From a “wealth tax” to vaginas, President Trump’s encroaching impeachment to RuPaul philosophy, Vanity Fair’s annual New Establishment summit in Los Angeles at least offered a day of varied conversation.
Radhika Jones, moving toward her third year as editor in chief of the Condé Nast magazine, first broached the subject of a wealth tax with Bob Iger, chief executive officer of Disney (who recently received a compensation package worth $66 million), asking whether he would support the idea. After giving some “context” around his own compensation, namely that it increased through one-time stock awards for this year’s 21st Century Fox acquisition and agreeing to remain ceo for a period — and trying to toss the question to panel companion Jon Favreau — Iger seemed to admit he would — maybe, possibly — support something along the lines of a new tax.
“I believe the whole subject of income inequality is very, very real,” Iger said, perhaps a tad uncomfortably. “We have to look at taxation in general, as a country, and figure out if there’s a plan that makes sense to get wealth moving from a few people to more.”
Iger added that he’s not supporting anyone for president yet and made clear that he won’t go public with any support either. Michael Bloomberg did make an appearance via video, talking about climate change, making one wonder if the rumors about him looking at a late entry into the presidential race are getting closer to reality.
The wealth tax came up again with Anthony Scaramucci, still getting mileage out of his roughly two-week stint in Trump’s White House, when he said he couldn’t vote for Sen. Elizabeth Warren because of her support for such a tax. Although he said he’s known Warren for a long time and that she’s actually more moderate than she has been during her campaign, he called the taxes she supports “un-American.” Scaramucci also predicted that Trump will be out of office before the election next year.
“He’s going to get impeached and he’ll either say he’s not running again or he’ll resign from office,” he said. He added that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are “having a very tough time” after the initial period of themselves leaking stories about their work to soften Trump’s advisers and actions. “There’s no amount of crisis p.r. that will help them.”
But Scaramucci went on to note that there “are many second acts in life.” Case in point: Scaramucci, on stage and announcing the launch of two PACs next month, one to focus on women voters in swing states and the other on getting bipartisan agreement on gun reform legislation.
Swerving to more social issues were writer Lena Waithe and director Melina Matsoukas, promoting their upcoming film “Queen and Slim,” and speaking with Lester Holt of NBC. The news anchor asked if either of them was concerned about the film being inevitably controversial as it revolves around two black people involved in the killing of an aggressive white cop.
“I welcome that,” Waithe said. “I hope the President tweets about it. You’re not doing your job well at this point if the President isn’t upset with you.”
As for how the movie came about, Waithe said there was really no pitch process as studios like Fox Searchlight, Lionsgate and A24 all were courting her script, with Matsoukas already attached to direct and Daniel Kaluuya, of “Black Panther” and “Get Out,” to star.
Being in the position of power she found herself in, Waithe and Matsoukas got final cut, a $20 million budget, to shoot and release in the same year, and only one test screening with an all-black audience. Oh, and no notes from the studio at all.
“I said, ‘I’m not taking notes from any person who doesn’t look like me on a story about us,’” Waithe said.
The day took a hard turn into tech and news when Katie Couric did her best to get a few straight answers out of Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, on the company’s various and crucial mistakes with giving data to third parties and its massive role in the spread of false information around the world. It wasn’t an easy task, even for an interviewer with as much experience as Couric, who at one point turned to the audience to say, “She’s smooth isn’t she?” when Sandberg eased off again in her chosen topic of all the good changes Facebook has enacted in the last couple of years.
A particularly tense moment came when Couric asked repeatedly why Sandberg wasn’t testifying before U.S. Congress this week, wondering what happened between her and Rep. Maxine Waters. Sandberg cut Couric off at one point. “Can I just answer the question?” she said — but still managed not to do so. Under a time constraint, Couric moved on. She ended by asking Sandberg whether she worried for her personal legacy as her public profile is so defined by Facebook at this point. “I really believe in what I’ve said about people having a voice,” Sandberg replied.
Also a bit awkward was a talk between Gwyneth Paltrow and former J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons, which had Lyons (at the event with a camera crew for her upcoming reality TV show, now dubbed “Lyons Den”) asking Paltrow how to use the infamous “Yoni egg.” “We need to maybe discuss after, offstage,” Paltrow offered as an escape. “It’s been a lot of vagina time already on stage.” Indeed, since Lyons brought it up as a topic quite a few times after a clip of Goop’s upcoming Netflix series was shown, including a brief shot of a woman in an apparent vagina appreciation workshop of sorts.
In a welcome reprieve, RuPaul Charles took the stage with comedian Whitney Cummings to talk “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a just revealed celebrity-version spinoff and his new show, also with Netflix, “AJ and the Queen.”
“Drag is there to remind you that you’re more than what it says on your driver’s license,” RuPaul said. “Throughout history, jesters, satirists, comedians, it’s all there to remind you of a bigger consciousness by mocking the identities we all take so seriously.”
Talking of “Drag Race” and its popularity among women of all ages, including Cummings’ young niece, she mentioned that “a lot of dads watch it, too.”
“With a fistful of Jergens lotion,” RuPaul joked — and the crowd of media executives and networkers tried to control their laughter for a beat before erupting. “That’s one of my one liners,” RuPaul noted over the ruckus, “because it works in any situation.”