MORE

The Price of Freedom

First, Los Angeles Times’ Calendar writer Anita Busch was nearly sleeping with the fishes. Now, the veteran reporter -- best known for fighting with bosses at Variety and the Hollywood Reporter -- wants to unhook herself from the newspaper.

For months, Busch bombarded L.A. Times editors with e-mails about what she could do for entertainment coverage. Then, signed in June to a short-term contract, Busch, by all accounts, served mainly as a ”tip“ service since she‘s a far better reporter than writer. Immediately she found a package containing a dead fish with a long-stemmed rose in its mouth and a cardboard placard with the word ”STOP“ affixed to her car. At the time, Busch, along with every other news outlet, was reporting about that alleged Mafia extortion plot against pseudo-star Steven Seagal. When Busch went into hiding, defunct New Times portrayed her as a drama queen working out of ultraluxury hotels at the Times’ expense. But a hood recently pleaded not guilty to accusations he threatened her.

”Despite what happened early on in June, which was awful, I‘ve had a fairly good time here,“ Busch told the Weekly. ”My contract was up on October 13. I have other things I want to do with my life.“

Demonstrating yet again that Hollywood reporting jobs stay the same and it’s just the commute that changes, the Weekly has learned that Newsweek entertainment correspondent John Horn gave notice Monday to move into the cushy movie-reporting job with the Times‘ Calendar section. ”The two things have nothing to do with each other,“ Calendar senior editor Bret Israel told the Weekly. ”Anita is leaving by her choice. We would prefer she stay.“

Horn’s hiring took 18 months of lobbying by pal Patrick Goldstein, a Calendar columnist. (For years, the two reporters from supposedly rival publications have co-hosted weekly lunches where they co-interview filmmaking‘s elite.) If Busch leaves print journalism (she’s talked about starting a Web site), she‘ll join an ever-expanding school of show-biz reporters who’ve recently given up entertainment reporting. Many have floated into entertainment flackery, including Busch‘s best friend Beth Laski at Universal, Richard Natale at Sony, and Chris Petrikin at the William Morris Agency.

If Winona Ryder goes free, everyone in Hollywood is wink-winking that onetime-mogul-turned-not-so-successful-producer Peter Guber maneuvered his seat on the jury so he can get Ryder for his next movie for $6 instead of $6 million (her usual fee). At Monday’s trial opening, Superior Court Judge Elden Fox hauled Guber into his chambers. Was it to discuss the overlooked fact that Guber now finds himself a victim of the legal system as well?

Reporting on the absurdity of Guber‘s selection, no media has yet made the connection with an October 9 lawsuit seeking $17 million filed by Sean Connery against Guber personally and his Mandalay Pictures alleging intentional and negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and breach of oral contract. The actor claims in court papers that Mandalay and Guber strung him along for two years on a spy-thriller project ”in an attempt to hold themselves out to the entertainment industry as a viable production company. Mandalay, however, was nothing more than a house of cards.“

How embarassing for Guber that he doesn’t have an important enough job anymore to get out of jury duty. It underscored his fall from grace, though not financially (he remains mega-rich). When his Mandalay produced more bombs than hits, Paramount bailed this summer. It fell to Guber‘s former protegee and Universal mogulette Stacey Snider to take pity on him and give Mandalay a far-from-lucrative deal where the production company must cover -- oh, the shame of it -- most of its overhead and development costs.

Then, this summer, Guber’s book about the movie business, Shoot-Out, co-written with Variety editor Peter Bart, was published with barely a ripple. And, on July 12, Guber and Bart co-taught a course in ”How To Make It in the Movie Business“ for -- get this -- the Learning Annex.