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It’s always show time for Patty Mayer. If she’s not negotiating a movie deal so the curtain can go up at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, she’s honing her riding skills at the Olympic selection trials, aiming for a spot on the U.S. Equestrian Team. Mayer, 41, an entertainment lawyer, deals with nothing but heavy hitters, whether it’s a 1,200-pound horse or an 800-pound gorilla (translation: a movie mogul). In Hollywood or in the horse world, physical size doesn’t matter — which is a good thing for 5-foot-4-inch Mayer. What counts is clout. If you have leverage in any relationship, human or equine, you have it made. On the job, that’s particularly important for Mayer, a senior vice president who oversees a staff of nine lawyers at MGM. She works 10- to 12-hour days and has never called in sick. To facilitate her horse habit, she gets up at 4 a.m. daily and drives from her Culver City home to a stable in Agoura, on the edge of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. She rides two of her three horses and makes the 70-mile trek back to Santa Monica, where she changes from her breeches and boots into a business suit and is behind her desk by 9 a.m. (OK, 9:15 at the latest). That schedule, says Mayer, is a necessity. The horses have to be ridden and the studio’s work has to be done. Neither can infringe on the other’s time. Riding early, she says, is a good way to make her hobby “invisible” to her bosses at MGM. “No one knows, much less cares, what you’re doing between 4 and 9 a.m.,” she says. “All they see is that I’m [in the office] on time every day, I work late and I get the job done.” That job involves film acquisition, handling legal and business affairs for MGM’s specialty film unit (United Artist Films) and maximizing the studio’s extensive film library by licensing movie rights for Broadway plays — all painstaking, detail-oriented tasks. Mayer says she’s as “passionate” about intellectual property law as she is about dressage, the demanding discipline of riding in which she competes. The latter requires graceful, precise and highly athletic movements, much like those of a figure skater or ice dancer, in which the horse appears to skip sideways or glide through the air. Getting a high-performance horse to do what you want is much like persuading a powerful lawyer or his celebrity client to sign off on a multimillion-dollar deal. The easiest, and often most successful, way is the path of least resistance: convincing the other party that he really wants to do whatever it is you’re hoping he will do. When it becomes the horse’s (or opposing party’s) idea, the green light comes on. In both instances, it’s the nature of the beast. Mastering that dynamic has taken Mayer a long way from her days as an ERISA lawyer with Pillsbury Madison & Sutro. It was only a matter of time until Mayer tapped into her entertainment law roots and made the move to a studio. No, she’s not related to the Mayers of MGM, but she is the daughter of Roger Mayer, a longtime entertainment lawyer and business executive who runs Turner Entertainment. Mayer landed her post at MGM on her own 11 years ago, sending unsolicited r�sum�s to studios and high-tech firms in hopes of making the transition into intellectual property law. Growing up in a household where entertainment lingo was as common as “pass the butter” helped. “If someone [in a job interview] said ‘color timer,’ I knew what that was,” she says. (Color timers were designed to ensure true colors in developing movie film.) She has been at MGM ever since and says the studio is “fabulous” about granting her time off to travel for international equestrian competition. Mayer is probably the only entertainment lawyer in Tinseltown whose employment contract includes a horse leave clause (no joke). That became increasingly important as the 2000 Olympics neared. Mayer invoked the clause to take a 12-week leave to prepare for the Olympic selection trials, shipping herself and her top mount, Exakt, to Germany to work with top trainer Conrad Schumacher. It paid off: This spring Mayer was “long-listed” for the U.S. Equestrian Team’s dressage squad. After making the cutoff, (besting more than 100 competitors nationwide at the top, or grand prix, level), Mayer finished in the top 12 at the finals in late May. While she was not among the four named to compete in this summer’s Olympics, Mayer has already racked up her share of international wins, having competed for America in Brazil and qualified for the World Cup team. For someone who moves in the upper echelon of both the equestrian and entertainment worlds, Mayer is refreshingly earthy. “All my life, I never wanted to put all my emotional eggs in one basket,” she says. “If my riding goes to hell on a certain day, I still have my law practice. If something goes wrong at work, at least I’m still riding well. I don’t know where I’d be without that balance.”

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