Kim Masters: How I Came Up With CAA's 'Young Turks' Label
THR's editor-at-large reveals how she met Michael Ovitz's protege Jay Moloney and gave the power-hungry junior partners a nickname that's stuck for decades.
In my professional life, I have come up with just one term that entered the vernacular of the entertainment industry. That term is the Young Turks, used to describe a handful of junior partners at CAA. Honestly, I assumed it would fade as time passed, but with the publication of Powerhouse, it's clear I was wrong. Bill Murray is among those who use it in the book. I see it in articles about Powerhouse in The New York Times. This is driving me crazy.
This is the origin story: At Premiere, we created what I believe was the first Hollywood power list. We were looking to include some surprises — I think we gave a spot to Alex, the madam of her day. CAA still was a mysterious entity, but some of us had gotten to know Jay Moloney, who I think was 21 at the time. Ovitz — still above dealing with reporters himself then — had dispatched his protege to befriend some of us, no doubt to "handle" us. One of our editors, noting this sign of Ovitzian favor, wanted to give Jay his own line on the power list. I did not love that idea.
Jay was a nice-looking, charismatic guy, but I wasn't buying what he was selling: faux access and flattery. He once told me I could be a great agent. Convincing. I had a colleague, however, who was a lot closer to Jay. He was tired of journalism and wanted a job at a studio. Jay dangled hope he could make that happen. The trouble came when I was working on a story that was an annoyance to CAA, prompting an angry Jay to tell my co-worker that I was a "f—ing pig." My co-worker reported the conversation to me.
I knew it was wrong, but when I talked to Jay soon after that, I told him I didn't mind being called a f—ing pig if only he would give a straightforward answer to a question once in a while. He called my colleague in a rage and told him he was "dead," that he would never work anywhere in Hollywood.
I felt awful. I called Jay and groveled, begging him not to take it out on my friend — who, I noted, was only showing me the type of loyalty that CAA demanded of its agents every day. (Whether Jay relented, I don't know, but my friend eventually got a studio job.)
We try to be objective in journalism, but I admit that this episode, along with a feeling that Jay always was overplaying his hand, was part of my opposition to putting him on the list solo. He also still was a kid; his "power" was derived entirely from Ovitz. As I researched, it became clear the future of CAA belonged not only to Moloney but to the also young Richard Lovett, Kevin Huvane, David O'Connor and Bryan Lourd. (Three still run the place; Jay died in 1999, succumbing to drugs and depression. O'Connor became CEO of Madison Square Garden in 2015.)
So we put the group on the power list. What to call them? I had come from a background reporting on legal affairs, and in law firms it was common to refer to a cadre of hungry junior partners as young Turks. So I borrowed the term — which originally referred to a revolutionary movement in the Ottoman Empire. If I had known it would last for decades, I would have tried to come up with something with a little more edge. (I once joked with O'Connor that I should have called them the "Five Young Greedy Bastards.") But maybe it wouldn't have stuck for so long that it's still in use even today, when neither the Turks, nor I, are as young as we used to be.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.