Analysis: Well-written piece is marred by a serious case of Jeffrey Katzenberg worship
All Vanity Fair needed was a happy-ish ending.
The magazine finally unveiled its piece on the crisis at the Motion Picture & Television Fund's longterm care center — though online only.
The publication came two days after Wednesday’s dramatic announcement that the MPTF has entered into a non-binding letter of intent with Providence Health & Services that will keep its longterm care facility and acute care hospital open.
As TheWrap exclusively reported last month, the magazine pulled David Margolick’s 5,000-word examination of the battle from its annual Hollywood Issue because of space limitations.
With a dénouement in the works, the magazine fired up fact-checking on the piece earlier this week, TheWrap has learned. One can only assume it was rushed online Friday morning to stop it from becoming too stale.
The result is a beautifully written, exquisitely detailed piece that is nonetheless marred by a terminal case of Jeffrey Katzenberg worship.
So what do we learn?
In Margolick’s telling, ousted MPTF CEO Dr. David Tillman is the villain, and Katzenberg (a friend of Vanity Fair publisher Graydon Carter) is a resolute defender of the cash-strapped fund. Margolick said that Katzenberg declined to comment for the story, but the story is sticky with his fingerprints.
If the DreamWorks Animation chief has been tireless in his financial support for the MPTF, the failure also happened on his watch – he chaired the MPTF Foundation board throughout the fiasco.
Instead, Margolick offers up fellow board member Casey Wasserman, who rhapsodizes “[Katzenberg] could have found 10 ways to Sunday to jump out of this thing, but never once have I seen him flinch … He is a fighter through and through. I’m fairly certain no one else like him would have done the same thing.”
We are also told that Katzenberg had long been unhappy with Tillman’s leadership and decision to concentrate on building “subsidized clinics” instead of “ serving Hollywood’s truly needy.”
Really? Katzenberg has been noticeably absent since giving himself that F in early 2009. He is MIA when it comes to defending the Fund's actions – leaving Ken Scherer and now Bob Beitcher to absorb the public backlash.
But the piece doesn’t explain why Katzenberg allowed Tillman to hold onto the reins of power for so long. The board had legitimate reasons for pushing to close its acute care operation, but Tillman’s mismanagement set the stage for a pitched battle that has caused pain for hundreds of people, drained the fund of valuable resources and distracted the MPTF from its historic mission.
Moreover, the decision to replace Tillman with the more politically adroit Beitcher took place only after TheWrap published embarrassing details about the MPTF CEO’s bloated compensation package.
Katzenberg surely bears some responsibility for continuing the Tillman experiment well beyond its natural expiration date. But you won’t find that story in Margolick’s telling. (Instead, Vanity Fair continues its penchant for using kid gloves on Hollywood moguls. Is that any surprise, when there’s an Oscar party to throw on Sunday?)
What does Margolick get right? A whole lot.
All of the major players — from Beitcher to family members and bomb throwers such as Richard Stellar — are here. The broad outlines of the conflict are perfectly presented, with a nice, wholly deserved dig at the A-listers who decided to sit this conflict out.
Above all, the extraordinary efforts and formation of Saving the Lives of Our Own is painstakingly documented, with a well-deserved shout out to its founder Nancy Biederman, who has done the yeoman’s work of trying to save the facility.
There are also several references to TheWrap’s award winning coverage of the fight to preserve the home and hospital, albeit with the requisite old media condescension. TheWrap's coverage, according to Margolick, was "lavish."