By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Sometimes the veneer of überpoliteness breaks down. I recall when Geffen participated in a digital-barbarians-at-the-gate discussion that was slickly moderated by then–Intel Corp. chairman Andy Grove. “What am I doing on this panel? I don’t know anything about technology,” Geffen griped, seated alongside Idei, Murdoch, Diller, Bronfman and departed FCC chairman Reed Hundt. Or the time Diller began a sentence with “My intuition .?.?.” and Grove sputtered, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of your grand intuition, Barry.” This stuff might sound polite, but in that rarefied air it’s the equivalent of farting in public.
I called 1999’s gathering That Summer of Surrender, when the ultimate bastion of mogul machismo finally bowed to political correctness by opening up to women and African-Americans for two unprecedented discussions, led by Dick Parsons and Diane Von Furstenberg (Diller’s wife). Though Allen defensively claimed there was no barrier, the fact is that, prior to this, no African-American and only one woman (Jill Barad, of Mattel) had been invited to deliver one of the presentations. (Though Furstenberg’s “Women and Business” panel was scheduled as the confab’s last official business, leaving plenty of time to skip out and make it back to L.A. for lunch.) There were also a few years when Fortune 500 stalwarts like Gillette and Heinz were welcomed. Entertainment execs whined how Camp Allen wasn’t even exclusive to media moguls anymore.
Camp Allen is, in the end, about making money. Not to get too historical, but this is, after all, where Warren Buffett suggested that Disney’s Michael Eisner and Capital Cities/ABC’s Tom Murphy might get together, where Rupert Murdoch began chatting with Ron Perelman and ended up with New World, where a tennis game between Turner Broadcasting’s Scott Sassa and Castle Rock’s Alan Horn put them in business together. But while the top execs of these companies stuffed their pockets, their shareholders got screwed. So many of these infotainment mergers looked good on paper but turned ugly within years.
At Friday night’s roast, the favorite camp event, Allen & Co.’s head institutional salesman Jack Schneider hands out Camp Allen’s equivalent of the Dubious Achievements awards. One year, ICM’s Jeff Berg inherited Mike Ovitz’s “biggest prick in Hollywood” award (they gave him a dildo) while recently fired entertainment executives were given “Will Work for Food” sandwich boards. Another time, Bill Gates was given his very own look-alike Ken doll, complete with eyeglasses and clutching a roll of real $100 bills. Buffett serenaded Allen on his banjo. And a huge Pepsi bottle with a big, fat rubber rodent inside was awarded to Coke chairman Roberto Goizueta.
As for this year’s Camp Allen, the real rats are telling their staffs to file flight plans to their own not-so-private Idaho.
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