The ongoing investigation into the activities of former “private detective” Anthony Pellicano offers this delicious tidbit from today’s NYT :
“In April or May 2002, as he was negotiating and completing the sale of Artists Management, Mr. Ovitz learned that a “group of people” were “coming after” him to attack his reputation, he told the F.B.I., and he hired Mr. Pellicano to investigate. He said he asked Mr. Pellicano for embarrassing information about 15 to 20 people who were affecting his plans to sell the business, including Ron Meyer, his former partner at C.A.A. and the current head of Universal Studios; Mr. Weinraub; and the entertainment titan David Geffen, a partner in DreamWorks. Asked if Ms. Busch was on the list, Mr. Ovitz said she was. In May 2002, Mr. Ovitz said, Mr. Pellicano obtained for him an unedited, advance copy of a Vanity Fair article to be published that August in which Mr. Ovitz attributed his problems to a “gay mafia” in Hollywood. The agents noted that Mr. Ovitz “claimed to have never read” the article.
Mr. Ovitz told the F.B.I. that he met three or four times with Mr. Pellicano and spoke “multiple” times with him in June and July of 2002. Mr. Ovitz said he received an oral report about Mr. Weinraub, Ms. Busch and Mr. Geffen, but all Mr. Ovitz said about the report was that Mr. Pellicano called Ms. Busch “boring and not worth [Ovitz’s] time.” When Mr. Pellicano claimed he had worked for Mr. Geffen in the past, doing “damage control” relating to “Geffen’s gay lifestyle,” Mr. Ovitz told the F.B.I., he wondered what Mr. Pellicano might say about him.”
As all Tinseltown knows, Mike Ovitz’s complaints about the “Gay Mafia” have provided a great deal of amusement. But then the entire Ovitz saga has been darkly amusing; from his rise from the mailroom to the founding of an agency that for a brief period (roughly ten years) worked to create the distinct impression that it “ruled” all Hollywood. Because Ovitz had the lion’s share of important stars, directors, writers et. al. in his stable, he loomed as a kind of “power behind the power” for a time. This became public knowledge at the 1988 Oscar ceremoniers ( where Rainman won 4 Oscars) where winner after winner thanked him personally. Not long after screenwriter and all around “character Joe Eszterhas brought forth a letter he claims Ovitz wrote him, expressing displeasure that Eszterhas wanted to leave him for another agent. The “money quote” from the letter: “My foot soldiers who go up and down Wilshire Boulevard each day will blow your brains out.”
Very Anthony Pellicano, no?
As for David Geffen, his fast rise and slow climb from the closet — to face a world well aware of his gayness — is covered in exhaustive detail by Tom King in his book The Operator. In fac tso through is King in examinging Geffen’s “gay lifestyle”, one can scarcely imagine what “damage control” Pellicano was able to accomplish, save perhaps for keeping major publishers away from Gavin Dillard’s memoir But surely this was a case of closing the barn door after the horse had won the Kentucky Derby.
As for Ovitz, living in a virtual Elba since his brief reign at Disney came a cropper, I’m reminded of what Joan Bennett reportedly said when her husband Walter Wanger caught her in flagante with Jennings Lang and took a shot at him.
“Oh for God’s sake, Walter — he’s only an agent!”