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DILLER DISHES PORN TECH END OF HOLLYWOOD ALL MEN ARE GUILTY

Issued: 2018-03-24

The chairman of IAC and husband of Diane von Furstenberg reflects on pornography, philanthropy and the end of Hollywood as we knew it.

By MAUREEN DOWDMARCH 24, 2018

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Barry Diller knows your weaknesses.

He knows how to intimidate you, if he wants to, or charm you, if he chooses. Because he is a taskmaster and a visionary and a billionaire, people in Hollywood and Silicon Valley pay close attention when he speaks.

He has so many vests from Herb Allen’s Sun Valley retreats for global elites that they’re taking over his closets.

“There is so much fleece,” says the chairman of IAC, laughing. “I’ve been going for 30 years.”

On this rainy afternoon, by the fireplace in the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired stone and wood living room of his dreamy mansion, Mr. Diller is all charm, with a healthy dose of self-deprecation. He’s dressed in a red checked flannel shirt, a burgundy Hermès hoodie, baggy jeans and black Tods loafers.

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We are eating cold salads and drinking hot tea, served by the butler, Victor. And we are hopscotching topics, from Silicon Valley taking over Hollywood to Jared & Ivanka & Josh & Karlie to pornography to his company’s dating websites to the time Harvey Weinstein tried to throw Mr. Diller off a balcony in Cannes to how his friend Hillary Clinton is faring to the mogul’s dismissal of Donald Trump (whose Secret Service code name is Mogul) as “a joke” and “evil.”

I tell him that a friend of mine, an executive in network television, fretfully asked her Hollywood psychic how long Mr. Trump would last as president and the psychic asserted that it wouldn’t be more than two years and that the president would be felled by a three-page email. (The only problem with this prediction being, I don’t think Mr. Trump emails.)

“I would so love it if he were being blackmailed by Putin,” Mr. Diller says with a sly smile. “That would make me very happy. This was a man of bad character from the moment he entered adulthood, if not before. Pure, bad character. Ugh, Trump.”

He shrugs off what he calls Trump’s “normal, vicious Twitter attacks” on him. After Mr. Diller mocked Trump’s campaign in 2015, Trump tweeted: “Little Barry Diller, who lost a fortune on Newsweek and Daily Beast, only writes badly about me. He is a sad and pathetic figure. Lives lie!”

Mr. Diller waves off talk of Mr. Trump opening the door to more celebrity presidents, saying, “I want this to be a moment in time where you go in and pick out this period with pincers and go on with life as we knew it before.”

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Has the media gone overboard in criticizing Mr. Trump?

“Are you kidding?” he replies.

Mr. Diller says that he and his wife, Diane von Furstenberg, are friends with Josh Kushner and his supermodel girlfriend, Karlie Kloss, but do not hang out with Jared and Ivanka.

He has put Chelsea Clinton on the boards of two of his companies, but that is not likely to happen with this first daughter.

“I mean, we were friendly,” he says of Ivanka, in the time before Mr. Trump became president. “I would sit next to her every once in a while at a dinner. And I, as everyone did, was like, ‘Oh, my God, how could this evil character have spawned such a polite, gracious person?’ I don’t think we feel that way now.”

At 76, having seen around the corner to tech and pulled together the ragtag group of internet ventures at IAC into a thriving whole, Mr. Diller has “mellowed beautifully,” as one producer here who has known him for many years puts it.

His dogs are jumping up on our chairs. He has three Jack Russell terriers cloned from his late, beloved dog Shannon, a Gaelic orphan he found wandering many years ago on a back road in Ireland.

For about $100,000, a South Korean firm “reincarnated” Shannon in three pups: Tess, short for “test tube,” and DiNA, a play on DNA, who live in Beverly Hills; and Evita, who lives in Cloudwalk, the Connecticut home of Mr. Diller and Ms. von Furstenberg.

“These dogs, they’re the soul of Shannon,” he says. “Diane was horrified that I was doing this but she’s switched now to say, ‘Thank God you did.’”

Mr. Diller has started a trend in Hollywood, inspiring his friend Barbra Streisand, desolate over the loss of her Coton de Tulear, Samantha, to clone her.

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Doesn’t he want to clone himself into a “Killer Diller,” as his protégés, including Jeffrey Katzenberg, Michael Eisner and Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi, are known?

“God forbid,” he says with a grimace.

I ask Mr. Diller what he thought of Sacha Baron Cohen’s joke at David Geffen’s recent birthday party at Jimmy Iovine’s house in Los Angeles that Mr. Geffen, Mr. Diller and the other starry billionaires and millionaires there represented “the world’s third-largest economy.”

“It is a funny joke,” he says. “It’s close to true.”

Is it a cool club to be in, I wonder, or a back-stabbing one?

“For me, it’s stimulating,” he says. “Diane hates it. So I am both in it, because I like it, and ripped out of it, because Diane says, ‘Too much money, too many rich people, let’s go.’ I’ve got a good personal boomerang process.”

He says he met Mr. Geffen, whom he considers “family,” when the two were teenagers in the William Morris mailroom in Los Angeles.

“It’s Christmastime and this scrawny person comes into the mailroom and he said, ‘I’m in the mailroom at William Morris in New York. I had a week off for the holiday so I wanted to come and work here.’ And I thought ‘Oh, my God, on your vacation?’ Because for me, vacation was Hawaii.”

We talk about how Hollywood has changed, and I ask how the #MeToo era will affect the content of movies.

“‘Red Sparrow’ has some of the most violent and extreme sexual messiness that you could imagine,” he says. “O.K., it was made a year and a half ago. Would it be made today in the same way? Probably so. So I don’t think it affects content.

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“I mean, if you take the effect of pornography on young people today. Pornography until recently was fairly staid. Today, online, pornography is so extreme and so varied, with such expressions of fetishism and other things that boys are seeing. The idea of normal sex and normal romance has to be adversely affected by that.”

Once, Hollywood taught us about desire and sex and romance, giving us a vocabulary for these experiences. But no more. I wonder what will happen as girls emboldened by the fall of male predators collide with boys indoctrinated by pornography.

“I see it in our companies, where the relationships between people are changing,” Mr. Diller says. “We recently had a formal complaint made by a woman who said that she was at a convention with her colleagues and she was asked to have a drink with her boss. Period. That was the complaint. And we said, ‘Here’s the thing. Anybody can ask you anything, other than let’s presume something illegal, and you have the right to say “Yes” or “No.” If it’s “Yes,” go in good health and if it’s “No,” then it’s full stop.’

“But the end result of that is a guy, let’s presume he is heterosexual, and his boss, heterosexual, and guy asks guy for a drink and they go have a drink and they talk about career opportunities. And the boss says, ‘Oh, this is a smart guy. I’m promoting him.’ A woman now cannot be in that position. So all these things are a-changin’.

“God knows, I’m hardly a sociologist. But I hope in the future for some form of reconciliation. Because I think all men are guilty. I’m not talking about rape and pillage. I’m not talking about Harveyesque. I’m talking about all of the spectrum. From an aggressive flirt. Or even just a flirty-flirt that has one sour note in it. Or what I think every man was guilty of, some form of omission in attitude, in his views. Are we really going to have only capital punishment? Because right now, that’s what we have. You get accused, you’re obliterated. Charlie Rose ceases to exist.”

Mr. Diller is the chairman of the board of Expedia, and his IAC owns a gaggle of internet properties, including Vimeo, Dictionary.com, Investopedia, Tinder, Match and OkCupid. I wonder how he thinks online dating is reshaping the culture.

“It’s just like the princess phone evolved to the internet,” he says. “Match.com has caused God knows how many more marriages than bars ever did. And now I’m starting to hear that out of Tinder. It’s funny, though, on Bumble, the women get to choose first and they don’t want to. I liked the sheer adventure of romance before online dating, which is less appealing to me.”

I ask Mr. Diller, a Los Angeles native, about a comment made to me by the playwright and TV writer Jon Robin Baitz, another Los Angeles native, that Hollywood is no longer relevant politically and culturally.

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“Does Hollywood reflect in any possible sense what is happening in the world?” Mr. Baitz asked. “Hollywood abdicated films and became an empty exercise in male capes and superheroes. Can you imagine anyone now making ‘Norma Rae,’ ‘Silkwood,’ ‘Five Easy Pieces,’ ‘Reds’?”

Since Mr. Diller was running Paramount in 1981 when Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton made Mr. Beatty’s epic “Reds,” he should know.

“What an undertaking,” Mr. Diller says. “But isn’t it amazing how it holds?”

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