After months of anticipation, the tip of this very dirty iceberg finally hove into view in February, when Pellicano and six of his flunkies, including two policemen, were indicted on various charges, including illegally accessing law-enforcement databases. A week later the billionaire financier Kirk Kerkorian's longtime attorney, Terry Christensen, became the first high-profile L.
In comments made after these indictments, the U. Attorney's Office indicated that more indictments are coming, and, several people close to the investigation say, they won't be limited to attorneys. Clients will be indicted, too.
The book wasn't called The Luca Brazzi Story, you know. It was called The Godfather. The Pellicano scandal has been simmering since , since that dead fish was thrown on Anita Busch's Audi, along with a red rose and a note bearing the single word "Stop. By the time Ned Zeman was accosted two months later, an F. It climaxed with the raids on Pellicano's office that November, in which two hand grenades, a wedge of C-4 plastic explosive, and thousands of pages of wiretap transcripts were found, as well as recordings encrypted on computer discs.
An investigation that had initially focused on the intimidation of a journalist quickly grew into a broader probe of electronic eavesdropping. Pellicano was indicted on weapons charges, copped a plea, and in was given a month sentence in the Taft Correctional Institution, north of Los Angeles, while federal authorities attempted to understand his wiretapping activities. He was poised to emerge from prison in February , when he was indicted again, this time with two former cops and two former employees of Pacific Bell, on charges of wiretapping and of paying the policemen to illegally access law-enforcement databases.
Pellicano remains in custody while rumors ricochet that he will begin "ratting out" his clients. Those attorneys who used Pellicano's services and who have cases known to be under federal examination, or who have retained their own attorneys, include some of the best-known lawyers in Southern California: Dennis Wasser, the renowned Beverly Hills divorce attorney whose clients have included Kerkorian, Spielberg, Rod Stewart, and Jennifer Lopez; Martin Singer, who has represented Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, and Celine Dion, and whose office number is said to have appeared on Pellicano's speed-dial list; the late Edward Masry, best known for spearheading the class-action lawsuit that inspired the movie Erin Brockovich; Charles N.
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Davis, a Beverly Hills criminal-defense attorney best known for his work in the late s on the McMartin pre-school child-molestation case. None of the attorneys or their representatives would comment for this article. But the "whales" in this investigation, the men whose futures are now being debated every night at the Ivy, Mastro's Steakhouse, and Koi, are three of the most powerful Hollywood figures of the last half-century: Michael S. Ovitz, the onetime head of the CAA talent agency and later the president of Disney, who dominated American film deals for two decades; Brad Grey, the chairman and C.
None of these three men has been indicted, and all deny any wrongdoing, but Fields has admitted to being a subject of the investigation, and Grey and Ovitz have been questioned.
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The cases cited in Pellicano's February indictment suggest that all three stand squarely in the U. Pellicano, several sources say, worked for Grey off and on for years while Grey was at Brillstein-Grey. Ovitz was facing the collapse of his post-Disney start-up, Artists Management Group, when, in , he reportedly hired Pellicano to probe several members of what he famously termed, in a Vanity Fair interview, a Hollywood "Gay Mafia" of his enemies, several of whom weren't in fact gay.
Ovitz has denied this, and said he hired Pellicano for other matters. According to the indictments, Pellicano paid his cops to run background checks on several of these men. But it is Fields who may have the most to fear. According to Kat Pellicano and several of her husband's former employees, Pellicano considered Fields by far his most important client.
Jeffrey Katzenberg's litigation with Disney's Michael Eisner, Tom Cruise's defense against a gay-porn star's sex allegations, Imagine Entertainment's suit against Mike Myers, and Kevin Costner's struggle with a difficult British fan, to name but a few. Until Pellicano's indictment, in fact, Fields was probably his biggest fan, serving up adoring quotes for media profiles of him.
Kat Pellicano discloses a measure of how tight the two men became. I said, 'Anthony, with all that Italian and Catholic bullshit of yours and my being an almost atheist from Oklahoma, why the hell do you want us to become Jewish? Most of the lawyers out here are Jews, so it would be a good thing.
When Pellicano was arrested, in November , Fields spearheaded an effort to raise money for Pellicano's children. Kat says of her husband, "He left us with nothing.
That's why I became a real-estate agent. A group of us should pitch in and do something for him. Several of them promised to contribute, but as word of the wiretapping probe spread, all but the studio president and a producer dropped out.
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When Pellicano heard about this, the studio president says, he responded, "If no one else is putting up the money, then I don't want it. As pressure grows on Pellicano to testify against his former clients, a lot of people may wish they had been more charitable. Detective agencies in America run the gamut from large international outfits such as Wackenhut and Kroll Inc. In size, the Pellicano Investigative Agency, which usually employed five or fewer investigators, fell low down the scale, though the publicity Pellicano drew in myriad media profiles made him seem more significant.
He commanded a niche business, but that niche was Hollywood, which made him a household name in some very powerful Los Angeles households. Outside L. I read about him in Vanity Fair. Guy seemed like a real nut job. Jack Palladino says of Pellicano, "I never took the guy seriously.
The way he bragged openly about wiretaps and baseball bats, I mean, I just thought it wasn't real. I didn't understand that his Hollywood clientele lived in that same film noir world and accepted it as real.
In the national investigative community, in fact, there is a sense that Pellicano could have thrived only in L. His mock-mafioso act was tailor-made for Hollywood, which expects a private detective to act the way detectives do in the movies, where illegal activities such as tapping telephones and bribing cops are routine. Peers who know him, like Palladino, suspect Pellicano became so wrapped up in his fantasy he lost touch with reality.
The irony, they say, is that the background checks he allegedly bribed policemen to run can often now be accessed in publicly available databases. Either he really didn't understand how much is now available or he was just too lazy. I mean, this is not how anyone else in this business does business.
It's the way it is in the movies. And, unfortunately, he had this L. They don't know much about the real world. They're rich and spoiled and out of touch. And this was a guy who reflected their reality, which was the reality in films. Wiretapping, though prevalent in films, is almost unheard of today, several leading private detectives say.
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It was more common in the s and 60s—the famous San Francisco P. Hal Lipset bragged of bugging the olive in a suspect's martini—but the government scandals of the s led to tightened privacy laws, which can carry heavy penalties for electronic eavesdropping. None of the detectives interviewed for this article could recall a single instance in recent years of a P. But Pellicano was proudly old-school. He played the part of "Hollywood detective" as if in a movie—double-breasted suits, patent-leather shoes, opera on the office speakers—and over the years any number of producers, including Brad Grey, Michael Mann, and Jerry Bruckheimer, talked of putting his life on film.
Life inside the Pellicano office, however, was less Magnum P. Pellicano preferred his assistants young and beautiful; his executive vice president, Tarita Virtue, 36, who says she was the only employee allowed into the secret room where his wiretaps were monitored, once posed in lingerie for Maxim. Pellicano mused about arranging a Playboy layout on "The Girls of Pellicano.
Yet between their boss's flirtations and his bellicose management style, few stayed long. I would ask new employees, 'Are you on Prozac yet? But as difficult as he could be, Pellicano got results. Celebrities preoccupied with their images found him the perfect antidote for stalkers, troublesome lovers, and the mothers of accidental children.
As the Louisville Slugger he liked to fondle attests, Pellicano had no qualms about using threats and intimidation. The Hollywood Hills are teeming with ex-wives, ex-lovers, journalists, and former business managers who swear Pellicano had them followed, wiretapped, threatened, roughed up, or worse. The most common stories one hears are of people having their homes watched and being followed in their cars by large men—one or two claim to have been driven off the road by them.
Pellicano was especially good at identifying an opponent's weak spot and attempting to exploit it. To cite just one example, consider how he dealt with one of Brad Grey's adversaries, a writer-producer named Bo Zenga. Zenga had sued Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, claiming they ignored a verbal producing agreement for 's Scary Movie.
Pellicano's indictment indicates Zenga was one of the many Hollywood figures he allegedly wiretapped and investigated by paying a local policeman to run an illegal background check. With that information, Zenga believes, Pellicano learned that Zenga and his sister had co-signed a mortgage on his elderly mother's home in New Jersey. At the time, Zenga's mother, who had diabetes, was blind and confined to a wheelchair.
He told her that unless her son dropped the lawsuit her daughter would lose her house; she, her daughter, and grandson would be homeless; and he would see to it that her son went to prison. When that didn't work, he tried the goombah bit. He told her that he was the father of nine children and like her always worried about them. He did everything he could to get her to convince me to drop the lawsuit. He continued until the day she died from a stroke.
This guy is pure evil. The grandson of Sicilian immigrants, Pellicano was born in His grandfather Americanized the family name, Pellicano, to Pellican, but Anthony, proud of his roots, restored the name to Pellicano as an adult. A self-described "young tough" on the streets of Cicero, he was kicked out of high school for fighting. He joined the U. Army Signal Corps, where he was trained as a cryptographer.
After his discharge he took a job with the Spiegel catalogue in Chicago and was placed in collections, where he tracked down delinquent customers.