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MOVIES : BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ : ‘Too Long to Fax’ Says It All for Us

It’s hard to generate buzz in Hollywood with a magazine story that meanders through 25 pages. You can’t walk into a bookstore and look up your--or your enemy’s--name in the index (Julia Phillips, “You’ll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again”). You can’t ask your assistant to Xerox copies for industry-wide dissemination (Joe Eszterhas, “Letter to Michael Ovitz”)--he’d be standing at the copy machine all day.

So the lunch tables in Hollywood last week weren’t exactly humming about Connie Bruck’s opus in the New Yorker magazine reconstructing Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.'s buyout of MCA--and detailing the role of the Creative Artists Agency’s chairman, Michael Ovitz, who brokered the marriage.

In fact, there were probably more people pretending they had read it than readers. Attention spans are notoriously short in this town. And as an insider complained: “The article is too long to get faxed around town.”

But those who did manage to buy their own copy and wade through quickly resorted to one of Hollywood’s favorite pastimes--speculating on the future of Ovitz and CAA. Coming on the heels of an announcement that CAA has been hired as a creative consultant to Coca-Cola Co., Bruck’s detailing of Ovitz’s role in the MCA deal further lionizes the talent agent as a consummate corporate deal-maker, a spinner of financial webs, a macher of machers .

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The question is what effect that reputation will have on CAA-the-talent-agency. “It’s now becoming clear to the world that Ovitz is no longer a talent agent,” said one competitor. “Now, what do CAA clients like Dustin Hoffman think when they read this? Does he think, ‘Why is Ovitz doing all this instead of looking for a job for me?’ Or could he be saying, ‘I’m blessed to be involved with a guy as important and talented as this.’

“As a competitor, I would like to think the former. But I suspect he has enhanced his image with all this.”

Another competing agent was gushing. “It’s exciting that he is redefining and reconceptualizing our function,” this agent said.

But the Ovitz that Bruck portrayed was not infallible. Early on, Ovitz had told MCA’s management that the Japanese were willing to pay $75 to $90 a share. But when push came to shove, the Japanese offered roughly $60. A stock market plunge over growing tensions in the Persian Gulf could account for some of that discrepancy. But Bruck also says that the Japanese--still not completely trusting of an American like Ovitz--cut him out of the information loop.

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Moreover, according to Bruck, it was investment banker Herb Allen and Washington lawyer (and new ambassador to the Soviet Union) Robert Strauss--and not Ovitz--who pulled the deal back together when it began falling apart over price.

CAA spokesman Stephen Rivers didn’t have much to say about the article. “I agree with some parts and not with others,” he said. He declined to elaborate, but did say he thought the piece was “very well written.” And Bruck says she still hasn’t received any reaction from Ovitz.

Does Bruck--who detailed the rise and fall of Drexel Burnham Lambert in “The Predator’s Ball"--plan to turn her magazine opus about MCA into a book? No, she says, noting that she’s in the middle of a book for Simon & Schuster about Time Warner Chairman Steven J. Ross.


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