Two years ago, when the sultan of Brunei imposed Shariah law, a medieval governing system which makes homosexuality punishable by death, the outcry was loud, unequivocal and immediate. And unlike most antigay campaigns across the globe, activists had a bit of leverage. The sultan, it turned out, owned the Beverly Hills Hotel, the legendary celebrity hangout. Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres and dozens of others called for a boycott of the luxury resort, promising never to step on the property until the sultan either sold it or axed the reprehensible Shariah.
But that’s not stopping Will & Grace creator Max Mutchnick from having a gay ‘ol time at the hotel with his celeb buddies — despite initially endorsing the boycott. (An earlier version of this article said Mutchnick had not had a hit since the original Will & Grace, which is untrue given the huge success of his new version of the show.)
Mutchnick told Maureen Dowd of The New York Times:
In sitcom terms, the Beverly Hills Hotel was kind of my ‘Central Perk,’ Much of my career unfolded at the Polo Lounge [in the hotel]. I was signed by my agent and lawyer in that room. David Geffen told me what I had to do to save my career. And one night I sat with Sandy Gallin as he chatted up Sylvester Stallone… I was proud to stand with my community and boycott an institution that represented repression and exclusion. But now the foundation of my political correctness is starting to show cracks. I grappled with my inner voice: ‘Maybe fluffy pancakes and warm maple syrup are more important than gay rights.’ But in truth, something deeper was gnawing at me: If I’m going to shun this hotel, does that mean that anything I don’t actively boycott, I tacitly endorse? I loved the television show ‘Glee.’ Should I not have watched because it aired on Fox, a company that gives Roger Ailes the parking space closest to the front door?
Should I remove Mariah Carey’s hit ‘Emotions’ from my iTunes playlist because she once performed for a vicious Angolan dictator to collect a million dollars? Of course not. I shouldn’t listen to ‘Emotions’ because it’s a ridiculous song with moronic lyrics.
Does this boycott make sense? I did not want to go against my core values. Or worse, offend a Higher Power. (Elton John.) But it hit me like a rock being thrown at my face by the village baker in Brunei that, after two years, the only thing that changed at the Beverly Hills Hotel was that the hard-working staff, those least responsible for the offending action, were getting hurt the most. While a hotel representative says the employees are being compensated for lost wages, I’m dubious. We don’t know for how much or for how long.
Gay men and women, some married, dining freely in the Sultan’s Lounge, seemed like a pretty powerful statement, too. Because really, when I think about it, the Beverly Hills Hotel represents everything I aspire to be: elegant, welcoming, sexy at 75, and proudly pink.
What do you think of Mutchnick reasoning for abandoning the boycott for fluffy pancakes and celebrity sightings? Sound off in comments.