Kids Have The Darnedest Things
Hollywood players are as ambitious for their children as they are for themselves — and they can be ruthless people where their tots are concerned. Producers, directors, actors, agents, and studio execs shower their pampered offspring with the most stylish clothes, hard-to-find toys, and lavish birthday parties, and will stop at nothing to get them the best education that money (and influence) can buy. ”Some of these people are sick,” says one producer who, not surprisingly, requested anonymity. ”Their children are frequently a lifestyle accessory.”
Getting Junior into the ”right” school is often as difficult as, say, landing a three-picture, gross-point deal. According to one apocryphal story, an agent offered to pay a needy child’s tuition to a popular progressive school if it would accept his kid. And CAA chairman Michael Ovitz is said to happily and frequently write recommendation letters for applicants to his children’s prep school, the top-ranked Harvard-Westlake — since every time he does, somebody owes him a favor.
Though their annual tuitions run from $7,000 to $10,000, these schools eagerly seek donations. The Center for Early Education is known to exert strong pressure for ”contributions” to its building fund. (According to one parent, Disney’s Michael Eisner once gave the school a mural featuring Disney characters in historical settings.) Producer Gale Anne Hurd and director Brian De Palma — whose 3-year-old attends the trendy All Saints’) School — donated a $10,000 horse to the school auction last year. ”I’d like to think my child is not a Hollywood kid,” Hurd admits, ”but the only way to do that is to move away from Hollywood.”
As befits the entertainment capital, birthday parties are can-you-top-this events, sometimes costing thousands of dollars. This year, one TV mogul went beyond the de rigueur Disney characters and pony rides and hired five Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for his 6-year-old son. Two years ago, producer Dino De Laurentiis and his wife, Martha, threw a Wizard of Oz party — complete with an entertainer dressed as Dorothy and a punch-spewing Munchkin fountain — for his then 4-year-old daughter, Carolyna; this year, for 4-year-old Dina, they screened Cinderella for 28 costumed princes and princesses.
Industry kids attend Saturday-morning screenings — with guest appearances by the likes of Lassie and Black Beauty — at studio lots. And only in Hollywood do 7-year-olds enroll in acting classes at the legendary Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute.
But does any of this make for happy children — or parents? ”Whatever the pressure is,” observes Fox Broadcasting senior vice president Richard Licata, ”we put it on ourselves. There are parents who want to do so much for their kids, they’ll sell the farm to do it.”