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Los Angeles Confidential’s plans to host the first major entertainment industry party inside the Beverly Hills Hotel amid a widespread Hollywood boycott have backfired as its cover star John Legend has backed out of a planned appearance and the Human Rights Campaign has fired off an official letter to the mag’s publisher.
L.A. Confidential had announced last month that it would be hosting a party in the Pink Palace’s Crystal Ballroom (a longtime A-list destination for Hollywood events) on Feb. 5 to celebrate its December/January cover and honor Legend, who is currently nominated for an Oscar for best song for his work with Common on the track “Glory” for the civil rights drama Selma, as well as a Grammy for “All of Me.” The party would be the first notable event held at the BHH since early 2014 when the boycott started following the Sultan of Brunei’s passage of barbaric Sharia Law, which calls for the stoning of gays and adulterers. (Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah owns the BHH and the Hotel Bel-Air through his Dorchester Collection.)
Reached by THR on Monday, the magazine’s publisher Alison Miller said in a statement: “Los Angeles Confidential Magazine is an avid supporter of equal rights for all people. Our decision to hold our event at the hotel in no way suggests that we support any anti-human rights policies.”
A day later, Legend’s rep Amanda Silverman told THR that her client is no longer going. “John Legend will not be attending the L.A. Confidential party at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Thursday, February 5th in light of the horrific anti-women and anti-LGBT policies approved by the hotel’s owner, the Sultan of Brunei. These policies, which among other things could permit women and LGBT Bruneians to be stoned to death, are heinous and certainly don’t represent John’s values or the spirit of the event. John does not, in any way, wish to further enrich the Sultan while he continues to enforce these brutal laws.”
On Wednesday, Miller responded with an additional statement, noting that they the event will go off as planned: “Los Angeles Confidential will move forward with our annual Awards’ Issue celebration at the Beverly Hills Hotel. We respect Mr. Legend’s decision not to attend the event, and believe that each individual, company and organization must make their own decision as to how they communicate their positions on political views, social and civil rights.”
Katherine Nicholls, CEO of L.A. Confidential’s parent company Niche Media Holdings, added that boycotting all companies and hotels with affiliations in countries that “do not share our beliefs would cause serious financial harm and damage to the Los Angeles community, and the American economy.” “Our company’s primary mission is to enhance and celebrate our communities. The Beverly Hills Hotel employs over 650 residents and supports another 4,000 local vendors including sourcing food and provisions from LA area farms. This significantly impacts our community in a positive manner.
Sources tell THR that Legend’s team requested that the party be moved, but that a new location could not be secured in time for the event on Thursday, one of the busiest nights in town leading up to Sunday’s Grammy Awards.
L.A. Confidential had issued a media alert for the party, announcing confirmed celeb attendees including Legend, wife Chrissy Teigen, Common, Ava DuVernay, Diplo, Bastille, Keke Palmer, Paul Oakenfold, Henry Sanders, Evan Ross, Ernie Hudson, Carmen Electra, Ali Landry and the mag’s Miller with editor-in-chief Spencer Beck. It’s unclear how many of these attendees will show in Legend’s absence.
Also unclear is if the magazine had planned the BHH return as a litmus test to see if it was safe to return during what has become a foggy boycott — human rights supporters have steered clear of the BHH in large part, while the Hotel Bel-Air has not seen as much of a dip — that has lost steam in recent months. Sources tell THR that top executives and talent have been spotted at the hotel’s Polo Lounge and Fountain Coffee Shop. The Polo Lounge even ranked in the THR’s recent top 25 of Hollywood’s top Power Lunch spots. (THR was one of many that pulled events from the hotel).
Meanwhile, the HRC issued a letter to Miller on Tuesday, urging the magazine to find a new venue. “We feel strongly that those who support the rights of women and the LGBT community should take their business elsewhere. I write to ask that you reconsider your decision to host an event at the Beverly Hills Hotel, or any hotel owned by the Sultan of Brunei, and join other prominent organizations who have found alternative venues,” HRC global director Ty Cobb writes in the letter, obtained exclusively by THR. “LGBT citizens in many countries around the world remain persistent targets of harassment, arrest, and violence. Though it has long been the case that LGBT Bruneians and LGBT travelers to Brunei are considered criminals for simply being who they are, this decision means that Brunei will soon become the tenth nation that includes the death penalty as an option for ‘punishing’ LGBT people.”
HRC’s Jason Rahlan applauded Legend’s courage in standing in support of human rights of women and LGBT people. “It looks like [L.A. Confidential] chose convenience over courage, and that’s tremendously disappointing. While LA Confidential didn’t follow the leadership of Mr. Legend, we hope that potential guests of the event will,” he said.
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