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Tag: Hollywood

Book Excerpt: ‘Hollywood Confidential: A True Story of Wiretapping, Friendship, and Betrayal’

A specialist on organized-crime investigations since 1974, best-selling author and independent investigative journalist Dan E. Moldea has published seven nonfiction books including, “The Hoffa Wars: Teamsters, Rebels, Politicians and the Mob.” This excerpt is being published with permission.

CHAPTER ONE

“Forget it, Dan. It’s Chinatown”

By Dan E. Moldea

I didn’t see the minefield ahead.

On April 12, 2002, Anita Busch sent an email, asking me for a favor. She wanted me to collect three articles that Bernard Weinraub of the New York Times had written about one-time Hollywood super-agent Michael Ovitz, two from 1996 and the third from 1999. She provided no explanation, and I didn’t need any. I just did what she asked. Later that day, I sent Anita two of the three articles that she had requested, along with six other stories in which Weinraub had discussed Ovitz. At the time of her email to me, Anita was freelancing for the New York Times. She and Weinraub were in the midst of what would become a seven-part series which began on March 22 about Ovitz and his latest business venture, the Artists Management Group, a broadly based management company for those involved in film and television productions. The two reporters alleged that Ovitz had engaged in financial mismanagement, based on a recent audit of the company’s records.

The final part of their series appeared in the newspaper on May 7.1 The day before that final installation, Anita and Weinraub published a story about Ovitz, “A Faded Hollywood Power Broker Relinquishes His Talent Business,” which seemingly added insult to injury: Even by the turbulent and often cruel standards of Hollywood, Mr. Ovitz’s downfall has been startling. As a founder of the Creative Artists Agency, he emerged as a strong-willed and intimidating figure who sought to inspire fear, and succeeded. But Mr. Ovitz, who is 55, has seen his career fall into a downward spiral since 1997 when he was fired as president of the Walt Disney Company.

Today, Mr. Ovitz reached one of the lowest points in his career. He agreed for a company called The Firm to acquire the major units of his current company, the Artists Management Group. . . . For Mr. Ovitz, the deal is a serious financial and personal blow. 2 In lieu of continuing to freelance for the New York Times and other publications upon the completion of her work on Ovitz, Anita accepted a job on or about May 21, working under contract for the Los Angeles Times. On June 3, her first day with the newspaper, Hollywood legend Lew Wasserman, the retired chairman of MCA, died. As part of her research, she called me to discuss my third book, Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob, in which Wasserman was a major character. In that 1986 work, I concentrated on MCA, a powerful Hollywood corporation, and its fiftyyear relationship with President Reagan who was in the midst of his second term in office.

During the next two years, I watched the Reagan Justice Department, specifically the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, kill a federal investigation of MCA, as well as another broader probe of the Mafia’s penetration of the motion-picture industry. With life imitating art, these cases were embodiments of the dramatic conclusion of the 1974 film, Chinatown, in which wealthy powerbrokers used their influence with the law-enforcement community to evade responsibility for their roles in major crimes. In fact, one federal prosecutor placed a fine point on this analogy when—after hearing of my frustrations with reporting on the aborted MCA case—he told me, “Forget it, Dan. It’s Chinatown.” The newspaper’s obituary of Wasserman the following day referred to my work.

Dan Moldea (Photo credit: E. Ethelbert Miller)

On June 4, federal prosecutors indicted Julius “Jules” Nasso, along with sixteen reputed members of New York’s Carlo Gambino crime family as part of a major 68-count conspiracy case.

Nasso had been the business partner of motion-picture star Steven Seagal, whose popular action-adventure films included Above the Law, Out for Justice, and Under Siege. In effect, Anita, who usually covered show business, was now investigating the Mafia. Her partner for this investigation was Paul Lieberman, a respected veteran investigative reporter who worked in the New York bureau of the Los Angeles Times. The first Busch-Lieberman story appeared on June 5, stating: Nasso, 49, of Staten Island, was charged with two counts, conspiracy to commit extortion and attempted extortion of a figure in the motion picture industry.

Although prosecutors did not identify the extortion target in the indictment, Nasso’s lawyer said after court that Seagal is the film figure. “It’s definitely Steven Seagal,” said Nasso’s lead attorney, Barry Levin. “Steven Seagal has been seen talking to the grand jury.” Nasso had a 15-year business relationship with Seagal until a bitter falling-out. In March, Nasso filed a $60-million lawsuit against the actor, alleging the star of such films as Under Siege had backed out of a contract to perform in four movies. The two have not spoken in more than a year.”

In her follow-up article the next day, Anita, without the participation of Lieberman, wrote: “The alleged extortion attempt was caught on FBI wiretaps. The wiretaps recorded a conversation between Nasso and Gambino associate Anthony ‘Sonny’ Ciccone in which Ciccone 3 allegedly chastised Nasso for trying to share some of the extorted money with others without ‘prior approval.’”

Anita and Lieberman co-authored a third story on June 12, adding: “The Mafia captain who rules the Staten Island waterfront threatened to kill an entertainment figure, identified previously as actor Steven Seagal, as part of a multimillion-dollar extortion scene. . . . “Anthony ‘Sonny’ Ciccone ‘demanded millions of dollars from this individual and threatened his life,’ Assistant U.S. Atty. Andrew Genser said at a court hearing for the accused Gambino family docks boss.”6 However, Anita did not appear to trust her partner. In her personal notes, she wrote: I am sharing information with the reporter I’m working with, Paul Lieberman. But something doesn’t smell right. Lieberman is too close to these guys, I believe. He’s going out drinking with them.

Read more »

FBI Once Believed Christmas Classic ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Was Communist Propaganda

1946 movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Watching the 1946 movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is a staple for millions of American families during the holidays.

But the Christmas classic that earned five Oscar nominations became a preoccupation of the FBI because then-Director J. Edgar Hoover believed the movie was an anti-american propaganda tool, according to a memo written by a social agent about so-called “communist infiltration” of the movie industry, the Independent reports

The movie was one of more than 200 films feared to be a weapon of communist propaganda.

The FBI believed the film’s two screenwriters, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, “were very close to known Communists and on one occasion in the recent past . . . practically lived with known Communists and were observed” eating lunch every day with “known Communists.”

An agent who watched the movie said it “represented a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers.”

The hunt for communists is part of the FBI’s dark history under Hoover, who was notoriously paranoid of anti-American propaganda.

Hollywood Props Get So Realistic That Secret Service Complains

Prop money

Prop money

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Hollywood props are becoming so realistic-looking that the Secret Service has become alarmed.

Bloomberg reports in a video newscast, which you can see by clicking here, that one of the largest prop makers in Hollywood, Independent Studios, has received complaints from the Secret Service because the props, like cash, guns and knives, look so realistic.
The company rents out more than 100 million props and manufactures unique products made to customer’s specifications.

HD cameras are a big reason the props have become so realistic.

Other Stories of Interest

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Channing Tatum may Play Secret Service Agents

Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

Word on the street is that actress Maggie Gyllenhaal may play a Secret Service agent in the upcoming film “White House Down.” Channing Tatum has already been cast as a Secret Service agent.

Gyllenhaal is in talks to play a patriotic Secret Service Agent, reports Film School Rejects.  Jamie Foxx is in talks to play the president.

Can’t hurt the film to cast a woman with layers; it also seems like great PR for  an agency steeped in the manly scandal of late.

To read more, click here.

 

FBI Investigating Hacker Attack on Celebrities; Nude Photos of Scarlett Johansson Stolen

 By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A scandal in Hollywood is brewing — and this time it doesn’t involve some affair, but rather a hacker.

The Associated Press and Fox News reported that the FBI is investigating a series of computer hacking attacks on celebrities including Scarlett Johansson. Personal information and other materials were stolen.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller in Los Angeles said dozens of celebrities had been targeted, according to AP.

Fox News reports the FBI is looking into stolen nude photos that Johansson likely took of herself on her cell phone.

The photos surfaced on the website of Buzz Feed.

 

Feds Bust Hollywood Drug Ring that Used Charter Planes

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

Two top executives of a California entertainment company and a DJ who spun records at actor Eddie Murphy’s wedding in 2008 were among 14 people indicted Tuesday for their alleged role in a Hollywood-based drug ring that shipped hundreds of pounds of cocaine on chartered jets from Los Angeles to Baltimore.

A task force of federal and local cops worked the case in which the ring allegedly distributed the drugs in the Baltimore area and then flew suitcases of cash back to Los Angeles, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said.

Those indicted included Darrin Ebron, 43, a DJ who moves between Washington and Los Angeles, whom The Washington Times described as “‘the poor man’s Puffy’ for his fashion and entertainment businesses that endear him to stars such as Kanye West, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.”

Ebron, who is also owner of GoodLife American Clothing, reportedly spun the records at Murphy’s wedding to Tracey Edmonds at a private island off Bora Bora two years ago. (About two weeks after the ceremony, the wedding was declared invalid.)

Others indicted included the alleged ring leader, James Brascom, 28, CEO of Behind da Scenes Entertainment, and Charles Dwight Ransom Jr., 36, of Hollywood, who is also a CEO of that company, authorities said.

For full story click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Author: We Must Stop Glamourizing Mobsters

William Donati is an English professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) and author of the just-released book: “Lucky Luciano: The Rise and Fall of a Mob Boss”

lucky lucianoBy William Donati
For ticklethewire.com

LAS VEGAS –– Hollywood was criticized in the thirties for films like Public Enemy and Little Caesar: Gangsters were portrayed too sympathetically complained citizens.

In modern times, we have the Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface, and the Sopranos offered as popular entertainment. Motion pictures reflect cultural values. The recent film Dillinger was criticized for its moral ambiguity. The cops are just as rotten as the crooks. Is that true?

Do citizens believe that? If so, society is in deep trouble.

Of course, the real heroes are the police and prosecutors. Film audiences do not feel the actual pain criminals inflict as killers, extortionists, thieves, and drug dealers.

When I was writing my book about the Lucky Luciano case, a literary agent said it was too “law and order,” as if I had transgressed by portraying Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey as a hero. But he was indeed an American hero. Yet, in the film Hoodlum (1997), a screenwriter falsely depicted Dewey as corrupt – an absolute lie.

I examined over 40,000 archival documents to investigate the Luciano case, and I can assure readers that Dewey was defamed.

In Las Vegas, where I live, Mayor Goodman’s unfinished Mob Museum will open next year. The official name will be the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement.

Alright, let’s hope it is a fine presentation. However, just announced is the Las Vegas Mob Experience where family members will tell what their gangster kinfolks “were really like” – the human side of Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. According to press reports, it will be an interactive experience where visitors might even be “made” or “wacked.” Gee, will they sell junior Mafioso badges?

lucky luciano and bookFederal prosecutors should visit high schools and clearly state: “I represent you. I represent the People. Let me explain my job.” Let students see your faces and understand that prosecutors are the ones who defend citizens’ rights and freedoms.

A sweeping media campaign should be initiated by law officers to remain atop the pedestal of citizen opinion; a good start would be a statue of Thomas E. Dewey in Times Square.

As Dewey commented concerning Luciano’s deportation in 1946: “I sent him out of the country like the rat he was.”

Thank you. To hell with gangster glamour.

Column: We Must Stop Glamourizing Mobsters

William Donati is an English professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) and author of the just-released book: “Lucky Luciano: The Rise and Fall of a Mob Boss”

lucky luciano and bookBy William Donati
For ticklethewire.com

LAS VEGAS –– Hollywood was criticized in the thirties for films like Public Enemy and Little Caesar: Gangsters were portrayed too sympathetically complained citizens.

In modern times, we have the Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface, and the Sopranos offered as popular entertainment. Motion pictures reflect cultural values. The recent film Dillinger was criticized for its moral ambiguity. The cops are just as rotten as the crooks. Is that true?

Do citizens believe that? If so, society is in deep trouble.

Of course, the real heroes are the police and prosecutors. Film audiences do not feel the actual pain criminals inflict as killers, extortionists, thieves, and drug dealers.

Read more »

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