Can George Clooney persuade Hollywood to boycott the hotel over Brunei’s anti-gay laws?
The Beverly Hills Hotel has long been a refuge where Hollywood can hide and show its true self. Where actors can retreat from scandals, divorce, failed plastic surgery.
Where Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra – and many more, many others – were dumped elegantly at the Polo Lounge. Where the servants served Howard Hughes’s specialty by sending a roast beef sandwich to a corner of the tree.
From Elizabeth Taylor celebrating six of her eight honeymoon there until Donald Trump hid with Stormy Daniels in one of his famous roadside bungalows, the Pink Palace on Sunset Boulevard has remained at the heart of Hollywood from the start.
Not many noticed when the Brunei sultan bought the hotel in 1996. Even fewer would link the food to the Polo Lounge with a small oil-rich autocracy in the world.
But the recent announcement by the sultanate might change a mouthful of the Sour Chair – named Sinatra – rather too sour.
Brunei said it would die of anyone accused of adultery or homosexuality, according to sharia law, starting Wednesday.
This gave rise to the Hollywood side that didn’t need to hide behind a wall decorated with bougainvillea, which he liked to show the world: fighting for a purpose.
In the column for Deadline on Thursday, George Clooney called for a hotel boycott, the Bel-Air Hotel and seven others in Europe owned by the sultan, who held the highest authority in Brunei.
“They’re a good hotel,” Clooney wrote. “The people who work there are kind and helpful and have no part in ownership of this property. But let’s be clear, every time we stay or have a meeting at or eat in one of these nine hotels we put money directly into the pockets of people who choose to throw stones and whip their own citizens because they are gay or accused of zina. ”
But days where Hollywood celebrities can speak in their political minds without a backlash – even against despicable human rights violations – have long passed in America, perhaps even in liberal Hollywood itself.
So far the critic is the strongest against Clooney: Bill Maher, with his vocal with a liberal, but people who are not afraid to challenge liberal orthodoxy. On Friday, he made fun of the actions the actor was asking for.
“Brunei has passed a law that you will be stoned to death if you are gay or adulterous, and here we are back with a call from a Hollywood celebrity to boycott the Beverly Hills Hotel,” Maher told the guest panel on his HBO program. , “Real Time With Bill Maher,” was recorded in CBS Television City, three miles from the hotel.
“This really bothers me because … tokenism. What about Saudi Arabia? If you really want to repay, stop driving. Don’t use oil.”
“The idea of the Sultan of Brunei is about the receipt of the Polo Lounge:” Oh no, we only sell two soups today. ”
“People can smell it,” conservative writer Andrew Sullivan replied. “That only signals virtue. It’s just: ‘Look at me. I am very … extraordinary. ”
Clooney has long ignored such criticism – in 2006, an episode of the famous “South Park” TV show made it emit a “smoke” cloud like smoke during Oscar’s acceptance speech, threatening the perfect storm of self-satisfaction because it collided arrogantly from hybrid car owners .
Along with other vocal stars such as Meryl Streep, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Clooney holds the view that he must use his high profile to advocate for helpless people throughout the world. He has championed gay rights, organized a telethon to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti and spent more than a decade trying to stop genocide and hunger in Sudan. The United Nations appointed him a “Peaceful Envoy.”
This is a noble reason for most traditional Hollywood guards.
Elton John praised Clooney on Sunday.
“Discrimination on the basis of sexuality is clearly wrong and there is no place in any society. That is why I commend my friend George Clooney for taking a stand and calling for anti-gay discrimination and bigotry which is now enshrined in law in Brunei, a place where gay people are persecuted or worse, “John said in a statement.
These are all a bit of a repetition from 2014, when Brunei introduced a new criminal law based on Islamic law, or sharia, which greatly expanded the scope of religious law to cover not only family problems such as marriage and divorce but also problems such as murder, rape and theft previously fall under the jurisdiction of the civil court. (Penalties that came into force this week mark the full implementation of the criminal law.)
Celebrities protested and called for a boycott, and the city of Beverly Hills approved a resolution urging the sultan to sell the hotel. But no stone happened, and this problem faded quickly. In the global economy, it is difficult to focus on countries with smaller populations than Long Beach while autocratic countries such as Saudi Arabia – with the same sharia law in books – have deep corporate ties with all types of American companies.
This weekend, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, ruler of the oil-rich kingdom of Brunei, defended violent anti-gay punishment. A statement issued Saturday from his office said that Brunei, “like all other independent countries, enforces its own legal rules.”
The aim of sharia law is “to criminalize and deter actions that are contrary to Islamic teachings,” the statement said, adding that it “also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, communities or nationalities of every religion and race. ”
The death penalty still applies, but Brunei has not carried out executions in decades.
Bolkiah cannot be swayed by the boycott of its hotels, analysts said. One of the last absolute kings left in the world – he also serves as prime minister and handles defense, financial and foreign affairs – the 72-year-old enjoys almost total loyalty of around half a million, most of whom are Muslim citizens and wealth is estimated $ 20 billion.
As a tropical country that is roughly half the size of Los Angeles County, Brunei is sandwiched between two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, Southeast Asia. The former British colony was rich in exporting oil and gas from almost a century ago, and the royal family invested a lot of produce abroad, including in iconic hotels.
This income enables Bolkiah to provide a high standard of living for its people, including free education and health care, minimal taxes, and government and retirement jobs for almost everyone.
“There are social contracts that exist between the kingdom and the people, and that is very sacred,” said Mustafa Izzuddin, a colleague at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a think tank in Singapore.
“Hotels and properties abroad, all these profits go to the royal coffers. Social contracts are very dependent on the sultan who provides the needs of his people. ”
It also depends on Brunei people who view the opposite of wasteful spending on royal families – they are said to have thousands of luxury cars, jet fleets and golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus – and report that the sultan, Prince Jefri, flies to women from all over world for alcoholic “sex parties” in nominal dry kingdoms.
But with estimates showing that Brunei’s oil and gas reserves can run out in around 20 years, Bolkiah has tried to diversify the economy and start looking for investments from China.
Some see sharia law encouraging in an effort to calm differences of opinion while supporting the support of largely conservative citizens.
“Brunei people do not retreat,” Mustafa said. “They are well educated, they have access to the internet, they are quite well traveled, but they are conservative in their Islamic view. They will see this boycott [by Clooney and others] tantamount to Islamophobia.
“If you do a poll now, Clooney won’t be very popular in Brunei. They might boycott the film.”
Clooney acknowledges that most boycotts are symbolic.
“Brunei is a Monarchy and of course any boycott will have little impact on the amendment to this law,” he wrote on Deadline. “But will we really help pay for these human rights violations? Are we really going to help fund the killing of innocent citizens? I have learned over the years to deal with a murderous regime that cannot embarrass you. But you can embarrass banks, investors and institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way. ”
There were no protesters seen outside the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunday morning. Some visitors seem unaware of the call for a boycott.
Brad Schaffer stopped by the hotel Sunday morning to drink Denmark. Knowing about the upcoming Brunei law, he said he would not stay there even if he could afford it.
Tom Piccirillo, a Uber driver who often stops at the Beverly Hills Hotel, said he would not support a boycott while human rights violations continue to occur in countries such as Saudi Arabia which are larger trading partners with the United States.
Piccirillo said Clooney’s call for a boycott was “very fleeting and I just thought it was ineffective” and could hurt hotel front-line employees.
“Sharia law is their agreement, and I don’t agree with that. But I think we can do something else. I support staff. I will not boycott them because they are good people. ”