De Blasio Takes Hollywood

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Mayor’s “tale of two cities” now includes Beverly Hills


  • Jeffrey Katzenberg at a Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in 2009. The ex-CEO of DreamWorks Animation co-hosted a March 5 fundraiser at Spago in Beverly Hills for Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection campaign and contributed $4,950 through his Family Trust. A year earlier, he gave de Blasio $4,950 from his personal funds. Photo: Angela George, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Norman Lear at a book festival in Texas in 2014. "The All in the Family" producer was one of the three co-hosts of a March 5 fundraiser at Spago in Beverly Hills for de Blasio's reelection campaign, contributing $4,950. Photo: Larry D. Moore, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Hip-hop producer Russell Simmons at Emory University in Atlanta in 2007. He was one of the three co-hosts of de Blasio's March 5 fundraiser at Spago in Beverly Hills and contributed $2,500 to his reelection campaign. Photo: Brett Weinstein, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Steven Spielberg, in a photo taken at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The Spielberg Family Living Trust contributed $4,950 to Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection campaign in April. Photo: GabboT, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Steven Spielberg's star on Hollywood's legendary Walk of Fame. The Spielberg Family Living Trust contributed $4,950 to Mayor Bill de Blasio's reelection campaign in April. Phoro: Oriez, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio marches in the Little Neck Memorial Day Parade. Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Remember the “tale of two cities” and the yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots? The contempt for those millionaire haves and the laser-like focus on income inequality?

Those themes were visceral and easy to understand. And Bill de Blasio seized on them, masterfully, to capture City Hall. It was 2013, the dusk of the Bloomberg era, and affordability was back in style.

Now, flash-forward four years. The mayor stands for reelection, and naturally, he needs big bucks. So off he goes into the sanctums of the uber-rich he so reviled, hat in hand. Destination: Beverly Hills, 90210.

In the first five months of this year, de Blasio raked in at least $47,715 in campaign contributions from 15 donors in 90210, 90211 and five other zip codes in Beverly Hills and its environs, according to filings with the city’s Campaign Finance Board.

The capstone: A star-studded March 5 fundraiser for de Blasio at Spago, an entertainment-industry mecca and brainchild of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who opened its doors in 1982 and was awarded his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in April.

You have to understand that Spago, which billed the campaign $6,545 for the event, isn’t what one would call the solution to income inequality: inevitably, its patrons are one-percenters. No matter how liberal, left or progressive their politics may be, affordability isn’t really their thing.

Consider the fete’s three co-hosts:

* Jeffrey Katzenberg, ex-studio chief at Walt Disney and former CEO of DreamWorks Animation. His net worth is about $900 million, according to Forbes. The Katzenberg Family Trust gave de Blasio $4,950, which is the maximum allowable amount. A year earlier, he kicked in another $4,950 from personal funds, CFB records show.

* Norman Lear, producer of fabled small-screen, mega-hits like “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.” His eight-acre Brentwood estate just hit the market for $40 million. Lear poured $4,950 into the campaign.

* Russell Simmons, hip-hop producer and co-founder of music label Def Jam Recordings. His net worth has been estimated at $340 million. The West Hollywood mogul gave de Blasio $2,500.

So what’s the big deal? It’s simple. Optics in politics matter. Sometimes, they can trample your message underfoot: as when the mayor bashes the city’s plutocracy, then sips cocktails with Hollywood’s elite. Or vows to eradicate income equality, then scoops up one $4,950 check from Beny Alagem, owner of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and another from Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of the William Morris Endeavor talent agency.

Other top-dollar de Blasio givers, who opened their checkbooks at the time of the Spago fundraiser include Steven Spielberg, whose Spielberg Family Living Trust contributed the max, and David Glasser, president of the Weinstein Company, who also ponied up $4,950.

Of course, many or most of the check-writers are classi bi-coasters. Spielberg, for instance, has long maintained homes in the San Remo on Central Park West, and on Georgica Pond in East Hampton, along with his primary mansion in the Pacific Palisades.

Even Ross Haley, CEO of Truth Enterprises, an investment fund for the legal cannabis industry, forked over $4,950.

By tapping the California-celebrity-cash circuit, the mayor has opened himself to the charge of fraternizing with millionaire businessmen and entrepreneurs at the expense of the city. And the charge is being made by, well, a millionaire businessman and entrepreneur.

“Dining out in LA with a glitzy, star-studded crowd sounds like fun,” said Mollie Fullington, press secretary for Paul J. Massey Jr., the Republican mayoral hopeful and resident of Park Avenue who made his fortune in the real estate service business.

But New Yorkers need an issues-focused mayor, she added, “Not someone attempting to raise his national profile and see-and-be-seen at Spago.”

What is it about Spago that so resonates? Start with Puck’s singular creation, the smoked-salmon-and-caviar pizza, which he’s served up to A-listers at Hollywood post-awards parties for decades. To be fair, the item isn’t on his menu. But Puck will make it by special request.

Then go back to 2013. May 30. A seminal speech at the New School. As he spun his tale of two cities, then-candidate de Blasio tore into the luxuries and indulgences of the privilege, observing, “There are even restaurants that offer diners the option of a $1,000 caviar pizza.”

It was true. The Puck pizza had migrated from California. Adopted, dressed up and repriced by other restaurateurs for the Manhattan market, it had captured de Blasio’s populist ire.

So there is both irony and hypocrisy in a mayor who solicits reelection cash at the culinary laboratory that produced the selfsame caviar pizza he had so roundly denounced just four years earlier.

Will de Blasio pay the political price that the Massey campaign and others hope to exact? Don’t count on it, said Democrat political strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who has managed scores of political campaigns and helped run Mark Green’s 2001 mayoral bid.

“He’s not in electoral trouble, his poll numbers are up because nobody’s attacking him, he doesn’t really have a credible opponent, his propaganda machine is working, and he still has a lot of fundraising capacity,” Sheinkopf said.

“He’s repositioning himself after weathering a near-indictment and doing what he always wanted to do — building the national progressive de Blasio movement with himself at the center,” he added.

To that end, the mayor so far this year has already traveled to Atlanta in February; Los Angeles, Chicago and Fort Lauderdale in March; San Francisco, Sacramento and Seattle in April, and Vermont in May.

The fruits of those political jaunts showed up in his most recent financial disclosure filings, which document the contributions he received from March 12 to May 11 of this year.

While only 336 out of 2,632 donations came from out-of-town givers, or 12.7 percent, the overall take from out of town skewed the other way, comprising $319,648 out of a total haul of $663,049, or 48 percent, CFB data shows.

The bottom line: Expect de Blasio’s travel agent to be very busy in the near future. He’s pocketing a lot more $4,950 checks on the road than he is in the city.

“Mayor de Blasio’s campaign has raised more than 6,400 grassroots contributions of less than $175 in 2017 alone, representing more than 85 percent of all donations raised,” said campaign spokesman Dan Levitan.

That’s one way to look at it. Another way is that in the most recent filing period, 56 donors gave the max, and 34 of them, or 60.7 percent, were out of towners.

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