Anthony Pellicano Info


Staff member
The Pellicano brief - Hollywood, California, private investigator Anthony Pellicano
Los Angeles Magazine, Feb, 1994 by John Connolly

Early last summer, I received a telephone call from Anthony Pelicano, who informed me that he was working for Steven Seagal, about whom I had just written an unflattering article for Spy magazine. Pellicano said he was "going to get" me and then began a tirade, calling me every name in the book and linking some curse words in couplets I had never heard before. I interrupted him long enough to ask if he always spoke to people he'd never met in such an obnoxious manner. He responded by screaming that I was a "cockroach" and went on to say I should be glad I was in New York and not on his turf in L.A. I asked Pellicano if he was always a tough guy. "I'm not only a tough guy," he said, "I'm connected to the right people, you asshole."

I concluded the conversation by telling Pellicano the date of my arrival and the hotel I would be staying at during my next trip to L.A. and suggested he bring his famed Louisville Slugger. He never showed.

It was my first encounter with the man who has been called "America's most famous private investigator." Since last summer, Pellicano has rarely been out of the news. He was seen with Columbia's Mark Nathanson in the Heidi Fleiss affair. His face was a nightly fixture on television the entire month of September as he led the counter-offensive in the media circus following the child-molestation allegations against client Michael Jackson. He's been profiled in GQ and People. He's appeared on Larry King Live and Donahue.

Pellicano's office is located in a high rise, fittingly, on Sunset Boulevard, just on the fringe of Beverly Hills. People who have visited have said the secretaries tend to be young and attractive. His staff includes electronics experts and assistants. When you call, the receptionist answers, "Good morning. May I help you?"--never mentioning you are calling Pelliciano Investigations. Apparently, he believes this adds to the mystique. (Pellicano declined to be interviewed, while conceding that Los Angeles Magazine has "a Fifth Amendment right to write anytying you want.") Friends and detractors alike cite his tremendous ego and gift for self-promotion. He's been called "Hollywood's best-kep secret" or, better yet, "Hollywood's best secret-keeper"--not to mention "the Neutralizer," "the Intimidator" and "Thug to the Stars."

Pellicano has been involved in virtually every Hollywood scandal of the year, but is he is a security consultant, as the papers say, or a spin doctor with sometimes questionable methods? Contrary to his TV demeanor, he's been accused of threatening people, discrediting reputations and wiretapping adversaries and journalists. Years ago, when industrial barons had trouble with strikes, they hired Pinkerton goons to settle matters by busting heads. Now, when Hollywood's barons want something settled, they hire Pellicano. Anthony Joseph Pellican Jr. was born in 1944, the grandson of Sicilian immigrants. He was raised in Cicero, Illinois, a lower-middle-class Italian stronghold outside Chicago. (His grandfather had dropped the o from their surname; in a burst of Italian pride, Pelicano later restored it.) He left h igh school at 16 and got his equivalency diploma during a stint in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, where, he says, he worked as a cryptographer. (Perhaps sensitive about his lack of formal education, Pellicano boasts of belonging to Mensa and claims his work consists of "Sherlock Holmes-type things.")

After his discharge, he went to work for the Spiegel Company in Chicago. He was placed in the collections department, his job to "skip-trace" people who had fallen behind in their payments. He seems to have done so with some flair. Also called "the man with a thousand voices," he says, "I'm probably better than any actor in Hollywood," a reference to his fondness for using ruses to locate deadbeats. On the phone, he could pass for a man or a woman, white or black, a northern urbanite or a rural southerner. He gave himself a colorful moniker, Tony Fortune.

In 1969, Pellicano set himself up as a private investigator in Chicago. But in 1974, he was forced to file for bankruptcy. In his petition, he listed as one of his debts a $30,000 loan from the son of a reputed organized-crime figure, Paul "the Waiter" DeLucia. Pellicano concedes he has known a few gangsters but insists he is not connected with the Mob. Of course, in Pellicano's line of work, it is not necessarily a bad thing to have, or be known for having, acquaintances in nefarious places. Pellicano first hit the headlines in June 1977, when the remains of producer Mike Todd, Elizabeth Taylor's third husband, were discovered missing from his grave in a Chicago cemetery. A few days later, Pellicano, accompanied by a local news crew, found them just 75 yards from Todd's open grave. He said an anonymous tipster had told him the location. A recent L.A. Times story reported that an informant told authorities the Chicago Mob had exhumed Todd's remains, wrongly believing he was buried wearing a 10-carat diamond ring given to him by Taylor. According to Chicago P.I. Ernie Rizzo, a longtime rival of Pellicano, it was supposedly "common knowledge" Pellicano engineered the whole thing. Thought the Times said "there is no evidence linking Pellicano to the disappearance," and Pellicano has ridiculed Rizzo's claim, Lt. Joseph Byrnes of the Forest Park, Illinois, police told me, "Seven patrolmen and I, walking shoulder to shoulder, searcher every inch of that small cemetery, and we found nothing. The very next day, Pellicano makes a big deal of finding the remains in a spot we had thoroughly checked."

In 1983, Pellicano's life took a dramatic turn. He divorced his first wife and then moved to L.A. after getting hired by the attorneys for John DeLorean, the glamorous, onetime high-flying automobile manufacturer who was charged with cocaine trafficking. Pellicano, by then an expert in electronic surveillance, interpreted key government tapes and phone lists and revealed information that helped undermine the credibility of some of the witnesses for the prosecution.

DeLorean was acquitted. Howard Weitzman, one of DeLorean's attorneys, has said, "Pellicano's work was in large part responsible for my ability to win that case." The relationship between the two continues profitably to this day. In fact, Weitzman is Pellicano's own attorney. Perhaps, in terms of dealing with distasteful matters, Pellicano is to Weitzman as Weitzman is to his more exalted associate, attorney-to-the-stars Bertram Fields.

After the DeLorean victory, Pellicano was hired by the D.A.'s office and the LAPD to do audio work. He had become adept at dissecting tapes and setting up "audio-surveillance countermeasures." Over the next decade, his career was boosted by his relationship with Weitzman and Fields, both of whom introduced him to high-profile Hollywood clients. More recently, he's done work for Seagal, Jackson, Nathanson and producer Don Simpson. He also found time to help James Woods with his Sean Young problem; to assist the Jackson family by discrediting La Toya and her husband, Jack Gordon, before publication of their book alleging that Jackson Sr. had abused his children; and even to offer an opinion on the legitimacy of the Gennifer Flowers-Bill Clinton tapes. The former skip-tracer from Chicago has come a long way. It is Pellicano's much-hyped celebrity work that has forged his reputation--some of it infamous. Hollywood's toughest guy doesn't ride a horse. He drives a Lexus. He also has a black belt in karate and a master's rating in kung fu. He once said, "I'm an expert with a knife. I can shared your face." If you think this doesn't sound much like Sherlock Holmes, you're right. Pellicano's methods are decidedly different.

A case in point: On September 14, 1989, a 31-year-old African-American clerk named Deryl Brown was summoned to the personnel office at Paramount, where he'd worked for seven years. The director escorted Brown into a private room and introduced him to another man, whom he said was an attorney. According to a later complaint Brown filed in superior court against Paramount and Pellicano, the director then left the room.

The complaint said the "attorney" then accused Brown of conspiring with a female coworker to sell drugs and steal valuable company memorabilia. When Brown protested, he was told that unless he admitted his guilt, he would be both fired and prosecuted. "You're in deep shit, asshole!" Brown says the man screamed at him. "You don't want to make an enemy of me." When he tried to leave, the lawyer blocked the doorway and, said Brown's attorney, Helena Wise, "made racial slurs," saying Brown couldn't afford to live in the neigborhood he did unless he was dealing drugs. After a half hour, he was allowed to leave.


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Brown later identified the attorney as Pellicano. Pellicano, it turned out, had been hired by one of Paramount's biggest producers, Don Simpson, to help out in a suit filed against him by a Paramount secretary, Monica Harmon. Harmon, who was suing for emotional distress, had charged that Simpson had made her schedule appointments with hookers, used cocaine and watched porn videos in the office.

It was Brown's bad luck to be a friend of Harmon. According to Brown's complaint, Pellicano had "leaned" on him to testify against Harmon's character. Pellicano also tracked down a former Paramount page, Patrick Winberg, who had moved back to his hometown in Minnesota. Pellicano "talked" the page into returning to California and testifying in depositions that he had given cocaine to Harmon. Pellicano paid for Winber's airfare and stay at the Westwood Marquis. Winberg told me, however, that Pellicano had paid him $11,000 and promised to double that amount but never made the second payment. Pellicano says he gave Winberg only $4,500 and that it was a loan: "The kid was really trying to put his life together, and I helped him out."

Brown says a few weeks before his confrontation with Pellicano, he ran into Winberg--who'd already left Paramount. Winberg told him a "ridiculous" story about a cocaine deal. "He told me the drugs had been stolen and he needed to get a few pounds of cocaine to keep the dealers happy," says Brown, who now believes Winberg was trying to set him up. The suit against Simpson was eventually dismissed. Though Pellicano contested Brown's suit for false imprisonment and defamation of character, according to Wise, Paramount settled the case very quickly.

Pellicano's real rep comes with his knack for dealing with Hollywood's Public Enemy Number 1: the media. When PR types are not enough to control a story, he is brought in to "reason" with the press. Last year, Pellicano and a group of celebs, including Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Simpson, were laying plans for a "media watchdog service," to be headed by the P.I. The service would then "target" pesky journalists, among them Spy's pseudonymous Celia Brady. "It's a secret society," Pellicano said. "Sometimes I am a bit scary. If somebody want to investigate a member of the group, they have to be willing to take the heat themselves."

A good instance of that came in 1990 when Rod Lurie was researching his Los Angeles Magazine piece on how the National Enquirer gets its information. Lurie got a call from Pellicano, who identified himself as a private investigator working for the Enquirer. Indeed, as Lurie recalls, Pellicano said, "I am the Enquirer." He demanded to know the identity of Lurie's source at the tabloid. When Lurie wouldn't cooperate, Pellicano said he would find out, adding, in what Lurie termed in the article a threatening manner, "I am relentless." In the ensuing months, Pellicano lived up to that image. He called Lurie on his unlisted phone number, bad-mouthed him to his sources, accused him of extortion and threatened him with a "nuisance suit" to block the article's publication. The piece was published without further incident, but the following year, when Lurie was working on another Los Angeles story about tabloid dirty tricks, he again crossed paths with Pellicano. Lurie was told by his assistant that Pellicano had approached him and asked him to spy on Lurie. Although the assistant said he turned Pellicano down, Lurie remained suspicious.

The next day, he fabricated some notes about the Enquirer and asked the assistant to type them into the computer. Two days later, he got a call from Pellicano, who smugly read to him the very notes he had written. Late last summer, I tracked down the assistant, who admitted in a taped interview that Pellicano had paid him $3,000 for the notes. But Pellicano wanted to be sure he was getting his money's worth. To guarantee the assistant wouldn't try to pass off counterfeit information, Pellicano threatened him. According to the assistant, Pellicano said, "I make a living knowing if somebody's bullshitting me! I can look up a bull's asshole and give you the price of butter." Then, pointing to a blue aluminum baseball bat in the corner of his office, Pellicano told the assistant, "Guys who **** with me get to meet my buddy over there in the corner."

Pellicano also flew into action in the Heidi Fleiss affair as the spokesman for Columbia then president of production, Michael Nathanson. Before Nathanson had even been accused of any wrongdoing, Pellicano assured reporters the executive had no relationship with Fleiss, a statement regarded as a major damage-control blunder. Variety gave Pellicano's exercise in deniability a "PR Boner Award." But PR isn't Pellicano's stock-in-trade. The P.I. had been retained by Nathanson before Fleiss' arrest to discouarage any stories that would reflect badly on him or the studio. Pellicano did this, at least in part, by threatening journalists who were pursuing the about-to-break story. One reporter, Jeffrey Wells, says he believes that while he was researching Columbia's involvement, Pellicano was monitoring him. "I told my deep source to accept calls only from |Ted Williams,' so my source couldn't be tricked into talking to an impersonator. The very next day, Pellicano called and said, |I don't think that Ted Williams idea is going to fly.'"

Though the public saw Pellicano in action on TV in the Michael Jackson mess--the point man for his pals, Howard Weitzman and then Jackson attorney Bertram Fields--he was also busy behind the scenes. Diane Dimond, a senior correspondent for Hard Copy, who'd been covering the Jackson story, says Pellicano repeatedly attempted to thwart her stories and badgered her over the phone. She was so troubled that she became worried her phones were being tapped. To find out, she, too, planted a red herring. During a phone conversation with her husband, they discussed an upcoming "special" on Pellicano, even though there was no such piece in the works. "Two days later," says Dimond, "Weitzman was calling up my legal department: |We have information that Diane Dimond is working on a special on Anthony Pellicano.'"

For most of the country, Pellicano's Big Splash came with the Jackson affair. The strategy for dealing with the potentially disastrous charges was classic Pellicano: Always take the offensive. In his early statements as a representative for Jackson, Pellicano staked out a clear position: "I have been actively engaged in an investigation involving an extortion attempt," he said at his initial press conference on August 23.

Pellicano has maintained that Evan Chandler--the Beverly Hills dentist-screenwriter whose son's testimony to his therapist set off the pedophilia investigation--and the boy met with him and Jackson at a hotel in August, at which time the father accused Jackson of molesting his son and demanded that he set him up with a screenwriting deal. Later that night, Pellicano says, Chandler's attorney, Barry Rothman, proposed that Jackson, in exchange for silence, pay $5 million a year for four years in the form of film-development projects.

Pellicano later refused, he says, and told Rothman he'd pay only $350,000 for a film-development deal. "I was trying to set him up with the extortion," he has explained. "I wanted to see if he would take it." He says he got a letter from Rothman declining the $350,000 and immediately replied that the offer would not go up. The next thing anyone knew, Pellicano says, Chandler had gone to the therapist, who went to the police.

The famous tape of a telephone call between Pellicano and Rothman played by Pellicano and Weitzman for the press does, indeed, suggest that Chandler will not be named Father of the Year anytime soon and seems to indicate an extortion attempt. But the question arises: Why didn't Pellicano report the attempt to the police right away? When reporters pressed him, he claimed he was trying to "buy time" to discredit the accusers.


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Three things render this explanation dubious. First, there is no reason why Pellicano couldn't have gone on "pretending" to play ball with Chandler and Rothman with the full cooperation of the police. Second, someone trying to "buy time" would never cut off negotiations by refusing to consider a counteroffer. And finally, there is Pellicano's contention that he met with the boy way back on July 9--when Fields first called him in because the boy's mother had warned Jackson of her ex-husband's intentions--and questioned the youth for 45 minutes, during which time he said nothing sexual was going on. Given what was clearly brewing, why didn't he tape that meeting? Pellicano's odd explanation (to Vanity Fair) was that he "had no idea what this boy was going to tell me." In California, it is illegal to tape someone without their permission except in cases of extortion. Pellicano had to know this. It is simply beyond belief that a full month later, it still did not occur to Pellicano, an audio expert aware of trouble on the horizon, to tape the hotel meeting.

Don Crutchfeld, a veteran P.I. from L.A., agrees with this assessment. "It sounds like Pellicano made an offer, then tried to chisel him down in price," he told Spy magazine. "To me, the big question is why a man with Pellicano's experience, who had long ties to the Jackson family and was presented with an ongoing extortion attempt, did not develop definitive evidence of extortion. I know Pellicano's reputation, and if he had a chance to tape an extortion attempt, he would not hesitate in doing so." Unless, of course, he'd intended to end the matter at an acceptable price.

The extortion attempt isn't the only thing that didn't add up in the public mind. At the beginning of the controversy, Pellicano also brought two other boys to the press to report they'd slept in the same bed with Jackson but that the singer had never done anything sexual to them. In terms of public perception of Jackson, this revelation went over about as well as his earlier Nathanson-Fleiss fiasco.

It was just the latest blunder. Pellicano doesn't look to be ready for prime time as a spin doctor. In an interview with GQ that appeared in January 1992, he said he'd been hired by Kevin Costner to discredit a story running in a British tabloid that linked the married actor-director to a young woman. Then, explaining his client's recent absence from the scandal sheets, the private eye maladroitly confided, "Kevin's been behaving himself."

Some of those miscues may have been behind Pellicano's exit in December from the Jackson team. At the time, it was leaked that Pellicano and defense strategist Fields had officially resigned from the case. But speculation began immediately that the parting of the ways may have had to do with the extortion-attempt gambit.

In the anteroom of his West Hollywood office, Pellicano has a large object d'art in the shape of a pelican. After the Jackson affair, some might take it for an albatross.

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