A former Brillstein-Grey executive tells Vanity Fair that manager/producer Brad Grey admired Pellicano so much that when James Gandolfini briefly walked off the set of The Sopranos in a salary dispute, Grey — the producer of the series — considered replacing the hit HBO drama with a show based on Pellicano’s life.
A former Pelican employee tells Vanity Fair that Pellicano had done personal work for Ovitz since at least 1996. “When Ovitz was leaving Disney,” this employee says, “he became Anthony’s biggest interest, meaning most important client. They were good friends and would speak to each other on a daily basis. Ovitz would often come to the office, and Anthony helped him set up his office. It went on for months, with Anthony going out to Ovitz’s almost daily. Anthony helped install the security and phone systems at Ovitz’s office.”
When Pellicano was arrested in November 2002 Fields spearheaded an effort to raise $$$ for Pellicano’s kids. “He left us with nothing. That’s why I became a real-estate agent,” Kat Pellicano tells Vanity Fair. The president of a major studio, who says he has given testimony before the grand jury, recalls that Fields told him, “Anthony has no money, and he’s not going to be able to take care of his kids. A group of us should pitch in and do something for him.” The studio president tells Vanity Fair that he and Pellicano subsequently spoke, “[and] he gave me a list of people to call.” Vanity Fair reports that the list numbered 20 to 30 people, and was a Who’s Who of Hollywood power players, including Ovitz and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Several of them promised to contribute, but as word of the wiretapping probe spread, all but the studio prez and a producer dropped out.
Vanity Fair reports that Pellicano and lawyer Bert Fields were so close that Pellicano contemplated converting to Judaism. “Six or seven years ago, Anthony comes home one night and tells me we are going to become Jewish and that Bert Fields has arranged conversion classes for both of us,” Kat Pellicano tells Vanity Fair. “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?’ He tells me, ‘Because Bert thinks it will be good for my business. Most of the lawyers out here are Jews, so it would be a good thing.’ I refused to participate, and the idea eventually went away.’’
Former associates of both Pellicano and Paramount chief Brad Grey tell Vanity Fair that the dealings between the two men were extensive, and a former Brillstein-Grey executive says Grey used Pellicano for work on behalf of any number of his clients, including Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, and the late Chris Farley. “There wasn’t a day that I didn’t hear the words ‘Anthony Pellicano’ come out of Brad’s mouth,’’ this executive says. “He would be using him for this client or that client. This one had a problem that only Tony could solve. It was disgusting. Here is this big management firm and they’re using a street thug to clean up problems for some of the biggest stars in Hollywood.’’ (A spokesman for Grey maintains that Grey was “casually acquainted with Pellicano. Mr. Grey never hired Pellicano or recommended to his clients … that they hire him. Mr. Grey had no knowledge of any illegal activity by Mr. Pellicano.”)
Controversial and confrontational Hollywood attorney Patty Glaser and her fellow law partners at Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro have agreed she will be “the spokeswoman, the public face, the disaster control executive” for the firm as it deals with the Pellicano scandal fallout from the February federal indictment of lead partner, Terry Christensen. So reports my pal Garry Abrams, columnist for the Daily Journal legal paper (online sub required). Glaser tells Abrams she didn’t want the job of mouthpiece. ”It happened because, good or bad, I deal with a lot of high-profile matters. It just seemed like one of us should do it.”
But what’s unusual about her new assignment is that Glaser herself is the subject of whispers that she, too, is about to be swept up in the Pellicano scandal. Writes Abrams: “Glaser seemed flabbergasted when asked about a rumor that federal prosecutors had informed her they were investigating her possible involvement in the Pellicano mess. ’Absolutely not,’ she declared over her mobile telephone. ‘Oh, my lord.’”
Abrams writes that, as Christensen’s case moves toward trial, Glaser will be called upon to give the firm’s response to the various hearings and filings that process entails. (I learned last week that also doing PR for Christensen is his good friend, L.A. crisis flack Mike Sitrick.) Christensen’s indictment alleged he used information gained from wiretaps placed by Pellicano to gain an unfair advantage while Christensen represented billionaire Kirk Kerkorian in a nasty child-support dispute. ”Clearly, it’s a tall order …
Many TV biz types tell me that Bill Carter’s new book, Desperate Networks, is riddled with factual inaccuracies. I’ve learned some of those major and minor players mentioned in it got their hands on the galleys — which were everywhere — and have been writing Carter and the publisher to pinpoint each error. This is not to say the book isn’t true; just factually wrong in too many places, if you understand the difference. I’ll defend Carter by noting this: so much of reporting on Hollywood, whether movies or TV, consists of oral history. And in this town especially, memories are damn convenient. That said, I’ll raise what I consider the real issue behind the book: Is Les Moonves gonna get any royalties? Because, just as Bill wrote The Late Shift heavily from Mike Ovitz’s POV, this new tome has the CBS chief’s fingerprints on every page. Oh, and speaking of Les, no one could be deriving more pleasure than him from Tom Freston’s Brad Grey/Pellicano pickle.
Ah, the cluelessness of the Los Angeles Times. I’m not the first (LAobserved.com was) to notice this new ad campaign, featuring the graphic to the left, but I am the first to ask: In all your meetings at all the studios, have you ever encountered anyone who dressed like this? Me neither. No one wears those striped shirts circa 1980s at the studios, much less this ugly one that’s not even Zegna or Boss. At the very least, the guy should be wearing a Lauren polo shirt, preferably cashmere. No tie. The slacks should be khakis or the bottom half of a suit bought at Barney’s, not these ill-fitting Men’s Wearhouse sale item. And the only sandals I’ve ever seen on any studio mogul were Nubuck Nature Treks worn with white athletic socks on Ron Meyer.
How do we hate thee? Let us count the ways… So it’s not enough that Sony/MGM’s James Bond fiasco, um, film Casino Royale (opening Nov. 17th) has received horrendous press – such as Daniel Craig is a wuss who can’t fight (one of his front tooth caps was knocked loose) and can’t play poker (an expert was brought in to instruct him). Now knowledgeable people have gotten hold of the shooting script and their reviews are circulating on the Internet. ”Ill-advised.” “Disappointing.” “Uneven.” “Sometimes uninspired.” This was supposed to be Reimagined Bond, Bourne Bond, Non-Tuxedo-Wearing Bond. B.S. Turns out Craig does don a tuxedo, only he’s not used to wearing one (audible groan). Here’s one review from Ain’t-It-Cool-News’ Merrick, “The action has been dialed down – brutal, hand-to-hand combat now preferred to gargantuan set pieces… Gone is nearly any visage of over the over-the-top action sequences we’ve come to expect from James Bond movies… The universe he inhabits is much more –I hesitate to use the word — ‘realistic’ than it was before… the story is grounded in a far less stylized world than previous Bonds.” Given the above, here’s one reaction, “What is this, a James Bond film for people who don’t like James Bond films?”
Remember I told you that Geraldo Rivera is looking for regulars to be part of one- or two-times a week panel discussions about the Pellicano scandal for his syndicated Geraldo at Large? Well, he’s still seeking suckers, er, suitable people. He recently went to the author of the Anthony Pellicano Web Links Blog who emails me: “What you wrote about Geraldo wasn’t just an ugly rumor. It’s an ugly-soon-to-be-true fact. A [producer] from the program contacted me on Friday for an interview. My 17 year old son’s response I think sums up my sentiments about the possibility. He muttered in pure adolescent disgust, ‘Loser.’”
Remember I told the producer I’d rather have someone split open my head than be part of Geraldo’s show? Maybe this is the start of an Anti-Sleaze TV trend. In 2003, “Dateline NBC” correspondent Josh Mankiewicz asked for my help on Michael Jackson. I told him I’d rather thread a needle through my eye than report that story. When I asked why he wasn’t spending his time on more important matters, like Iraq, he said his bosses would rather air the MJ crap. “Just say no,” I told him. He laughed sadly.
Previously: Geraldo Ready to “O.J.” Pellicano
MTV finally announces details this week for The Hills, that Laguna Beach spin-off set in Los Angeles and airing in May. The new reality show (and I use that term loosely since so much of Laguna Beach 1 and 2 was editing-room fakery) stars Lauren “LC” Conrad while she goes to fashion college in Downtown L.A. and works as an intern in the L.A. Bureau of Teen Vogue. (Yes, she gets to meet Anna Wintour. BFD.) Producers are positioning it as Melrose Place vs Beverly Hills 90210. On the show, the 19-year-old Conrad attends the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising so I gave the school a call. Wow, talk about being taken advantage of: I found out from FIDM’s spokeswoman Shirley Wilson that the school didn’t receive one penny in financial compensation, not even scholarship money, from MTV, which no doubt will get as rich off this new show as it has off the two Laguna Beach series (3 starts in July). When will these naifs learn?
Previously: Who Hates Their MTV?
So go ahead, you showbiz types. Talk dirty. Offend everyone. Get raunchy. The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously today on Lyle v. Warner Brothers Television Productions that raw, coarse and vulgar language and conduct, including the recounting of sexual experiences, used by those Friends sitcom writers are merely part of ”a creative workplace” and not harassment as long as they are not pervasive or targeted at specific individuals. What a quaint notion: that there’s such a thing as creativity in Hollywood in the first place. Now the question is just how far up the food chain of Hollywood will this potty mouth liberation be allowed? In agency hallways or producer offices or even the executive suite? Nah, no creativity going on there.
What do Ron Burkle and Mike Ovitz have in common besides today’s New York Times article about their ties to Pellicano? I’m told Los Angeles P.R.-meister Mike Sitrick.
When Burkle’s federal sting against a New York Post gossip freelancer hit the headlines this month, the flack issuing a statement on behalf of the L.A. billionaire was Sitrick. He’s also the flack trying to improve Ovitz’s public image. Which is why I find it strange that today’s NYT story about the Burkle/Ovitz/Pellicano dysfunction doesn’t once mention Sitrick by name. What’s really going on here?
It sure looks as if Sitrick and Company has found a new revenue stream flowing out of the Pellicano federal investigation. Then again, that scandal is making a lot of strange bedfellows. It’s bizarre to say the least that Sitrick is now representing Burkle and Ovitz who once were friends and now enemies suing each other, and who are now both talking to the FBI about how Pellicano may have played and pitted them against one another. But it’s also convenient, judging from this latest NYT article, how their stories help present one another in the best light possible considering the dark doings of the thug P.I. with whom they both had relationships. I’m told Sitrick also flacks for his good friend, the indicted lawyer Terry Christensen, whose client Kirk Kerkorian has long been a Sitrick stalwart. There, too, the two men’s take on the Pellicano case could confirm and complement each other’s. Then again, Sitrick is a Jedi master of attack-and-parry PR (which is why the Catholic Church hired him to spin its sex-abuse scandal). For Ovitz …
I’ve written this before, but it’s worth repeating: It’s always hard to know whether bad people are drawn to Hollywood or good people go bad here. So when the Devil came calling, in the lumpy pudding face of Anthony Pellicano, either you hired him, or not. Too bad we now suspect that many Industry power players trotted onto Ovitzian turf in terms of out-and-out paranoia, especially when in the throes of professional or personal wars they wanted to win at all costs. They acted one way in public — truthful, trustworthy and soulful — and quite another in private — lying, untrustworthy and soulless. But no matter if a mogul or a talent or his lawyer were in litigation or just negotiation with a nut or a jerk or a golddigger, they never should have sunk so low as to hit below the belt with Pellicano’s help. For chrissake, showbiz is a handshake business and Hollywood a town of relationships. It’s hard to imagine sitting across a Grill lunch table with any of these nasties now.
The point of the latest New York Times Pellicano exposé — this is becoming a weekly exercise — may not be wiretapping after all but the thug P.I.’s sly ability to play off one Hollywood heavyweight (in this NYT example, L.A. billionaire Ron Burkle) against the other (ex-agent/mogul Michael Ovitz) in hopes of bagging both men as his clients and scoring major moolah. But, as the newspaper points out, it’s also a morality play that “provides a new glimpse into Mr. Pellicano’s methods of drumming up new business and holding himself out as a …
People with more than half a brain may not know that Fox News Channel’s 2nd most embarrassing star, Geraldo Rivera, has a relatively new syndicated show called Geraldo at Large. Today I learned that Geraldo is about to “O.J.” the Pellicano case. As anyone familiar with Geraldo’s past will recall, he rode his hyperventilated O.J. case coverage to hell and back. Oh joy, now he’s going to make a similar circus of the Pellicano stuff. I know this because one of his producers today asked me to become a show regular on what he said would be the once- or twice-weekly panel discussions about the developments and details of the ongoing Hollywood wiretapping scandal.
So what was my response? I told the producer I’d rather have someone split open my head than be part of Geraldo’s show.
For the record, Tom Freston, Brad Grey and Grey’s lawyer all discussed what Brad did or didn’t do, knew or didn’t know, re Pellicano before Grey was hired to head Paramount Studios, Freston confirms to Business Week. The brief article describes Grey’s short Paramount tenure so far as “brutal even by Hollywood’s barracuda standards” and features yet another stand-by-your-man statement from a Viacom topper. “I believe in Brad,” Freston tells Ron Grover for the piece headlined Mission: Precarious, “and I believe he’s telling me the truth.”
Less so with reporters re all those Paramount denials that anything was amiss with Grey’s No. 2, Gail Berman. “The phone lines began lighting up in his newly decorated suite at the stately Paramount studios with agents complaining that Berman was abrasive and feuded with her top assistants on which pictures to choose — both no-nos in a world where turmoil inside a studio drives hot projects away to rivals. In no time, agents say, Grey was speed-dialing his way through town, soothing feelings, even as the studio denied any rifts,” Grover writes.
This afternoon, DHD passed 500,000 page views in about five weeks of operation.
Let’s keep it going!
Suri, a girl, 7lb-7oz, in Santa Monica. Let the paparazzi games begin.
Meanwhile, sad news, Brian Grazer has filed for a legal separation from his wife, Gigi.
Sorry, but don’t expect to read dish on either event here. Not my scene.
I joked here today that Internet billionaire and HDnet/HD Movie Net founder Mark Cuban was an unintentional cut-up and in desperate need of Wikipedia. But he emailed me tonight that he wasn’t kidding.
At the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s national show in Atlanta last week, there was the usual high-tech alphabet-speak being tossed around. I was told Cuban looked at ease boasting about how his high-def network is in front of 55 mil homes already (2.6 mil subs), including DirecTV, DISH, Charter, Time Warner. But when the conversation turned technical, he appeared to channel the average consumer who doesn’t know the difference between 720p or 1080i video delivery formats. Asked why his HDnet is the first national television network broadcasting all of its programming in 1080i resolution HD, Cuban responded: not because he thought it was better than the other formats but because it was a bigger number and he thought the public would be impressed by that.
So tonight, Mark Cuban emails me: “The point of my comment was that the consumer isn’t going to go to a Wikipedia or anywhere else for that matter to try to understand the difference between 1080 and 720p. That sometimes marketing decisions rule over technical decisions.” I happen to agree with him: size does matter, and perception is more important than reality. As Cuban himself noted at the end of one of his most recent blog postings: “It’s always a mistake to listen to your customers. The goal of any organization …