Two Tonys Is One Too Many for Mogul
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 hes the shows 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 theres 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 Greys 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 Greys 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's big names (that is, until billionaire Kirk Kerkorians lawyer Terry N. Christensen was charged). Representatives for Ovitz, too, previously said that the ex-Hollywood powermeisters 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, Ive learned that, a few years ago, when Grey was still the head of talent management/production company Brillstein-Grey, he brought the William Morris Agency the idea of doing an original series with the working title Hollywood Dick based on Pellicanos life and work. The Pelican was thrilled about the project and signed on as a consultant. With Billy Friedkin attached to direct, Brad and WMA pitched HBO, who passed. (Strange why this wasnt in the NYTs Grey article, though a Feb. 26th Los Angeles Times story made brief mention of it without detailing Pellicanos involvement.)
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Oh, and then theres the fact that Bernie Brillstein, Greys longtime partner, confirmed to me that the location of the old Brillstein Co., the forerunner to Greys 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 Pellicanos office in the same 9200 Sunset Boulevard building. Brillstein later took over Pellicanos 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 Greys and Ovitzs reps should revise their disclaimers.
IT ALMOST DOESNT MATTER what the NYTs 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 Industrys system. With one being everythings fine, and 10 being Katrina, then this was an 11, one agency topper explained to me.
Brillstein noted that the NYTs piece was damaging, not so much for its content which hewed closely to former Shandling paramour Linda Doucetts point of view but simply for its existence and prominence. There was no reason for the article, he said. There was no conclusion. I cant figure out why they even did it. Theres nothing new that hasnt 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 didnt have.
Forget BlackBerrys: Cell phones were burning up on both coasts as major players gabbed with pals, first at the news of the articles existence, then about the storys 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 yesterdays news, and Bert is a 78-year-old lawyer. Its Brad, especially since hes a recently appointed studio boss.
The Industry chatter focused on how this is going to play with Greys bosses, Tom Freston and Sumner Redstone, whether Brad can do his job if he becomes the focus of the feds, and who at DreamWorks (newly acquired by Grey for Paramount) will step into his place. Worse, the NYTs article rehashed just what an alleged sleaze ball Brad had been to his client Shandling and to Doucett. Thats to be expected since the story was almost entirely written from her perspective, which itself is troubling. As Brillstein told me: I have my own opinion of Garry Shandling. Ive always said not good things about him. And now Linda Doucett is involved, its getting crazier and crazier. They were allegedly not the most rational people.
Fans of the old HBO series The Larry Sanders Show will remember Doucett as the former model who played busty blond secretary Darlene Chapinni. She was fired when she and Shandling broke up, and she subsequently filed lawsuits against him, Grey and the show. Shandling was a very close pal and an important client of Greys, whose company put together and ran the Sanders series. Then, the two men fell out in a nasty legal wrangle over Shandlings charges of conflict of interest.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago: Suddenly, Doucett finds herself The New York Times object of desire. The reason is that the paper turned again to Frontline correspondent Lowell Bergman to pump up the Pellicano volume. Bergman had been the bigfoot brought in by the NYT back in 2003 when the Pellicano story first broke. But the probe dragged on without indictments, and Bergman eventually returned to more pressing matters. Now back on the case, he recalled a two-year-old tip from a prominent show biz player that Doucett would be a font of information if she would cooperate. Big if. Especially because the FBI was trying to keep quiet everyone whod been told that Pellicano had targeted them. She, Shandling and some of their friends and associates were said to have been victims of The Pelicans wiretapping, unauthorized police background checks, the works.
Bergman, using a go-between, Im told, tries to corral Doucett. She keeps her distance. Lifes been hard for her. The comediennes show-biz career was DOA after her lawsuits. Finally, two weeks ago, after much soothing and schmoozing, the reporting duo of Allison Weiner and David Halbfinger sit down with Doucett for an interview. The reporters come very prepared: They have court transcripts and legal depositions from the previous lawsuits involving Doucett (both were settled) and also the battle between Shandling and Grey over The Larry Sanders Show, etc. By now, though, Shandling and Doucett have made up and become friends again, so Doucett was privy to inside information about Shandlings side of the case.
Whatd she give them? Not much more than a by-now all-too-familiar soap opera of Hollywood greed and power plays. But the story contains hardly anything new about The Pelican.
Yes, the FBI has interviewed Grey; yes, hes testified before the grand jury investigating Pellicano. But so have other Hollywood figures. Is there or is there not Pellicano tape of him? Did he or did he not sign something before he could get the Paramount job saying he had no knowledge of Pellicanos wiretapping? The Times story doesnt begin to answer these questions. Either Brad is squeaky clean and its just unfortunate his name is being bandied about, or else hes up to his eyeballs in it, or else the truth lies somewhere in between. No matter which, hes compromised at least in The Industrys eyes.
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