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A bawdy CAA party at Sundance shocks guests, including clients

Creative Artists Agency's party at the Sundance Film Festival, featuring scantily clad performers and sex toys, provokes a public relations backlash.

January 24, 2013|By Chris Lee and John Horn, Los Angeles Times
  • Company logo for Creative Artists Agency.
Company logo for Creative Artists Agency. (www.caa-com )

PARK CITY, Utah — Parties at the Sundance Film Festival typically feature maverick filmmakers, the best in nouvelle cowboy cuisine and plentiful pours of high-end spirits and Utah microbrews.

But the bash thrown by Hollywood's powerful Creative Artists Agency on Sunday night took festival revelry in an unexpectedly bawdy direction, as Sundance guests mingled with lingerie-clad women pretending to snort prop cocaine, erotic dancers outfitted with sex toys and an Alice in Wonderland look-alike performing a simulated sex act on a man in a rabbit costume.

For decades, CAA has carefully maintained a reputation as Hollywood's most meticulous talent firm, but CAA's leave-nothing-to-chance attention to decorum vanished in that Bacchanalian blizzard on the snowy streets of this mountain resort.


For the Record: An article in the Friday Calendar section about the party thrown by Creative Artists Agency at the Sundance Film Festival said that CAA represents corporate clients Dell and the Sundance Institute. An earlier correction said the agency recently represented those companies but does not currently work for them. It should have said that CAA recently represented Dell but does not currently work for the company. CAA has never worked for the Sundance Institute.


Some CAA clients found the party so shocking that they said it made them embarrassed to be associated with the agency.

FULL COVERAGE: Sundance Film Festival 2013

"I said to my agent, 'Is this how you want to brand yourself? Pole dancers? Really?'" said Oscar-nominated writer-director Naomi Foner, who was at the festival with her film, "Very Good Girls."

And Foner, who is the mother of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, said she didn't see the sex toys.

"I would have been much more verbal if I had seen that," said the 66-year-old screenwriter of "Running on Empty."

The performers were part of a Las Vegas troupe, the Act LV, which was hired by the Mint Agency, CAA's party planner for the evening.

"The performance by Simon Hammerstein's The Act LV was more explicit than intended," CAA said in a statement. "We regret if this created an uncomfortable setting for any of our guests."

The party planners and CAA had wanted to "wow the crowd," said Jordan Fogle, the chief executive of the Mint Agency, a Toronto-based marketing and events firm.

The Act LV is known for delivering lewd thrills that toe the line between performance art and impropriety.

PHOTOS: Sundance 2013 portraits by The Times

"They [CAA executives] were a little bit concerned," Fogle said following the public relations backlash to the party. "It's not the image they want to portray — a slutty, trashy image. It's the antithesis of what they are as a brand."

CAA's client roster includes A-list stars such as Will Smith, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg. It also negotiates deals for Coca-Cola, Dell, Mattel and other top corporations. Its licensing division represents the Sundance Institute, which presents the film festival every January. (Sundance declined to comment about the party.)

The CAA executives on hand included managing partner Kevin Huvane and agents Chris Andrews, Micah Green and Roeg Sutherland.

One ranking agent at a rival firm said the event, first described in a Hollywood Reporter story, was unlikely to trigger a mass client exodus for CAA, although it could compel the defection of clients who were already unhappy with the agency's work.

In addition to its renown as North America's preeminent indie movie festival, Sundance long has enjoyed a reputation for scenes of epic partying — a kind of bottoms-up free-for-all for celebrities and movie executives alike that functions something like Hollywood's annual spring break, albeit in a skiing hamlet where you can't rent a keg without a temporary beer permit.

The capacity-filled CAA party, held on Park City's Main Street in the Claim Jumper restaurant, coincided with two other major events thrown by its main Hollywood rivals down the block: William Morris Endeavor and United Talent Agency.

"I thought it would be a tamer burlesque show integrating live art," Fogle said. "Instead, it was like going down the rabbit hole. It was like an acid trip the whole night."

Indeed, witnesses described an NC-17 mash-up of Cirque du Soleil and the orgy scene from Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut." Some 500 guests included an industry crowd of film executives, festival attendees and such marquee CAA clients as Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgard, Evan Rachel Wood and Danny McBride as well as movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

One attendee said she was particularly put off by the man in a rabbit costume on stilts.

"He was very creepy, walking very slowly," recalled party-goer Stephanie Cregger. "He was wearing a strap-on sex toy and a woman dressed as Alice in Wonderland was playing with him."

CAA client and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Nat Faxon said it was hard to talk about his new movie, "The Way, Way Back," while two women simulated a sex act on a bed nearby.

"It was difficult," said Faxon, "to have a conversation about my movie while that was going on right next to you."

chris.lee@latimes.com

john.horn@latimes.com

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