Nine Months and Still No Outrage on MPTF Closures (updated: Bert Fields defends Katz!)

So my phone just rang with Hollywood uber-lawyer Bert Fields calling from his farmhouse in the French countryside (that’s Jeffrey Katzenberg’s lawyer).


Fields wants me to know that I’m free to have my own point of view, but that I’m completely wrong. There is no choice but to close the hospital and long-term care facility, he says.


As regards the five people who died within days or weeks of their transfer out of the MPTF home, the state Department of Health investigated and found no connection between their transfer and their deaths. Duly noted.


I asked Fields about the evidence of mismanagement.  “I can’t speak to David Tillman’s past decisions,” he said. “What I can say is that right now, there really is no choice.”


Then the phone rang again. This time it was MPTF CEO Ken Scherer, also deeply wounded at the implication that transferring residents might in any way hasten their deaths.


The industry would need to raise another $12 million per year to keep the facility open, he said. Can’t this industry do that, I asked?


“It becomes a challenge that offers false hope for people. It’s a huge financial challenge in the country. ”


And finally: “We didn’t want to do this. This is as painful for us as it is for the families.”



It’s been nearly nine months since the announced closure of the hospital and long-term care facility of the famed Motion Picture & Television Fund, and incredibly, not a single prominent Hollywood figure or celebrity has stepped forward to challenge the decision.

I’m not saying everyone should oppose the closure.

But is all of Hollywood really in lockstep to close the facilities that serve the most weak and defenseless in this community?

Celebrities are always in such a hurry to save the rainforest, remember the Holocaust, stop apartheid, reverse global warming, cure cancer and autism and MS.

The studio moguls readily step up and give thousands of their hard-earned (well, earned, anyway) dollars to the causes of the day (including the MPTF).

But here: dead silence.

Apparently everyone in Hollywood – everyone who matters – believes the MPTF when it says that this situation cannot be saved. That 100 residents must be chucked out of their homes or the entire non-profit enterprise, serving thousands more, will go down the drain.

Here is what I suspect. The board members of the fund, led by Jeffrey Katzenberg, have quietly lobbied the thought leaders and influencers in Hollywood- the George Clooneys, the Warren Beattys – to convince them that there was no other choice.

This, despite the fact that a significant number of MPTF residents died in the wake of the news of the closures, as TheWrap has reported. Another five of the first 15 moved out of the home have already passed away, according to the group Saving the Lives of Our Own.

But no one wants to challenge the status quo. It’s Hollywood groupthink. No one wants to embarrass their friend Jeffrey Katzenberg.

I know several important people in Hollywood who privately wonder how this outcome could be possible. They wonder what went wrong. And they believe it is shameful, in an industry this rich, to shut down vital facilities for the elderly for the purported lack of $10 million a year.

And it’s about to get worse.

TheWrap has published many investigative stories that raise questions about the argument that no alternative is possible, and that the fund is nearly out of cash.

Months ago, investigative reporter Andrew Gumbel uncovered compelling evidence of mismanagement of the home, that led to a financial crunch. No action has been taken.

Except to tell the residents this week that they’d better move by Thanksgiving.

Who has stepped forward to defend the residents? Their famlies, and about 4,000 rank and file individuals, including from the labor unions SAG, AFTRA and WGA.

“I’m personally disappointed at the lack of outrage,” said Toni Perling, the spokesperson for Saving the Lives of Our Own. “But I see it growing.”

“We want to appeal to the good-hearted people on that board,” she continued. “The administrators have done some things that are bad. It is not too late. We want to join with you, help you raise money.”

But the MPTF is not interested in raising money, or reconsidering its decision.

And it is moving toward an ugly standoff. The activists and the remaining 80 residents are both vowing that they will not move of their own free will.

“If it comes to that, we will lay down,” said Perling. “We will have Teamster’s laying down, SAG members laying down. I’m going to do it. Those residents are gonna do it.”

What a sad day that will be, should it come to pass.


Part I: MPTF Residents Despondent; six have Died Since Closure Announced