In April 2014, Hollywood took a stand against Islamic sharia law.
Celebrities and industry power players initiated a boycott against the swanky Beverly Hills Hotel, whose owner, the Sultan of Brunei, had just implemented sharia law, which allows for the stoning of gay people, in his country.
For a time, the boycott — led by big-name stars like Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno, and by organizations like the Motion Picture & Television Fund and Human Rights Campaign — was extraordinarily successful. Just after it began, the Hollywood Reporter visited the hotel’s iconic Polo Lounge — a favorite spot for industry power meetings — and found it almost completely empty during what would have ordinarily been a busy lunch rush.
A short time later, musician John Legend skipped what was to be a star-studded party in his honor in solidarity with the boycott (the party eventually went on without Legend).
A year later, celebrity photographer Karl Larsen told the New York Post that while he was once “always there” at the hotel covering Oscars parties and lavish events, he hadn’t “heard a peep” since.
On Thursday, the Polo Lounge made its way back to No. 6 on the Hollywood Reporter‘s annual Top 25 Power Lunch spots of 2016 (it had fallen to No. 22 at the height of the boycott) — marking an unofficial end to what had been a rare, righteous stand from Hollywood against the evil of Sharia law.
Stars with close ties to the LGBT community, including Miley Cyrus and Megan Ellison, have reportedly gone back to the hotel. In February, THR reported that the boycott had quietly “petered out” as stars including Taylor Swift, Kevin Spacey, Lorne Michaels, Djimon Honsou, Beverly Johnson and Calvin Klein had all been spotted there at the beginning of the year.
“It’s back,” WME’s Richard Weitz declared to THR on Thursday, adding that the restaurant is now back to being “constantly packed.” At the height of the boycott in 2014, Weitz had told the same publication that he would “no longer” go there.
The once-passionate boycott of the Beverly Hills and its relatively quick flameout could be a harbinger of what is to come with Hollywood’s latest boycott target: the state of North Carolina.
Last month, rocker Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in the state in protest of its recent passage of HB 2 — the so-called transgender “bathroom law — that mandates that transgender individuals use public restrooms that correspond with their biological sex.
Numerous high-profile artists followed Springsteen’s lead: Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, rock bands Pearl Jam and Boston, pop rockers Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato, filmmakers Rob Reiner and Michael Moore and even the Cirque du Soleil theater troupe all canceled plans to work in the state. Elton John — one of the most vocal supporters of the Beverly Hills Hotel boycott — penned a blistering essay earlier this week against the state’s law.
But if the unlikely return to glory of the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge is any indication, stars will resume working in North Carolina again — as long as enough time has passed that most people forget about what the boycott was all about in the first place.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum