By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
LAST SUNDAY NIGHT SHOULD HAVE BEEN a triumph for Paramount studio boss Brad Grey. After all, The Sopranos was making its long-awaited return and he’s the show’s executive producer. But the bad news for Brad was that his own Tony Soprano, in this case Anthony Pellicano, was haunting him. By the next morning, Pellicano, at least in the form of a New York Times Page One exclusive, would show up on his doorstep — to remind Grey that there’s always a price to pay for dealing with any devil. The story, which I tipped off Sunday afternoon on Deadline Hollywood Daily (www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com), is the third in a series of big New York Times news breaks — first about Mike Ovitz, then about Bert Fields — and gets into Grey’s alleged ties to Pellicano. (The Los Angeles Times, in contrast to the NYT, to date has taken a typically general look at the case.)
In the article, Grey issued a statement through a spokesperson that he was only “casually acquainted” with thug-for-hire Anthony Pellicano and had “no relationship” with him until the private detective was signed up by Grey’s attorney, super-lawyer Fields, to help in the Garry Shandling lawsuit against Grey. Really, amnesia in this town is becoming an epidemic now that the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles has heated up its wiretapping, blackmail and intimidation investigation of Pellicano by handing out the first indictments, which have so far spared the Hollywood hoi polloi (that is, until billionaire Kirk Kerkorian’s lawyer Terry N. Christensen was charged). Representatives for Ovitz, too, previously said that the ex-Hollywood powermeister’s only dealings with Pellicano were through the law firm, Gorry Meyer & Rudd, that represented Ovitz and his now defunct Artists Management, and it was they who elected to hire Pellicano, not Ovitz. (According to that account, Mike had declined to choose from among a list of investigators the firm recommended to him.)
Yeah, sure, nobody knew anybody.
But I’ve learned that, a few years ago, when Grey was still the head of Brillstein-Grey, his successful talent management and production company, he and the William Morris Agency pitched HBO about doing an original series with the working title Hollywood Dick based on Pellicano’s life and work. Sources tell me that the show included Pellicano as a consultant.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that Bernie Brillstein, Grey’s longtime partner, confirmed to me that the location of the old Brillstein Co., the forerunner to Grey’s firm (and where Grey was mentored from 1986 until 1991, when he became a 50-50 name partner) was just two doors down the hallway from Pellicano’s office in the same 9200 Sunset Boulevard building. Brillstein later took over Pellicano’s space in an expansion.
As for Ovitz, one mogul recalled to me that back in the 1990s Pellicano approached him and said, “Mike Ovitz has asked me to do some work for him.” The mogul said to Pellicano, “Be careful, Ovitz is a scumbag.” Later, the mogul ran into Pellicano, who remembered that conversation and said, “You were right. Ovitz is a scumbag.” Nothing like the pot calling the kettle black.
Maybe Grey’s and Ovitz’s reps should revise their disclaimers.
IT ALMOST DOESN’T MATTER what the NYT’s article said; just the fact that the sitting chairman and chief executive of the Paramount Motion Picture Group has now been dramatically linked by name to Pellicano was a huge shock to the Industry’s system. “With one being everything’s fine, and 10 being Katrina, then this was an 11,” one agency topper explained to me.
Brillstein noted that the NYT’s piece was damaging, not so much for its content — which hewed closely to former Shandling paramour Linda Doucett’s point of view — but simply for its existence and prominence. “There was no reason for the article,” he said. “There was no conclusion. I can’t figure out why they even did it. There’s nothing new that hasn’t been said for the last two years.” Brillstein said he was shut down when he tried to contact one of the reporters, Allison Hope Weiner. “When I called her and said, ‘Is there anything I can do to help you?’ she said, ‘No.’ I could have given her some facts she didn’t have.”
Forget BlackBerrys: Cell phones were burning up on both coasts as major players gabbed with pals, first at the news of the article’s existence, then about the story’s prominent placement. In Tinseltown, as in the movies themselves, perception has always been more important than reality. (A U.K. company began hawking T-shirts imitating the Paramount logo, except instead of the studio name, there was one word: Paranoia.) As one Pelican-flap insider told me: “The missing piece right now is not Ovitz or Fields. Ovitz is yesterday’s news, and Bert is a 78-year-old lawyer. It’s Brad, especially since he’s a recently appointed studio boss.”