L.A.’s mayoral candidates court Jews and Hollywood

January 31, 2013

In L.A.’s mayoral race there are two communities to which the candidates are eager to prove their closeness and connection: the Jewish community and Hollywood.

At their second synagogue debate earlier this week at Sinai Temple (the first took place at Beth Jacob on Jan. 3) the bulk of the five mayoral candidates were quick to address their Jewish connection in their opening remarks (watch the full debate here). The cozying up became so obvious, in fact, that when a colleague of mine conducted an interview at the end of the debate the first thing the woman complained about was how much certain candidates “played the Jewish card.”

Yesterday, an email from Eric Garcetti’s campaign boasted that more than 200 entertainment leaders have endorsed the City Councilman, including former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Showtime president David Nevins and Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. Other notable names include Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lions Gate Entertainment, Kevin Huvane, partner at CAA, entertainment entrepreneur Michael Ovitz and sibling showrunners David Kohan (“Will and Grace”) and Jenji Kohan (“Weeds”).

Hollywood seems to be split between the two frontrunners — Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel, who likes to tout her industry cred as a former employee of the “iconic” Dreamworks SKG, the movie studio founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. Greuel worked in corporate affairs for Dreamworks from 1997 to 2002 and easily won endorsements from her former bosses last summer, as well as from J.J. Abrams, Leonard Nimoy and Candy Spelling. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Disney Studios chief Alan Horn and WME superagent Ari Emanuel also gave early endorsements to Greuel.

The subject of Hollywood figured squarely into the debate Tuesday night when Rabbi David Wolpe, the evening’s moderator, asked the candidates what message they had for the entertainment industry.

Bill Boyarsky writes in L.A. Observed:

Wolpe said, “Let’s say you had in front of you the top 500 Hollywood executives. What is it you want to say to them about the movies they make, the city they live in and about the image they give our city and our country to the world? And is it the mayor’s job to monitor, lecture, to uplift, to help shape Los Angeles’ most important industry?”

City Councilman Eric Garcetti offered his usual pitch about giving the industry more tax breaks and other incentives to film in Los Angeles. Similar economic solutions were offered by Controller Wendy Greuel, attorney and former radio talk show host Kevin James and Obama administration transition official Emanuel Pleitez.

Councilwoman Perry seemed to understand that the rabbi had something deeper in mind. She said she had supported legislation to make it easier to make feature film in California, but she quickly moved on: “If we had a room full of executives…from the film industry, I would say this: I would encourage your creativity. I would encourage you to put people in Los Angeles back to work. We have unchecked potential here and I would encourage you to create more apprenticeships, more internships, more opportunities to reach out to young people who may not have the connections or the wherewithal to have a career in the industry and to pull them along with you.

“I’d also say this: ‘Let’s go to the schools, let’s talk to families about the portrayal of violence in movies and how it does desensitize younger people who spend too much time playing violent games on line and then go see it in the movies and remember how it does affect the growth of the next generation.” 

Boyarsky added that he found it “gutty” for Perry to speak so candidly to an industry that “brooks no criticism.” And although she won big on Tuesday night among her mayoral colleagues — each of the four other candidates said that if they weren’t running, they’d vote Perry — she has not managed to secure as many allies in the entertainment industry as Garcetti and Greuel. Perhaps that’s why she has chosen to play up her conversion to Judaism instead.

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