×

A Davos dispatch

This year, I pulled out of my Los Angeles to New York to Sundance to NATPE routine to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. If my normal travels revolve around the business of stories, Davos was all about issues.

Nestled in a tiny skiing village in the Alps, Davos has become famous as the annual meeting place of political leaders and business moguls, academics and journalists (more the former and less the latter). Over four days, a program of nearly 250 sessions focused on “The Big Issues,” a dozen topics ranging from climate change and poverty to weapons of mass destruction and the global economy.

A select group of entertainment industry players have long been a part of the Davos experience. And this time those players included Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes, producers Sandy Climan and David Puttnam, outgoing FCC chairman Michael Powell, PBS CEO Pat Mitchell and Imax CEO Rich Gelfond.

But the most striking new addition to the Davos mix were artists and celebs — Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, Angelina Jolie, Bono, Peter Gabriel and Lionel Richie, among others.

Increasingly — and not without controversy — Klaus Schwab and the organizers of the WEF have attempted to integrate such folks into the global dialogue. The WEF reached out to Variety to help as a conduit to those cultural leaders. As the thinking goes (and there’s a lot of thinking going on in Davos) artists can provide a perspective that enriches the dialogue about global issues.

Thus, at one session, Bono joined Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Thabo Mbeki and Bill Gates in a discussion about the role of the G-8 in Africa. At another, Stone weighed in with a cash donation that sparked over $1 million in pledges toward the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. And in a moment of odd juxtaposition, Gere and Richie were recognized for their focus on world issues following a stirring address from newly elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko.

Still, not everyone thinks celebrity attendance is a good thing.

Some academics and journalists dismissed the stars as mere window dressing on an already overly splashy affair. They contend that celebs trivialized the event.

Still, who could argue that the global perspective of a Bono, a Gere or a Gabriel isn’t meaningful or doesn’t help galvanize change around the very themes that the Davos forum has established as the big issues? The Davos organizers have made it clear that they are looking for cultural leaders, from whatever provenance, to make a difference.

Artists not only build currency through the stories they tell and the impressions they create, they can evolve into cultural leaders by transcending their scripts or their songs or their novels to authentically tackle issues much bigger than their next contract negotiation.

As for Variety, the participation made sense for us as well. We’re thrilled to be plugged day after day into the business of stories, but the heady air of Davos put us square in the middle of the larger issues. That broadened perspective can only enhance a 100-year-old showbiz brand, just as we hope it influences the policies and practices of the world’s business and political leadership.

More Biz

  • Grammy Awards 60th Annual Grammy Awards,

    Recording Academy Paid Millions Annually to Outside Law Firms

    Among the concerns listed in a memo sent to the Recording Academy’s head of HR by president/CEO Deborah Dugan before she was placed on administrative leave Thursday was an item about the organization’s “exorbitant and unnecessary” legal fees to outside law firms, according to sources familiar with the document. According to the most recent 990 [...]

  • Chuck D of Public EnemyGods of

    Public Enemy’s Chuck D Slams Grammys Over Deborah Dugan Ouster

    Chuck D, frontman of Public Enemy — who are receiving the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Grammys next week — posted a long statement on Instagram criticizing the Recording Academy over its sudden ousting of new president/CEO Deborah Dugan yesterday. Dugan, who had been in the job only five months, was placed on administrative leave after [...]

  • Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons

    Spotify in Talks to Acquire Bill Simmons' The Ringer: Report

    Spotify is in early talks to acquire The Ringer, the digital content and podcast network launched by ESPN alum Bill Simmons in 2016, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. A representative for Spotify declined to comment on the report. Reps for Ringer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spotify’s [...]

  • Deborah Dugan arrives for the 20th

    Deborah Dugan's Recording Academy Ouster Follows Multiple Tussles With Board

    “Change is afoot,” Deborah Dugan said more than once during interviews with Variety in the weeks before her shocking removal from her post as president/CEO of the Recording Academy after just five months on the job. During those conversations, Dugan spoke of changes she planned to make in the Academy’s staffing organization, its Board of [...]

  • Weinstein Trial

    Does Harvey Weinstein's Jury Selection Strategy Make Any Sense?

    Harvey Weinstein’s defense team appeared to have a strategy for jury selection: keep white women off the panel. They didn’t put it that way, because picking jurors based on race or gender is illegal. But on Thursday and again on Friday, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi accused the defense of using its peremptory challenges to systematically exclude [...]

  • Bob Iger

    Bob Iger's Disney Compensation Drops to $47.5 Million in 2019

    Disney chief Bob Iger saw his compensation for 2019 drop to $47.5 million, a 28% decline from his 2018 pay package. Disney’s leader earned $3 million in salary and a $21.8 million bonus, plus another $10 million in stock awards and $9.6 million in stock options, Disney disclosed in the company’s annual proxy filing with [...]

  • Peter Chernin'Spies in Disguise' film premiere,

    Disney and Chernin Entertainment Parting Ways (EXCLUSIVE)

    Disney and Peter Chernin are ending Chernin Entertainment’s long-standing film production deal with 20th Century Fox (recently rebranded to 20th Century Studios), Variety has learned. The split was a mutual and amicable one, driven by the simple fact that Disney rarely brings on third-party partners to finance its feature films. “I have nothing but praise for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content