M-I-C-K-E-Y, ABC: This one could be bigger than big

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The $19 billion Disney takeover of ABC is not my idea of a Hollywood story.

A Hollywood story should be heartwarming. Or romantic. Or sexy. Or, at least, gratuitously violent.

How do you cast Sylvester Stallone in this story? I mean, you'd have to shoot Sly, maybe with Goofy at his side, storming the ABC compound, taking Tim Allen hostage, machine-gunning Roseanne (I'd pay to see that part), or possibly -- and this could be going too far -- even mussing Ted Koppel's hair.

I think Bob Dole would line up for that movie.

As it stands, this is just another boring business story. The only thing remarkable about the acquisition is that neither Sony nor Steven Spielberg was involved.

Once upon a time, Hollywood knew how to do stories. Like the one about Lana Turner sipping a malted at Schwab's Drugstore when the studio executive walks in the door and sees a star before him.

That's not the way it actually happened, of course. But it's the way that the folks in Hollywood wanted us to think they found their stars. And we were ready to believe.

They sell mythology like nobody since Homer, who, if he'd lived a few thousand years later, would have been a screenwriter. Of course, he would have wanted to direct. And he'd have a dozen Armani togas in his closet.

In reality -- and who wants to talk about reality? -- Hollywood is a seedy subsection of L.A. But that doesn't matter. They've got stars embedded in sidewalks and a giant Hollywood sign stuck into the side of a mountain.

The unreality of the reality is what sells.

The Disney takeover is a different story. It's about rich guys who lust for something more than they've got, even though they've already got everything.

These stories usually begin in Aspen or on a remote island or, in this case, Sun Valley, Idaho. It has to be someplace that's warm in the winter or cool in the summer or in some way unavailable to the common folk.

They came to Sun Valley for investment banker Herbert Allen's ** annual get-together of every rich guy in the entertainment industry. Spouses (oops, I mean wives) are welcome.

One rich guy -- this time it's Disney's Michael Eisner -- literally bumps into another rich guy. This time it's Warren Buffett. He's not the guy who sings about the cheeseburgers. That's Jimmy Buffett. Warren Buffett sings, if he sings at all, about money. He's got billions.

Here's what Eisner says to Buffett, who owns about 20 million shares of ABC: "You wouldn't be interested in selling the company for cash, would you?"

This is not like when Scarlett O'Hara first laid eyes on Rhett or when Bogey said they'd always have Paris.

This is like when you're a kid and you see that big bike in the store and you'd give anything for it. The only thing different is that you can afford to buy every bike in the world and, of course, keep them all for yourself.

Anyway, Buffett is intrigued. He's intrigued because he stands to make half a billion dollars. Now, what will he do with this half a billion dollars? Here's the truth: He could throw it into the garbage and it wouldn't change his lifestyle any more than if you dropped a nickel.

It isn't the money. It's the money. He wants more money in just the way that Eisner wants a bigger company.

So, Buffett goes to Cap Cities/ABC CEO Thomas Murphy and tells him there's a deal in the works.

Here's where the story diverges. Buffett says Murphy was on his way to a picnic when he got the news while Murphy says he was on his way to play golf with Bill Gates' wife. This is an important detail because I've been trying to get a golf date with Bill Gates' wife for months.

When the conference breaks up, Eisner heads to Toronto for the opening of the stage version of "Beauty and the Beast," next year to be starring Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson. While at the Buffalo airport, where there is nothing else to do, Eisner calls Murphy and the deal is made.

Which means that squeaky-clean Disney, which runs amusement parks just like it was the 1950s, which gave the world Annette and Cubby, not to mention Mickey and Minnie, will now own the TV network that first showed the world -- Mouseketeers, shut your eyes -- Detective Sipowicz's rear end.

Maybe that is a story.

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