More than six weeks after a wave of Hollywood groups and showbiz figures launched a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, business at the fabled Hollywood-centric properties is off dramatically.
The Beverly Hills Hotel even acknowledges it has seen a “significant loss of revenue” after the boycott gained traction on May 5, when the Motion Picture and Television Fund pulled its annual pre-Oscar Night Before Party from the venue, and Jay Leno, LGBT leaders and women’s rights organizations staged a rally across the street.
The protest is over plans by the hotels’ owner, the sultan of Brunei, to impose Sharia law in his country, with penalties like stoning those in gay relationships, as well as those accused of adultery or extramarital affairs. Brunei’s investment agency controls the Dorchester Collection, parent company of the two hotels.
Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge, ordinarily packed with Hollywood types, was noticeably more sparse over the past week and weekend. One of the only recognizable faces dining there was Eric Close, a co-star on ABC’s “Nashville.” The actor’s publicist, Jill Fritzo, said, “Eric had been traveling, and had no idea about the situation. If he did, he would never have gone.”
Still, Variety has learned that a handful of celebs and other industry players are visiting both iconic hotels, according to workers who are under strict orders not to speak publicly about such sightings. “Some of the regulars are still coming,” confided one inside source.
Though names of specific visitors were provided to this publication, reps for those individuals either denied their clients were continuing to patronize the hotels or did not return phone calls seeking comment.
As previously reported, actors Russell Crowe and Rose McGowan, in support of the hotel’s workers, declared the well-publicized boycott misguided. McGowan even hosted a cocktail reception at the Beverly Hills Hotel last month at the same time she spoke out against the sultan’s policies.
But while these and other entertainment insiders have opted to ignore the protest, there is an ongoing push by its staunchest supporters to continue voicing their objections. The Human Rights Campaign, for instance, has highlighted recent support for the boycott from such figures as Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
Variety has also learned that Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation CEO, and Casey Wasserman, chief exec of Wasserman Media Group, have approached management of the Dorchester Collection to explore potential resolutions to the controversy, and are hoping to engage in a meaningful conversation with the company’s leaders. Reps for Katzenberg and Wasserman, who serve on the MPTF’s board of directors, declined comment.
The boycott started April 17, when the LGBT group the Gill Action Fund announced it was pulling out of a planned conference at the hotel in protest of the sultan’s policies. A parade of other groups — including the Beverly Hills Bar Assn. and the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors — announced they, too, would move events to other locations.
Further, ICM Partners, UTA and WME Entertainment said that their employees would boycott the hotel, and studio chiefs privately said they would not patronize the property.
Dorchester Collection CEO Christopher Cowdray has attempted to counter the boycott with a media blitz and social media campaign, contending it ultimately would hurt the hotel’s employees. The hotel has said it has no plans to lay off any of its 650 employees, and is maintaining their wages and lost tips.
Alexandra Cheney and Justin Kroll contributed to this story.