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Orange County | Dana Parsons

Finally, Eisner, Davis Get Real

September 10, 2003|Dana Parsons

What do Michael Eisner and Gray Davis have in common, other than that both preside over sprawling amusement parks -- Disneyland and California, respectively -- whose stock is rather low at the moment?

The answer: Each had a recent epiphany.

Such moments are usually worthy of celebration, signaling as they do a new level of enlightenment. And who says that, just because Davis and Eisner are veteran CEOs, they can't wake up and smell the coffee at long last?

Maybe they have. Maybe the humanity each has recently demonstrated reflects the character of each man's heart.

What manner of cynic would suggest otherwise?

Don't look at me.

I was moved when Gov. Davis told the masses that he'd made mistakes in his first term and that, if given the chance, he'd reach out and listen to us. Why, he'd even have a town hall meeting! He would leave Sacramento ... and not just for fund-raisers!

Oh, governor, do you mean it? Do you really mean it?

Of course he means it. The hard-hearted among you are saying Davis' penance was an empty gesture and offered only because he's the target of a recall and in danger of losing his job. What you're not considering is that young politicians often grow on the job and learn from their mistakes. Many imperious young politicians were humbled early in their careers and changed course.

Davis is only 60. Good grief, he won't be 61 for three months. He's been in state government only since 1974. Let's give the young man a chance to develop his own style.

Eisner's revelation came at a more somber moment -- within hours after a man had died on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster. For the first time since taking the helm of the Disney Co. in 1984 -- and there have been other chances -- Eisner appeared publicly and expressed sympathy for the victim and his family.

No one doubted Eisner's sincerity; it's just that by doing such an obvious thing he called attention to the fact he'd not done it on previous occasions.

Has Eisner, at 61, suddenly seen the light? Is he a different man now than a few years ago when a middle-aged parkgoer was killed in a freak accident or when a young boy was brain-damaged on a kiddie ride?

No one is saying that.

Eisner's instincts for sympathy last week surely were just as sharp years ago. So why the change? Why were the instincts muffled over the years, when everything in his body should have cried out for him to speak out?

We can't read minds, so we'll never know. You cynics will say it had to do with the corporate mentality and the blinding that it can create. Or, you'll say that Disney has taken some hits in recent years and that Eisner needs to put a better face forward.

Whatever.

What seems to be true is that whether you sit in the governor's chair in Sacramento or a corporate boardroom in Burbank, you can lose your bearings. Yes, there are immense corporate duties to perform, but, hey, there are real people out here too.

As for Davis and Eisner, let's cheer their epiphanies.

Neither got where they are by being warm, cuddly figures. Viva la revelation!

So, let us not be cynical that the two gentlemen's offerings to us came at times when the ground under them is shaking. Let's take them at their word that, after all this time, their best instincts have carried the day. Let's hope that as they hear their words read back to them, they'll realize they represent who they truly are.

Aren't epiphanies beautiful? They strike when you least expect them.

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Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821, at dana. parsons@latimes.com or at The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

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