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The Hollywood Power Brokers Mugged by Reality


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Common Sense

L.A.'s mayoral race pits a black congresswoman endorsed by Obama against a billionaire developer. "I can’t tell you the number of people who tell me, 'I’m voting for him, but I'm not telling anyone.'"

Peter Savodnik

Nov. 3 2022


Rick Caruso in Los Angeles on October 28, 2022. (Hans Gutknecht via Getty Images)

“This is like a breaking point,” said Nicole Avant, who served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas under Barack Obama and is the wife of Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. We were talking about Los Angeles, where she was born and grew up and met her husband. “Who is in charge here? How is this happening? It’s the drug addicts in front of people’s houses, it’s people naked in the street—there’s so much chaos, and Rick is the opposite of that, and we just need to reel things in and do things in a different way.” She was referring to Rick Caruso, the billionaire real-estate developer running for mayor of the second-biggest city in the country.

Avant is black Hollywood royalty. Her father, Clarence Avant, now 91, was a legend in the music industry, managing the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Freddie Hubbard and Bill Withers. They called him the Black Godfather. 


To Avant, to any number of Caruso supporters, all that is beside the point. Los Angeles, they say, is heading toward a cliff and everything is at stake in this election.

Avant said she found it “very insulting” when Bass supporters told her she had an obligation to support Bass because she’s a black woman. “I don’t ever vote on race or gender,” Avant said. “I’m a free thinker. People told me not to support Barack Obama and to support Hillary Clinton for the same reason, because she’s a woman. You can’t win.”

“The concept of hiring the best person for the job, especially in a situation like this, is not gone,” Bryan Lourd, co-chairman of the Creative Artists Agency and a Caruso supporter, told me. “I don’t think this city survives with more of the same old ideas about leadership.” (CAA is the biggest shop in town and represents, among many other celebrities, Scarlett Johansson, Steven Spielberg, Ava DuVernay and Reese Witherspoon.)


Caruso’s Hollywood supporters like him, they said, because he’s unowned: He’s on track to spend $100 million of his own money on the campaign. And because, they insist, he’s not running for mayor so he can run for governor or president. He’s not doing what so many elected officials seem to do these days—hello, Gavin Newsom!—which is to get elected to get elected to something better. (At 63 years old, Caruso presumably still has time to reconsider that.)

They had arrived at Caruso in a way that was not so dissimilar to that of Republicans who, in 2016, had rallied to Donald Trump, though the Caruso campaign hates the Trump analogy. But it was hard to avoid: The old ways of doing things had failed, the whole thing was broken—the schools, the City Council, the outgoing mayor, Eric Garcetti, the Covid policies, the progressive DA—and someone needed to come in and shake things up.



Reality has  a Conservative Bias.

I'm thinking across the country this is NOT a good year to be an incumbent Democrat.

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