Politics & Policy

Protesting the Polo Lounge

Celebs boycott the sultan of Brunei’s hotel, but what about all the other “oil money” in Hollywood?

It’s hard not to feel a pang of sympathy for anyone who is being boycotted by Hollywood: Republicans, evangelicals, fur trappers, and the folks working hard to keep our rain forests clear of trees. But in the case of the sultan of Brunei, the moviemakers have a point. The sultan is trying to introduce sharia law into his country, including the stoning of gays and lesbians and adulterers. The outraged and beautiful have decided to boycott his Beverly Hills Hotel — a protest starring, among others, Ellen DeGeneres, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Jay Leno — and it’s having a remarkable effect. Where once the Pink Palace buzzed with stars signing contracts, it is now deathly quiet. In one week, receipts dropped by $2 million.

But even when Hollywood gets it right, it still gets it slightly wrong. As I argue in my new book, Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics, movieland politics is often blighted by self-delusion and ego. For starters, this is an incredibly elitist protest. The vast majority of Angelinos “boycott” the Beverly Hills Hotel because they can’t afford to eat there. Indeed, if any local jihadist wanted to visit the Bev to show solidarity with the sultan, one can imagine him sitting down militantly, reading a menu and then — upon discovering the prices — quietly asking for a glass of tap water and some complimentary nuts.

Then there is the issue of hypocrisy. As Ben Shapiro asks, why not also boycott the Hotel Bel-Air (owned by Brunei), the Four Seasons Hotels (co-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed and Bill Gates), or the Fairmont Hotels (co-owned by Alwaleed)? Presumably movie companies such as Warner, Universal, and Paramount will be severing their ties with the United Arab Emirates, where an act of sodomy can get you 14 years. As S. E. Cupp points out, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was filmed in Dubai; Jennifer Lopez performed there in March; George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and the Kardashians have all been guests of the Emirates.

Movie stars aren’t the only ones suffering from memory loss or moral myopia. Last year, Qatar was one of several nations that proposed introducing a “gay test” to keep homosexuals out of the country. Yet famous environmentalist Al Gore no doubt made a lot of money when he sold his Current TV network to Al Jazeera, the cable channel funded in part by oil-rich Qatar. Al Gore may well endorse gay marriage, but I can assure him that his business partners do not. Likewise, the man whom Beverly Hills Hotel has hired to run damage control is not — as leftists might expect — some Bible-thumping Republican but instead Mark Fabiani, a former Clinton aide who worked on Al Gore’s failed presidential bid. When it comes to politics, Hollywood is a small town.

Leftists and moviemakers sometimes forget that they are capitalists, too — and that when they take part in the global marketplace, they, too, will get their fingers stained by oil money, no matter how progressive their politics. Ah, but Hollywood likes to imagine that it is somehow cleaner than the rest of us and that its pure intentions wash away all sins. It also likes to assume that it’s more important, that it can change the world by refusing to have a martini at the Polo Lounge. Of course, not being seen there is also — perversely — a great way of being talked about more.

It’s not news that political activism, for many Tinseltown celebs, fulfills a desperate need for attention. When Obama visited Hollywood last week, Kim Kardashian did her best to make his acquaintance. Apparently, the “lackey” she sent to arrange a meeting with Obama was advised to “pound sand” by the Secret Service. “Kim was let down and disappointed,” a source told The Hollywood Gossip. “She didn’t understand why she just couldn’t say hello to him. Ever since landing the Vogue cover, her ego is even more out of control.” It seems that Kim also made a play for a role in the 2012 election, and Obama spurned that offer, too.

What does Comrade Kim think about the Beverly Hills Hotel? Well, it seems that she was supposed to have her surprise bridal shower there, but it was moved elsewhere instead at the last minute. (Never mind how much of a surprise it could really have been if the press knew all about it — another intimate Hollywood moment captured by E!) But has Kim forgotten her trips to the Emirates? In 2011, she went there to unveil the world’s most expensive milkshake. The Kim Shake is reportedly both very rich and very thick. No further comment necessary.

Tim Stanley is a leader writer and columnist for the Daily Telegraph.


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