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This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Candidates for Los Angeles mayor usually do their fundraising at backyard barbecues or in downtown’s paneled private clubs. This time around, it’s a Moby concert and Soho House parties.
The mayoral race suddenly is pitting mogul against mogul, agent against agent. The two front-runners ahead of the March 5 primary — City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel — have deep ties to entertainment.
“If you have a heartbeat in Hollywood, you have been approached about donating to Wendy or Eric,” says UTA’s Jay Sures, a backer of Greuel, 51. “It is splitting the town. I’ve sent out invites to fundraisers on more than one occasion and received responses that said: ‘So sorry. I’m on the other side.’ “
Greuel’s industry roots date to her pre-politics career as an executive at DreamWorks, a connection that has won her the support of Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen as well as newer fans Ron Meyer, Tom Hanks and Haim Saban. But Garcetti, 42, has won praise for his representation of the Hollywood area and his advocacy for entertainment labor groups and tax incentives.
“He really cares about making a difference,” says Salma Hayek, who is endorsing Garcetti along with Michael Eisner, Showtime’s David Nevins, attorney Kenneth Ziffren and Michael Ovitz. Jamie Lee Curtis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kevin Spacey, CAA’s Kevin Huvane, UTA’s Jim Berkus and Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer also are among his supporters. Sony’s Eric Paquette is Garcetti’s campaign finance director and calls his candidate “the strongest advocate for our industry.”
With that type of interest in the campaign, Hollywood contributions have reached the $1 million mark, which most observers think is a record. And more is coming: Sures and his wife, interior designer Molly Isaksen, will co-host a Greuel fundraiser at their historic home — the Fred MacMurray house in Brentwood — with UTA’s Jeremy Zimmer and Jeremy Barber on February 25. CAA agent Michael Kives and consultant Noah Mamet, will co-host a Greuel fundraiser at Soho House on Feb. 11 with J.J. Abrams and wife Katie McGrath, Zooey Deschanel, Chelsea Handler, Tobey Maguire, Kate Hudson, CAA’s Bryan Lourd and Sarah Silverman.
On Feb. 7, Moby, Will Ferrell and Jimmy Kimmel will headline a Garcetti event at The Fonda Theatre in Hollywood. Neither Garcetti nor Greuel is likely to win more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, which means — if they finish one-two as expected — they’ll compete in a runoff scheduled for May 21.
Why such activism in a race in which most industry donors typically don’t involve themselves? Mamet, a member of Greuel’s finance committee, believes that “coming off a historic re-election for president, many Hollywood celebrities who are politically active see the mayor’s race as the next opportunity to make a difference.”
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