex charges. Somehow it was okay to print Ovitz’s repeated claims of how Geffen had spread rumors about Ovitz’s family and “went after” Ovitz’s kids, and, get this one from Ovitz, if Geffen’s cabal “could have taken my wife and kids, they would have.” It’s not inconceivable to see an alarming subtext that homosexuals are predators or, worse, pederasts or priests (Ovitz does draw that direct connection, saying Geffen “is totally immoral, and he paints himself like this priest”). For that matter, the Gay Mafia can’t be blamed for Ovitz’s many other much-ballyhooed failures, from losing what he promised was an in-the-bag NFL franchise for Los Angeles, to falling behind on that $25 million pledge made back in 1997 to UCLA Medical Center, to failing a Canal Plus audit of his APG production company, which proved the death knell for his entertainment career.

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