With all due respect to the role that Hollywood plays in the Los Angeles economy, where was it on the living wage legislation that was passed last week by the City Council?
For that matter, where is it on charter reform? Or on the expansion of Burbank Airport? Or on the inequities in the city of L.A.’s antiquated tax code? Or on funding for the proposed Disney Concert Hall?
In short, where is the entertainment industry that is, the major studios, production companies and ancillary services on most any significant matter of public policy that affects the local economy?
As fragments of L.A.’s business community continue their search for a more unified voice any voice really Hollywood’s non-involvement becomes more noticeable. Unless an issue happens to involve the industry directly, such as studio expansions or a smoother permit process for shooting on location, Hollywood pays scarcely any notice to City Hall.
For too many show business executives, L.A. is made up of just sound stages, fancy restaurants and elegant homes. That “Company Town” perception gets carried around the world, and is especially striking during Academy Awards week when, at least based on news coverage, it would be hard to guess that there is more to L.A. than movie grosses or best-picture nominations.
In fairness, Hollywood’s non-involvement in L.A.’s civic side goes back 50 or more years, to the days when the city’s downtown business interests deliberately chose to leave out the town’s creative types. There were numerous dynamics at work including a strong dose of anti-Semitism among the downtown elite and over time, the “creatives” formed their own clubs, settled in their own communities and did business their own way.
While such blatant exclusion is much less apparent today, the city’s business community remains divided between “the suits” and “the jeans” a curious schism that leaves many of the town’s banking and real estate types about as far removed from Hollywood as they would be in Topeka or Akron.
None of this would matter very much if the L.A. economy were humming or if city government were progressive in its view of business. But if last week’s misguided living wage vote proved anything, it’s that the city’s anti-business reputation remains well-deserved. It also showed how the lobbying efforts of several business groups are of little interest to the liberal-minded Council.
Hollywood’s insulation from the rest of the city is at least getting noticed. Indeed, there appears to be some effort to revive the New Los Angeles Marketing Partnership, the public-private effort known as NewLAMP, by soliciting the support of studio executives starting with News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, who has committed $400,000 to the project.
One specific target of Hollywood’s “creatives” should be NewLAMP’s much-maligned slogan: “Together we’re the best. Los Angeles.” Surely, the world’s dream factory can do better than that.
But NewLAMP is only one small puzzle part. A unified business community requires the participation of all business sectors and that participation must go beyond occasional contributions or lobbying efforts on parochial matters. It’s time for Hollywood’s players to exhibit a real interest in being part of the entire city and not just their affluent enclaves.