Media landscape pits Red vs. Blue

Book publishers are supposed to be retards when it comes to marketing, but they seem to have all this Blue State-vs.-Red State stuff figured out. There are two utterly divergent constituencies for books, so they’ve mobilized Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich to adorn one bestseller list and Bill Clinton and the anti-Bush polemicists for the other. The strategy is working so well that surely the film and TV mavens can’t be far behind.

Mel Gibson showed everyone how to muscle the Red States, and Mormon filmmakers for years have prospered within their mini-industry. So now that the Red States have their own president, why not give them their movies and TV shows, too?

The hot-button campaign issues may even provide storylines. Wouldn’t they flock to a “Gay Married With Children” — a series about a gay married couple who hate one another? How about “Desperate Anti-Abortion Housewives?” And since “Troy” worked, why not try “Goy,” with Brad Pitt taking on the Crusades?

There’s one entertainment sector that’s surreptitiously shared by both Red and Blue sectors, however: Market expansion of porn in the old Bible Belt, in fact, exceeds that of the coasts, and one of its major purveyors, Adam & Eve, is even nestled in North Carolina.

The only distinction between Red and Blue is this: While porn-watchers on the East and West Coasts have switched to DVDs, the heartland still covets its VHS format. That distinction, perhaps, defines the truly rigid conservative.

* * *

With Michael Ovitz again basking in the spotlight, I was amused to see his former partner, Ron Meyer, hovering anonymously in the corner of a Hollywood restaurant the other day. His familiar battered-jeans-and-wrinkled-T-shirt uniform suggested he’d just come from the gym, but this is office attire in Ronnie-land, which continues to be a very thriving place.

For while Ovitz is still battling his Disney demons of a decade ago, Meyer has quietly prospered under three different owners (and nationalities) as president of Universal. In fact, just about everyone agrees that Meyer continues to be both a good leader and an island of civility amid an industry that’s undergoing grinding change.

Ovitz has now testified that he was undone by the neuroses of Michael Eisner, but his ex-partner managed to endure (and outlast) the even more neurotic and megalomaniacal Jean-Marie Messier. Ovitz was rebuffed by Disney’s entrenched bureaucracy, but Meyer outflanked the horde of consultants and re-engineering wizards unleashed by the Bronfman family.

But then Meyer’s biggest achievement was to endure Ovitz himself for 20 years at CAA. Sure, the money was great, but what was it like to discover that your partner billed a corporate client $45 million for making the proper introductions? Somehow all the various partners who had together started the talent agency ended up working for Ovitz, who managed to control the majority share of ownership.

Meyer is not only a survivor, but he is everyone’s example of a “nice guy.” He manages to return his phone calls, he helps friends in trouble, and there are at least 500 people who regard Meyer as their “best friend.” That’s both a tribute to his tact and also a reminder of how desperately people need friendship.

There are those who criticize Meyer for distancing himself from filmmaking decisions — a shrewd bit of self-protection. Some also used to knock him for looking the other way during CAA’s halcyon days thus ignoring some of Ovitz’s power plays.

When CAA and Variety clashed (which was rather often in those years), Ovitz always designated Meyer as the one to yell at me. I enjoyed yelling back because I knew that he would smile at the entire episode. Which is a key reason why Ron Meyer stands as one of Hollywood’s most enduring leaders, and surely its most good-natured.

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