The Los Angeles Mayoral Race: Hollywood Chooses Sides
This story first appeared in the Oct. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
It seems that Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg are fighting again. The former Disney rivals are backing competing candidates for Los Angeles mayor in a race that is attracting rare attention from Hollywood ahead of the March 5 primary.
City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti, the front-runners among declared candidates, have stepped up their entertainment industry fund-raising efforts to provide a financial firewall if multimillionaire mall developer Rick Caruso enters the race as a self-financed candidate.
Former Disney chairman Eisner is raising money for Garcetti, who sources say will name a Hollywood advisory council, while Greuel enjoys the support of DreamWorks Animation chief Katzenberg as well as his associates Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Historically, Hollywood politicos focus on national contests, not city races, but this time around is different for several reasons -- principally the deep, long-term industry ties cultivated by Greuel, 51, and Garcetti, 41.
By midsummer, both candidates had raised more than $2 million, much of the funds coming from entertainment donors. If, as seems increasingly likely, Caruso enters the race to replace Antonio Villaraigosa, Greuel and Garcetti will tap Hollywood's support as no other mayoral hopefuls ever have.
Greuel, a former DreamWorks executive, enjoys the solid support of her former bosses as well as that of such blue-chip Hollywood names as Roy Disney, Norman and Lyn Lear, writer-producer Roberto Orci and The Hunger Games director Gary Ross. WME's Ari Emanuel, Disney's Alan Horn, former Paramount exec Sherry Lansing, producer Peter Chernin, The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd and Tobey Maguire also are supporters.
Greuel, who has served on the California Film Commission for more than a decade, has been one of the industry's go-to local officials in efforts to make the city's business and tax policies more Hollywood-friendly. When she won the endorsement of IATSE in June, the below-the-line union praised her work to slow runaway production. "Wendy understands our issues because she's lived them," says union vp Mike Miller Jr.
Garcetti, whose district includes Hollywood, has been meeting with supporters in backyards and venues all over town. The result is a network of backers including writer-producer Steven Bochco, actress Salma Hayek and Sony executive Eric Paquette. On Sept. 20, Eisner and his wife, Jane -- whose children attended the Harvard-Westlake School with Garcetti -- hosted a fund-raiser for 150 invited guests at their mansion. Co-hosts included Heather Thomas and Skip Brittenham, designer Diane Von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, and Sony's Michael Lynton and his wife, Jamie. And in early September, Garcetti supporter Jake Gyllenhaal held a raffle in which backers could donate $50 for a chance to attend a private screening of his new film End of Watch, in which the councilman -- in true Hollywood form -- makes a cameo appearance.