High Rollers on the Hill
I get that winning clients sometimes requires wooing them — especially in the glamor-obsessed entertainment industry. As a government activity, however, this makes me very uncomfortable:
When Steven Feinberg entertains people in the television and moviemaking industry, he entertains them in style.
He sprang for the Ravioli al Filetto at Venda’s Café, the rib-eye special at Zooma, the 16 oz. center-cut sirloin at Siena , a filet mignon at The Capital Grille and along the way bottles of wine costing up to $39. He hired chauffeured cars to shuttle some of the stars of the Showtime series Brotherhood back and forth during nights out that ended at 3 a.m.
He treated actor “Joseph Pantoliano and family” to $203 worth of gondola rides along the Providence riverfront.
In his role as director of the state Film & TV Office, he sent $1,375 worth of gift baskets from Wickford Gourmet to the cast and crew of Evening, before they decamped.
And when Feinberg flew to California last summer, he stayed in a “premier ocean-view room” in the newly renovated Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, that one magazine likened to “the city’s hottest club … a vision of movie-set cool.” Though city-view rooms went for much less, his room cost fluctuated from $419 to $499 on different nights.
Every step of the way, Rhode Island taxpayers paid the bills.
Sure, other states do it, and RI House Speaker Bill Murphy (D, West Warwick) argues that Feinberg’s activity has yielded “a tremendous return on the investment,” but the whole effort is beyond the boundaries of what government ought to be about. I’d venture to suggest that few voters consider the dedication of their representatives to charming Hollywood; government isn’t structured to behave that explicitly as a business. Frankly, the leadership on the Hill ought to turning over with sufficient frequency to make the company-legislature distinction clearer.
If, as a public collective, we wish to bring movie makers to Rhode Island, our government’s appropriate approach is to get out of the way, not to fly a caviar charmer out to California.