It's the "Gay Mafia."
Okay, so they're not all gay (and for that matter, they're not really a mafia), but Industry tongues are wagging this week over a bitter, straight-talking interview Ovitz has given to Vanity Fair magazine, in which he proclaims he's through with Hollywood and blames a so-called "Gay Mafia"--led by David Geffen and others--for effectively booting him out of town.
"I know how hard it is for people to see me as a victim," Ovitz says, "but in this case it's pretty close to the truth."
In what many are calling career suicide for a man who founded Creative Artists Agency and once was the most powerful suit in Tinseltown, Ovitz details the rise and fall (and sabotage, natch) of Artists Management Group, his startup talent-management agency and production company that collapsed after three years.
After spending millions of dollars of his own money--and then failing to secure several big-money deals--Ovitz was forced to sell off his struggling baby in May to management company the Firm for a very humbling $12 million.
Ovitz, however, is convinced the story would have gone differently if not for the scheming of Geffen, New York Times reporter Bernard Weinraub (whom he said "parrots" everything Geffen tells him), former CAA protégés Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane and Richard Lovett, and Ovitz's former boss, Disney chief Michael Eisner.
"It was the goal of these people to eliminate me," Ovitz said. "They wanted to kill Michael Ovitz. If they could have taken my wife and kids, they would have."
Many of Ovitz's "mafia" enemies refused to comment. But by Tuesday, enemies and observers alike were predicting Ovitz would--all together now--never eat lunch in this town again. (The issue hits stands Wednesday.)
"That's just so offensive," Geffen told Vanity Fair, upon hearing Ovitz's "mafia" allegations. "You know, all the fags, they get together and they pick a victim: Let's go get that one! It's remarkable that, at this point in history, the most powerful man in Hollywood, he's been brought down by a gay cabal! I've never heard anything like it in my life!"
Vivendi Universal Entertainment chief Barry Diller, another target of Ovitz's ire, was equally shocked by the "Gay Mafia" claim.
"You're not serious," he told the magazine. "Wow. He said that on record? Wow...Wow. I'm stunned. I'm stunned."
Ovitz has had a roller-coaster career since founding CAA in 1975. He left the agency in 1995 to run Walt Disney, only to leave the Mouse House after a little over a year--taking with him a hefty $100 million severance payout.
The Vanity Fair story gives a detailed account of how two last-minute financing deals (one with Diller and one with AT&T) collapsed underneath Ovitz's AMG, leaving him with no choice but to sell the company (which represented talent like Leonard DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz) to the Firm, an upstart that was most notable for its work with music stars like Korn and Limp Bizkit.
The story also eyes the Firm's young mastermind, Jeffrey Kwatinetz, claiming he has a history of drug abuse. One former manager at the Firm, Aaron Ray, told the magazine Kwatinetz regularly used cocaine.
"Jeff had a serious drug habit," he said. "I can give you a definition of a functioning drug addict. He is not one. I mean, when you come in at 7 a.m. and find a guy standing on his desk screaming at people...This is not Bright Lights, Big City."
Kwatinetz responded to the claims with a statement from Firm president Dave Baran: "Did a young concert producer and music manager experiment with drugs when he was young? Sounds shocking. All I can say is in the five-plus years that I've known Jeff as a businessman, I've never known him to do drugs."