Jay Leno Among Sultan of Brunei Protesters at Beverly Hills Hotel

Jay Leno attends a protest at
David McNew/Getty Images

As it is embattled with a growing list of prominent organizations dropping out of events, the Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday faced the public spectacle of a protest across the street as entertainment figures and political leaders rallied against a harsh Islamic code imposed by the sultan of Brunei, who owns the fabled venue as well as other prominent tony hotels.

“What year is this? 1814? Come on people, it’s 2014,” said Jay Leno, before some four dozen protesters with banners directed at the Sultan, including one that read, “Seriously, dude?”

The harsher laws are being rolled out in phases, but many of the organizations present at the protest were particularly concerned with plans to implement laws that include the stoning to death those found to commit adultery or in same-sex relationships.

“Evil flourishes when good people do nothing, and that is pretty much what this is,” Leno said at the rally, adding that the issue should hardly be divisive but was a matter of “common sense.”

“This is not complicated. These are not crazy left-wing wacko people,” he said.

On Monday, the Motion Picture & Television Fund — one of the most popular gatherings of the year — announced that it was pulling out of the hotel for next year’s event. Organizers said that they “cannot condone or tolerate these harsh and repressive laws and as a result support a business owned by the sultan of Brunei or a Brunei sovereign fund associated with the government of Brunei.”

At the rally speakers that condemned the Sultan included Leno, wife Mavis, the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Kathy Spillar and Eleanor Smeal, labor activist Dolores Huerta and Lorri Jean of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. The event was held at Will Rogers Park, just across the street from the hotel, with speakers set up before a bank of a dozen news cameras and with the hotel’s iconic logo as a backdrop.

“Every person who takes freedom for granted is going to wake up one morning without them,” said Mavis Leno, who led a campaign in the 1990s to raise awareness about the plight of Afghan women during the Taliban regime.

Last week, the Feminist Majority Foundation dropped plans to stage an awards event at the hotel on Monday evening, and the Human Rights Campaign called for a number of organizations to pull their plans for the hotel this month.

Mavis Leno said that she has been spreading the word to friends about the sultan’s plans. She said that she called Barbara Davis to inform her, but Davis had already cancelled plans to hold a woman’s luncheon tied to her annual Carousel Ball charity event.

Leno said she learned of the sultan’s policies from director Rob Reiner, and she then immediately informed the Feminist Majority Foundation, knowing it had an upcoming event scheduled there.

The hotel stands to take a big economic hit from the exiting of groups, and perhaps individuals who frequented the Polo Lounge and other places that have long been part of industry lore.

The Beverly Hills City Council is to take up a resolution on Tuesday night calling on Brunei to divest its ownership in the hotel. Jean said that requests are being made for the Los Angeles City Council to take up a similar resolution.

The boycott has put the hotel and its parent company, the Dorchester Collection, in the spot of insisting that they stand for values of equality and inclusiveness, while not directly addressing the views of its owner. In fact, three executives from the hotel delivered water and pastries to the protesters, and delivered an official statement from the chain.

“While we recognize people’s concerns, we believe this boycott should not be directed to our hotels and dedicated employees,” the Dorchester Collection said in a statement. “The economic impact of this not only affects our loyal team members but extends to the local community, our valued partners and suppliers.”

The hotel chain also includes the Bel-Air Hotel, also the target of a boycott.

The protesters said that their action was just starting, and it would not be limited to Los Angeles. Richard Branson on Monday tweeted that he was pulling any of his Virgin company business from Dorchester Hotels.

Jay Leno and others at the rally said that their attention was on the sultan, not the hotel, but that the boycott was a way to exert economic pressure. “We have no beef with this hotel,” Spiller said. “We have a real beef with the sultan of Brunei.”

Leno, in fact, saw similarities to another recent civil-rights furor.

“Let’s put it in perspective,” Leno said. “The people in the Beverly Hills Hotel are the Clippers. The sultan is Sterling.”

Update: The hotel issued a statement responding to the departure of the Motion Picture and Television Fund.

“The Motion Picture and Television Fund has been such a valued partner of the Beverly Hills Hotel for the past 12 years, and we have greatly appreciated our long standing association with this beloved charitable institution. We have been proud to support their valiant efforts to sustain programs and services to benefit industry members in times of need, and we will continue to do so in any way we can.

“It is our sincere hope that we will have the opportunity to partner with the Motion Picture and Television Fund again and reestablish the strong collaboration that we have enjoyed for over a decade. Until then, we will continue to treasure and maintain our century-old ties to the Hollywood community, and remain committed to our core values of integrity, equality and diversity.”


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  1. Be AFRAID all Americans in the USA he might buy our country. Women and Gays will be stoned to death by his own degree. Please do not let the the Sultan of Brunei buy even a small broken stone. Or anything at all in America. He is not innocent at all. He should suffer at the hands of the people he HATES. That would be justice severed. His motto “Do as I say not as I do”!!!!!!!!!

  2. rick bradner says:

    – and for those of you thinking of travelling overseas; in addition to the The Beverly Hills Hotel a few other establishments to avoid:

    The Dorchester, London
    45 Park Lane, London
    Coworth Park, Ascot
    Le Meurice, Paris
    Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris
    Le Richemond, Geneva
    Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan
    Hotel Eden, Rome
    Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles

  3. Rich Fettig says:

    you are a FOOL or just a friggin troll either way you are an IDIOT of major proportions

  4. Sharon Hodges says:

    seriously dude? Grow up and join the human race.

  5. Sharon Hodges says:

    Thank you Jay. Those of us who have been working against the Sharia Law agenda, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

  6. ME says:

    it is funny how we human react to what happened.. they said its about right.. but they forgot about the “RIGHT” thing to do as a human being.. i wonder what will happen to the next generation.. how can “they” reproduce.. i thought people nowadays are sooo intelligent and brilliant to think.. since they figure out “how to reproduce” providing with scientific explaination.. if your talking about right… its their own right to implement the law.. and i think they did the right thing.. because that is how a REAL human think of what RIGHT thing to do in life.. if you think that your good enough to let them do the “destruction” by letting them do the “unright” “unusual” “”awkward” “unhealthy” relationship.. then you are more evil than Brunei.. why dont you do the same thing to other MORE IMPORTANT than this? emmm maybe you guys forgot.. there’s a bombing and killing of people especially children in syria, palestine.. now tell me… where does your spirit gone to boycott and fight back for their RIGHTS to LIVE??

  7. Filmlover23 says:

    About time Hollywood noticed the horrible inequality and barbaric practices we support with our oil money. Drill here and let’s end the power of these tyrants and their “religion” that is so far from the freedom and equality we enjoy under our constitution.

  8. K Plan says:

    Um…yeah, this hotel is a drop in the Sultan’s bucket and the protest shows nothing more than a misguided attempt by my ill-informed fellow Americans to do good when, as the hotel itself has stated, the only people they’re hurting are the minimum wage workers who depend upon their tips and the now-cancelled special events at this hotel. Good work, morons.

    • Sharon Hodges says:

      Do you have a better idea? When they publish of list of the Middle East corporations associated with human atrocity, we can boycott them too. The Beverly Hills Hotel didn’t exactly put a sign on their front lawn that the money spent in this hotel will go to perpetrate human atrocities. Dude.

  9. Jay & Mavis Leno are to be commended for their appearance here, as should the beautiful actress Francis Fisher. Mavis is in the board of “The Feminist Majority. None of them just showed up so say they were there then left. They all made impassioned speeches & inspired everyone there to be even more impassioned about speaking out against this hideous action by a hideous man. Or will we see history being repeated? If so, who’s next? I was there & I’m very pleased to be part of an action against the killing of innocent people by this crazy, power happy little man in funny clothes who obviously needs to be stopped in his tracks. Never say “It can’t happen here”, because it can!

    • Abdul Hakiim says:

      I am Bruneian and the Americans (and other country’s) have no right to meddle with our countries decision on implementing this law, please focus on your country’s poor healthcare and poverty problem, we have been patient enough with your country’s actions of invading middle eastern countries and draining them of their oil resources. There is a bigger picture to be looked at in your country rather than being nosey about other countries, you hypocrite ignorant baffoon.

      • David says:

        First, they are exercising their democratic right to assemble and exercise free speech. Something you would know nothing about because you live in what amounts to a dictatorship. The only reason you are amenable and supplicated is because the Sultan throws a bit of the oil money towards the people of Brunei. The vast majority of Bruneians do not want this law but are afraid to speak up, and with good reason. For it is illegal to even speak ill of the Sultan, let alone question his rule. If the Sultan wants to implement this ridicuous and barbaric (in the eyes of the free world) system then he must be prepared for the backlash that will ensue from his holdings in that free part of the world that he chooses to invest in. You can’t have it both ways. The Sultan is free to sell his stake in the hotels and build some in other Sharia Law countries. Hopefully they are more profitable than the ridiculous Empire Hotel in Brunei.

      • Sharon Hodges says:

        Dude, Mr. Bruneian, you have the luxury of posting on Variety, unlike your fellow citizens having their hands chopped off for stealing food.

  10. Jean Porgal says:

    Thank you, Jay and Mavis Leno, for your work against such wrongs. It is nice to know that the people have your support

  11. Chris Lucas says:

    Good for Jay Leno! Right on!
    — A David Letterman fan

    • A Fan says:

      Way to go, Jay Leno!

      • K Plan says:

        “way to go” for what? This protest is misdirected and does little to the sultan’s bottom line, but it could cause several of the poorly paid (i.e., minimum wage) employees to miss rent or be unable to pay bills. Yeahhhh, way to go.

  12. KC says:

    I hear the swans at the Bel-Air Hotel are holding picket signs.

  13. CQ says:

    I am absolutely for one man, one woman marriages and always will be, but I would absolutely NEVER condone the stoning of homosexuals or any other human beings, nor support ANY businesses linked to such behavior. It is barbaric and wrong

    • Arthur says:

      What? Seriously, Dude? CQ, how brave of you to take a stand against stoning. You must be feeling good about yourself. But you know what else is barbaric? Your position on marriage.

  14. Amstad says:

    I am certainly pro-business, but what the Sultan is doing is evil, and my company will no longer do business witht eh Dorchester group until this is corrected.

  15. Kevin says:

    So you think you can buy people with water and pastries . Get it together. Tolerance is at a all time high

  16. Dave W says:

    Every single comment so far misses the point of the promoting of a boycott of the Sultan’s properties in the U.S. I seriously doubt anyone involved expects the Sultan to change his 8th century laws at home; if he wishes to apply barbaric medieval thinking to his countrymen he has the right as the Sultan, but he needs to understand the rest of the world also has the right to sit in judgement. Hitting him hard in the wallet at least holds the possibility that he will choose to sell his U.S. properties to an entity not so antithetical to the values on which the United States was founded.

    • K Plan says:

      I agree the sultan and these laws are barbaric, but all this protest does is hurt the hotel employees.

    • Dave W says:

      The beginning of my comment no longer applies, as two of the comments I referenced have been removed. GKN’s comment is a reply to a comment that’s been removed.

  17. GKN says:

    Stoning homosexuals or adulterers to DEATH shows ‘a strong moral code’ in your book? I guess we all know what book that is. I wish an affair with a married Arab woman on you! If you survive, it might cure you of bronze age morals.

  18. “Evil flourishes when good people do nothing,” I am rather glad to see this occurring. It’s an opportunity to draw a line in the sand, finally. Leno for more than 20 years tolerated and promoted just about anything that promoted the decline of morality and class. To see him pitted against a country that does have a strong moral code is interesting..

    • LL says:

      Yeah, now all of a sudden, Leno is a hero. He’ll likely cost low-wage employees their jobs and do nothing but get his big jaw in the news.

    • Simon says:

      The day that Jay hosted the devil’s birthday party in Transylvania was the last straw.

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