Thursday, May 23, 2024

Ricky Gervais is the Least of the Golden Globes’ Problems


Ricky Gervais is having so much fun at the expense of the Golden Globes. But he’s the least of their problems. (Won’t it be hilarious if NBC forces the Globes to bring Gervais back as host next year?)

Yes, it seems like everyone is suing the Golden Globes. A recap: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is being sued by its former publicist Michael Russell.  Now a charity called Stars for a Cause is also suing them. Russell got the HFPA involved with Stars for a Cause a few years ago.

But here’s a twist: one of the main beneficiaries of this Stars for a Cause, according to their Federal tax filings, has been…ta da..Michael Russell! Stars for a Cause has three Form 990s on file with guidestar, which records the finances of US charities.

In 2006, all the money donated to Stars for a Cause–$20,000–went to Michael Russell. In both 2007 and 2008, Stars for a Cause paid Russell $39,500. It does seem like, on paper, the cause involved in this charity was…Michael Russell.

Stars for a Cause is run by the Braunstein family–Beverly Hills attorney George Braunstein is their leader, and his wife and daughter are the officers.George Braunstein told me: “We pay Michael Russell for access to the stars. We wouldn’t have it other wise.”

In 2007, the Braunsteins had a celebrity auction (celebs autograph things) and raised $225,000. Of that, they gave $30,000 to the Hollywood Museum. Another $51,000 went to office expenses including a whopping $26,000 for postage. Braunstein was paid $4,050 for renting Stars for a Cause space in his law offices.

Braustein says the postage was for shipping rare prints to an art exhibit they sponsored.

In 2008, same deal, with a twist: the Braunsteins donated $60,000 to Friends of the Prince’s Trust. Their two other donations: $250 each to AIDS Project Los Angeles, and to Loyola High School.

Russell got his usual $39,500. George Braunstein paid himself $13,000 in legal fees, and $5,500 in rent. The charity listed a $75,000 deficit for the year.

Another line of expenses. coming to almost $9,000, was for travel and entertainment.

But what about Russell? It does seem from the Stars for a Cause Form 990 and the HFPA’s own filing that he was making substantially more in fees from Stars for a Cause than from the HFPA. Was Stars for a Cause paying him for his access to the Golden Globes, meaning movie stars who would promote their causes? Yes, Braunstein says. “Michael Russell had been in the business a long time and knew everyone.”

Braunstein says when Stars for a Cause files its Form 990 for 2010 donations to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief, UN World Progra, Greenpeace and Oxfam will be recorded. Each was tied specifically to a celebrity.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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