NEW YORK — In a rare moment of corporate revelry, Time Warner’s Richard Parsons and Jeff Bewkes poked unexpected fun at Viacom’s Sumner Redstone and Leslie Moonves during a benefit bash Wednesday eve in Gotham.
But Redstone and Moonves apparently didn’t get the same “funny” memo.
The dinner at the St. Regis Hotel was probably destined to be a battle of egos from the start: The Museum of the Moving Image was honoring both Bewkes, chairman of Time Warner Entertainment & Networks, and Moonves, Viacom co-prexy and CBS topper. On top of that, each had his respective boss in tow to toast him.
TW chief exec Parsons, who just turned 57, relayed to the crowd how the hip Bewkes makes him feel old around the office. He then seized on Redstone, Viacom’s chair-CEO, who will turn 82 later this month.
“At least I’m not Sumner,” said Parsons. “I figure that’s why he’s breaking up his company — to break up the pain.”
With all due respect to Redstone and Moonves, Parsons insisted that Bewkes led HBO to become the most innovative net on TV.
In toasting Moonves, a more serious Redstone — who called Parsons “honey-tongued” — said Moonves was the most creative guy in TV.
Bewkes was an all-out comedian when taking the podium, ribbing Redstone and Moonves for their generous pay packages last year.
“Thanks for buying half of the Time Warner table tonight,” Bewkes said.
Moonves didn’t respond in kind when accepting his kudos from Museum of the Moving Image chair Herb Schlosser.
“My comments won’t be as funny,” Moonves said. “Herb told me to be serious and talk about my career.”
Moonves also conceded defeat to Bewkes: “When I saw that Jeff was going first, I thought, Oh God, I’ll clean his clock.” As it turned out, Bewkes won, Moonves said.
Saucy ‘Sopranos’ comment
Bewkes didn’t reserve his jesting just for the Viacom crew. Noting the presence of “The Sopranos” creator David Chase and series co-star Lorraine Bracco, Bewkes said: “I’m proud of the work they bring to HBO every other year.”
Bewkes also offered a long parable on how he realized by age 10 that he needed to become Jewish if he wanted a career in entertainment.
“By age 12 I was sending soup back in restaurants,” said Bewkes, also noting that he considered Parsons his rabbi.
Outside the event, members of the Writers Guild of America East distributed “Working Harder for Les” materials criticizing Moonves for CBS’ hardball negotiating tactics, which have included removal of about 50 guild-covered jobs and up to a 21% salary cut. Negotiations resumed last week after a monthlong break; current contract expired April 2.
(Dave McNary in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)