Jeff Bezos and Howard Hughes: two peas in a pod

Sure it’s a sleazy sexting scandal featuring a trashy tabloid, but it’s immensely entertaining. It also reminds me of Howard Hughes, another filthy rich businessman captivated by Hollywood.

Hughes made his fortune in oil equipment before getting involved in the movie business, producing and directing movies and buying the Hollywood movie studio RKO Pictures. The starlets he seduced, getting younger as he got older, included Ava Gardner, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and actress Terry Moore when he was 43 and she was 19.

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Howard Hughes with actress Ava Gardner

Like Bezos, Hughes was a flight enthusiast. Hughes went into the airplane business in 1934 at the age of  28. He modified a Lockheed plane and flew around the world in it in 1938. He also built the gargantuan wooden Spruce Goose plane that now sits at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, OR.

Hughes Aircraft Company also designed and built Surveyor 1, the first American craft to land on the moon.

Bezos has been a flight innovator of his time as well with his space-launch company, Blue Origin. Founded by Bezos in 2000, the company, which is developing reusable rockets, is working to create low-cost space infrastructure.

Jeff Bezos’ emergence as a wealthy celebrity caught The Wall Street Journal’s attention last September when he showed up at a flashy party at television producer Mark Burnett’s Malibu mansion.

“For more than two decades, Mr. Bezos had built a public persona of a low-key billionaire who did the dishes every night, had a happy home life, valued frugality and was a bit of a nerd at work,” the Journal  wrote earlier this month.

“I go to bed early, I get up early, I like to putter in the morning” reading the newspaper, drinking a cup of coffee and eating breakfast with his children, he told 1,400 attendees   at an event held by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. in Sept. 2018.

Vogue magazine took the same approach in a syrupy article about Jeff Bezos’ novelist wife, MacKenzie.  “Theirs is, by all accounts, one of those complementary marriages in which the two parts come together to form an even stronger whole,” the Vogue article said. “…until 2013, MacKenzie still drove their four kids to school and then dropped Jeff off at work in their Honda.”

“Family is very important to Jeff, and he absolutely relies on her (MacKenzie) to create that stable home life,” a family friend, Danny Hillis, told Vogue. “They are such a normal, close-knit family, it’s almost abnormal.”

This carefully cultivated image has been crumbling lately, particularly as Bezos’ company, Amazon, has built more ties with the entertainment industry and Bezos has been surrounded by paparazzi and movie stars.

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Like Hughes, Bezos made his fortune elsewhere before diving into making films for Amazon Prime. But now his immersion in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is full-blown and outsiders are what Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard called “all those little people out there in the dark.”

It’s a notable shift for Bezos, from a tech culture that celebrates real accomplishments to a culture of artifice, what Daniel Boorstin described in The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America, as a metamorphosis from traditional “larger-than-life” heroes known for their achievement to “celebrity-personalities” recognized for their “well-knownness.”

On January 6, 2018, Bezos, as a new movie mogul, attended the Golden Globe Awards, where three of Amazon Prime’s shows were nominated for major awards.  Apparently solo, he spent much of his time schmoozing with the stars.

His split from his wife even came out like a carefully massaged story in an old Hollywood fan magazine like Photoplay.

“Jeff Bezos and his new girlfriend Lauren Sanchez are going strong in the wake of their relationship going public,” gushed People  magazine. “They’re madly in love and stronger than ever,” a source close to the new couple tells PEOPLE.”

Never mind that Sanchez and Bezos began their affair when both were part of couples who were old friends in long-standing marriages. Vanity Fair  is one of the few publications with the chutzpah to refer to Sanchez as “Bezos’ mistress” instead of his “new girlfriend.”

The fact is Sanchez and Patrick Whitesell, co-CEO at the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, married in 2005 and have two children together; a daughter, born in 2008, and a son, born in 2006. Jeff and MacKenzie, who’ve been married for 25 years, have four children; a daughter they adopted from China and three sons.

As Celebitchy.com, a celebrity gossip blog, put  it, “I don’t need to hear that Bezos and Lauren Sanchez are ‘stronger than ever,’ as if they’ve weathered some real tragedy or difficult circumstance. Please. They had an affair and now they’re both divorcing their spouses and they’re trying to put a bow on it and pretend like this isn’t a huge, gross mess.”

Sanchez, 49, (whose given name is Wendy Lauren Sanchez), is no Ava Gardner, but she’s  straight out of the Hollywood image machine, where competition for attention is a blood Sport.

She was the first host of “So You Think You Can Dance” in 2005. She was also an entertainment reporter for “Extra” from 2011 to 2017 and a former co-host of “Good Day LA” on Fox 11.

Sanchez, who bears an uncanny resemblance to MacKenzie Bezos, has also been on “The View” as a guest co-host and acted in the movies “The Longest Yard,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Ted 2” and “Fight Club.”

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Lauren Sanchez (L), Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Bezos

Jeff Bezos’ real Hollywood coming out party will be on Feb. 24 . That’s when he and Sanchez are expected to appear together at the 91st Academy Awards (The Oscars) on Feb. 24 at the Hollywood & Highland Center.

After Hughes’ death in 1976, the BBC reported,“He is both a fantasy figure of the dashing young tycoon playboy and a cautionary tale about the corrosive power of wealth.”

What comes next for Jeff Bezos is anybody’s guess.

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