‘The mask is beginning to slip’: Allegations that DeGeneres is an inconsiderate boss add to the growing number of rumors and reports about her supposed behind-the-scenes meanness.
Ellen DeGeneres, who is worth an estimated $330 million, garnered lots of positive press last week when she announced that she and her wife Portia de Rossi were donating $1 million to a cause that supports vulnerable communities amid the coronavirus crisis.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 21, 2020
But it appears this announcement, showcasing DeGeneres in an act of generosity and community spirit, didn’t sit well with the more than 30 people who have long worked behind the scenes on her long-running daytime talk-show. With shelter-in-place orders, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is being taped remotely from one of the host’s Southern California mansions, and most of her stage crew members have been idle.
The day after DeGeneres’ donation announcement, crew members took their complaints about poor treatment from her and her show’s executives to Variety. Core stage crew members were “distressed and outraged,” numerous insiders affiliated with the show told Variety.
The crew, which consists of lighting and camera operators, grips and others, received “no written communication about the status of their working hours, pay, or inquiries about their mental and physical health from producers for over a month,” according to Variety.
When they finally heard from producers, they were told that they should prepare to see their pay cut 60 percent, Variety said. Meanwhile, DeGeneres reportedly earns $70 million a year from the show, the Daily Beast added. Such treatment, insiders told Variety, is “totally inconsistent with DeGeneres’ daily message to her audiences: ‘be kind.’”
To “add insult to injury,” the crew learned that the show had hired an outside, non-union tech company to help DeGeneres tape remotely. Her show’s union employees said they have the technical skills to help her produce the remote version of the show.
The allegations that DeGeneres is an inconsiderate boss add to the growing number of rumors and reports on social media and in the entertainment press about her alleged behind-the-scenes meanness. These reports are consistent with “the tinge of mean-spiritedness” that comes through in her interviews and segments on her show, the Daily Beast reported.
DeGeneres being the “Queen of Nice” and “relatable” is an intrinsic part of her brand, the Daily Beast said. But she didn’t help her brand when she recently joked that being in coronavirus lockdown in her multimillion-dollar Santa Barbara home “is like being in jail.” The joke was considered particularly insensitive right now because jail and prison inmates are packed into small cells and units where the risk of contracting COVID-19 is especially high.
Her brand earlier took a hit in October when she was photographed, laughing it up in a luxury box at a Dallas Cowboys game with former U.S. President George W. Bush. When fans questioned her about being friends with the president who launched the Iraq War and opposed gay marriage, she lectured them on the need to “be kind,” even to people with whom you have political differences.
But many thought DeGeneres’ message rang hollow, and was less about being “kind” and more about her need to defend her chumminess with another rich and powerful person.
The Daily Beast said this week that DeGeneres’ “Queen of Nice” mask is “beginning to slip” amid COVID-19. The pandemic is turning out to be the great leveler when it comes to celebrity pretentious.
Late last month, comedian and podcast host Kevin T. Porter launched a viral Twitter thread based on the argument that DeGeneres is “notoriously one of the meanest people alive.” Porter’s post, to raise money for the Los Angeles Food Bank, began with, “Right now we all need a little kindness. You know, like Ellen Degeneres always talks about! ”
Porter’s tweet garnered more than 66,000 likes and numerous first-, second-, and third-hand stories about DeGeneres being indifferent, snooty, or vindictive, from refusing to make eye contact with interns to almost getting a waitress fired for having a chipped nail to actually getting a “slightly autistic” but friendly custodian fired for forgetting that he wasn’t supposed to look at or speak to her.
The Daily Beast said that none of these stories have been shared or confirmed by anyone still in the industry, but former “Ellen” head writer Karen Kilgariff told podcast host Marc Maron in 2014 that she was fired from the show after refusing to cross the picket line during the 2008 writers’ strike.
With regard to the crew’s allegations, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. Television, which distributes the “Ellen” show, acknowledged to Variety that communications could have been better. But the studio blamed the apparent lack of transparency on the chaos caused by COVID-19. The spokesperson also acknowledged that crew had been paid consistently, though at reduced hours.
“Our executive producers at Telepictures (a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Television) are committed to taking care of our staff and crew and have made decisions first and foremost with them in mind,” the spokesperson said.
Many members of DeGeneres’ crew, who operate separately from her senior producers, writers and assistants, have been with her since the show began 17 years ago, Variety said. They were also dismayed to learn that colleagues at other talk shows were being treated far better, including by their star employers.
Stagehands on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” were paid from Kimmel’s own pocket during initial COVID-19 shutdowns, Variety reported. With the show back on the air, ABC is paying their full salaries. Crews who work at “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” also received regular and transparent communications from their producers and are being paid their full rates, Variety added.
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