A Mickey Mouse ticket: Eisner and Ovitz in '96


Hollywood, Calif. -- CICADA, AGAIN. Michael Ovitz is shown to Michael Eisner's table.

Eisner has pre-ordered his lunch. (Halibut, nothing on it.) Ovitz orders something not on the menu. (Lemon pasta, nothing on it.) Food is a sign of weakness here. You always try to get your companion to order first, so you can order less. And you never order from the menu if you can help it.

Eisner canvasses the realm. Over in the corner is a music executive affectionately known as the "Poison Dwarf." At the next table is a movie producer whose rise at a studio was thwarted when it was discovered that he had once taken a role in a porn flick when an actor failed to show up.

"So, Mike, are you all settled in on Dopey Drive?"

"It's not Mickey Avenue, Michael. But I've never been happier."

"Listen, something's come up. I got a call from my pal Bill Bradley. He wants Disney to kick in some money so that he and Powell can run in '96."

"A third party, Michael? It would be easier to start a new studio."

"You know, Mike, I envy these guys running for president. They get so much less media scrutiny than we do. The White House would be a piece of cake compared with this fishbowl."

"It's rich, isn't it, Michael? Clinton and Gore fight to get on the front page, and we fight to stay off it."

Eisner sipped his San Pellegrino, enigmatically. Ovitz pushed his pasta around.

"It just hit me, Michael. Vertical power. Real vertical power. Why not cut out the middlemen?"

"What are you thinking, Mike?"

"Our own package. Eisner/Ovitz in '96. We've got the medium and the message. We'll go to the country and we'll ask: Are you better off now than you were four deals ago? We already have a slogan: 'Why? Because We Love You!' "

"I like it, Mike, but there's a hitch. All that travel. This country is so big and grungy. There's no valet parking in Des Moines."

"That's the beautiful part. We don't hit any trail. We invent the virtual campaign. We make a movie of the campaign and we open on more screens than 'Batman.' We can get anyone we want to play us. Gary Cooper's not around anymore, but I'm sure we can cast you, Michael."

"Yeah, Redford owes me a favor. And DeVito can play you. You know, you may be right. After all, politics is entertainment. And who does that better than us? They want family values? We invented family values."

"Just think, Michael, it's a natural outgrowth of what's happening. Remember, we've got a news division now. Jennings can make Redford Person of the Week, DeVito can do the Brinkley show. We'll have the movie, the CD, the CD-ROM, the tie-ins, the rides, the toys."

"Don't forget Saturday mornings. We'll get to the parents through the kids. Synergy, Mike, Synergy '96.

"Another thing. Once we sell subsidiary rights, we'll be the first campaign in history to make money."

"What are our issues, Mike?"

"We don't have issues, Michael. We worked those out. Oh, you mean political issues. We'll give every American a shot at an independent production deal. Points of the people, points by the people, points for the people. We'll move the capital to Burbank, and turn the federal government into a theme park that doesn't lose money. Gingrich can run Tomorrowland. We can make government the sort of place that attracts good people again. Who wants to be called a secretary? It'll be the Vice President for Agriculture and the Vice President for State."

"But what do we call you, Mike?"

"Senior Vice President and C.E.O.-U.S.A."

"The more I think about it, Mike, the more I like the idea of controlling the country. Just one thing before we green-light. What will we do about Jeffrey, David and Steven?"

"They'll handle advance."

Eisner asked for a phone.

Maureen Dowd is a columnist with the New York Times.

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