What, if anything, does private investigator Anthony Pellicano know about Universal Pictures president Ron Meyer that could embarrass the studio chief?
That's the question people have been asking all week since the story of Meyer's frequent jailhouse visits to Pellicano and their odd friendship have been revealed in The New York Times.
The answer may be a police report filed in Malibu in 1988 but never pursued. The report, made on Oct. 27, 1988, was made by Meyer's then-girlfriend Cyndy Garvey charging "spousal assault." It's a nasty report, with a police sergeant detailing Garvey's many bruises and wounds.
Even though the report was never followed up on, its mere existence is of interest. First of all, it's hard to get. The Malibu police department was not computerized in 1988. There was no publicity about the incident either. Second, on its face, it looks true. Without checking it fully, the accusations would seem terrible and substantial.
At the time, Meyer was a partner with Michael Ovitz in Creative Artists Agency. He told me in an interview today that after the incident he went to Ovitz, who immediately hired Hollywood attorney Howard Weitzman to handle the matter.
Weitzman, of course, was the man who'd brought Pellicano to Hollywood several years earlier in the John DeLorean case. It's likely, then, that Weitzman used Pellicano as an investigator in the matter.
Garvey — ex-wife of Los Angeles Dodgers star Steve Garvey — tells me she didn't pursue the case because she received a threatening phone call one night advising her to drop it.
But Garvey is not a reliable witness: she's been involved in several domestic abuse claims over the last 20 years, some resulting in litigation.
She's also been the subject of two damaging magazine articles that outline her odd behavior. A Los Angeles magazine story called "Look Who's Stalking" detailed her contentious relationship with a Los Angeles restaurateur. She wound up paying him $25,000 when he sued her for harassment.
In Garvey's police complaint in October 1988 against Meyer, she cited his neighbor, a man named Bilal Baroody, as a witness. The police state in the report that they couldn't reach Baroody and that was the end of it.
In 1997, Meyer says he loaned Baroody — a man supposedly of substantial wealth — $300,000. Subsequently, Meyer, according to sources, complained to Pellicano that he couldn't get his money back because Baroody had vanished.
Two years later, according to Pellicano's federal indictment, the jailed P.I. illegally ran a police background check on Baroody, who was then in a dispute with another Pellicano client, the late attorney Ed Masry.
Baroody remains a mysterious figure in this story. In 1992, he was celebrated on the floor of Congress by California Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally as a model citizen worthy of respect.
Dymally cited Baroody's business dealings with producer Dick Clark and his contributions to the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art.
But today, Baroody is merely a distant memory to his Los Angeles friends. According to people I've spoken with, he now lives abroad.
The episode in Malibu would also be a distant memory if the Pellicano case hadn't revived it.
According to sources, both Meyer's and Garvey's recollections of the incident are similar to a point, then diverge into different outcomes.
She showed up at Meyer’s house in the middle of the night, and was out of control, “going at 100 miles an hour,” says a source.
Meyer slapped her almost as a defense, as she was "flailing away at him.”
Both parties apparently agree that Baroody’s driver drove her home, and Meyer followed in his car to make sure she got there. They each agree that a female friend of Meyer’s who was staying in house witnessed everything.
But the police report is graphic, including a swollen and bruised eye and cheek. Could the slapping have caused that?
"I don't think so," said Meyer, who was interviewed by the police subsequently. "Anything like that she would have done to herself."
Another ex-boyfriend of Garvey says she has a history of self-inflicted bruises. Either way, the matter was then dropped.
Could Pellicano have made the matter “go away,” I wondered? Says Weitzman: "I do not believe Anthony Pellicano had any impact on the results of the investigation into Ms. Garvey's allegations. I personally talked with the Sheriff's investigator and the District Attorney reviewing her assertions, and was told that after they interviewed Ms. Garvey and other witnesses they did not believe there were sufficient facts to charge Mr. Meyer with any wrongdoing. Any inference that Mr. Pellicano was responsible for charges not being filed is just wrong."
Weitzman, however, did concede that it was likely that Pellicano interviewed the witnesses on Weitzman’s behalf. He could easily have intercepted the police report — and banked it for future use.
And that police report could have been devastating to Meyer if it had fallen into the wrong hands back then. Without an explanation of Garvey’s litigious history and false previous and subsequent claims against boyfriends, Meyer could have been severely hurt, at least professionally.
He's been in charge of Universal since a nasty corporate divorce from Ovitz in 1995. Over the years, the two have had a few public run-ins. Meyer, like other CAA execs, has done much to distance himself from his vengeful former partner. According to reports, Ovitz has felt hurt and abandoned by people whom he made rich and powerful early in their careers.
Was the Garvey matter on Ovitz's mind when he told Pellicano, according to the Times piece, to get "embarrassing information" about Meyer in case he caused trouble for Ovitz?
Ovitz knew the Garvey story; Pellicano no doubt did, too. Sources tell me that Ovitz probably used Pellicano to spy on everyone he worked with, at CAA and then at Disney, during his short tenure there in 1995-96.
"All I know is, he knew a lot about everyone," says a Disney source. "The people there were very intimidated. How would you like it if someone came to you with a folder about all the things you'd done in your life?"
Here we go: the biggest rumor of the week has Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey’s best friend and employee taking a seat behind the desk at "The View."
King would be the perfect replacement for Meredith Vieira and Star Jones, that is if the latter decides to move on — or is pushed.
King is a journalist and African-American; she meets the criteria I suggested was needed here a few days ago.
Now, insiders say it’s not happening, but other sources tell me it is. King did not return a call yesterday. But those close to new addition Rosie O'Donnell say she’s not only crazy about the idea, but would let King moderate the show if she wanted to.
Personally, I think it’s a pretty good idea. King started as a newswoman in Hartford and even had her syndicated talk show from there. She’s smart, funny and attractive. But she also has the chops as a reporter and now editorial director for Oprah’s O magazine.
Of course, King’s addition would spell the end of the much-disliked Star Jones Reynolds. ABC and Barbara Walters still have to work out a plausible exit for Jones in which she wouldn’t lose face.
Oprah, meantime, is said to be coming to "The View" as a guest soon during May. Maybe that will be the day they’ll announce the big news.
As we all know by now, Michelle Rodriguez was killed on Wednesday night’s episode of “Lost.” Her character, Ana Lucia, had a big story wrap-up, she apologized to her mother (Rachel Ticotin) in flashbacks and then Michael (Harold Perrineau) lost his mind and let her have it. He apparently knocked off Libby (Cynthia Watros) too.
I did tell you that this was going to happen, didn’t I, just a couple of weeks ago? Watros has signed with CBS to do a sitcom with Tom Cavanagh.
I ran into Rodriguez last night at the opening of Mr. Chow in Tribeca. She’s fresh out of the hooskow in Hawaii and ready to return to the movie career she started with “Girlfight” (it’s a terrific film, check it out).
Michelle did tell me that she was always set to die at the end of the season. When she signed on, it was just for one season and not for a full run. That may have been the case with all the “Tailies” who appeared this year.
All I can tell you is that Rodriguez looked no worse for the experiences she's had. And she’s starting a clothing line with designer Anand Jon and entrepreneur Kathy Jones.
By the way, also at the Mr. Chow opening: Jamie Foxx, who sported a huge diamond-encrusted watch that he told me was not real. The Oscar-winner was chilling out with friends, and also told me that “Dreamgirls” has wrapped and is a monster. “Wait 'til you hear Beyonce,” he said, “and Jennifer Hudson.”
How did I know the Mr. Chow party would be great? As my cab pulled up to Hudson and North Moore Streets, a beautiful blonde opened the door and jumped in beside me. “I have to have this cab, please,” she said. It was Uma Thurman, suddenly sitting there while I waited for my change.
She was followed by hotel owner Andre Balazs and New York Observer editor Joe Conason and his wife Elizabeth Wagley. They’d just come from Mr. Chow and had a grand time. I did cede my cab to Uma, whom I’ve known since she was a mere 18 years old.
When I arrived in the restaurant, none other than Marilyn Manson was already there, commanding a table with the same entourage that just a few minutes earlier had been at another party I was at. Stay tuned, because that story follows.
Marilyn Manson, David Byrne and uh, uh, no one else were the big names at Rolling Stone magazine’s hideous gala celebration last night for its 1,000th issue.
Listen, here’s the deal: with this issue, which sports a 3-D cover that no one can decipher, Rolling Stone should wrap it up. It’s become meaningless.
The party was at the cavernous and grungy Hammerstein Ballroom in the Manhattan Center on West 34th St., a place that needs a lot of scrubbing and work for the best of events.
But this was a party for which no money was spent and little effort was made. They said 1,600 guests were on hand, and maybe they were, but with the exception of Manson, none of them were of much note.
Rolling Stone hired the overzealous, heavy-handed Elite Protection Agency for the occasion, and issued three kinds of wristbands for the revelers.
With a white wristband you were in the VIP section, black meant standing room in the back.
There was a lot of symbolism. I think all the Wenner Media people had the black, as well as visiting press, record industry types and the directors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland.
Around 9:30 p.m., Wenner came out on stage and couldn’t manage to quiet the crowd. No one clapped for him or listened to him, and I was so far away I have no idea what he said.
He was followed by his pet rock star, John Mellencamp, who performed a blues version of “Cover of Rolling Stone,” a 1973 hit by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show that literally no one in the room had ever heard because they’d all been born after 1978.
Mellencamp was followed by Paul Shaffer and the Letterman band, re-christened the Rolling Stone orchestra. They played a couple of numbers solo, adding ubiquitous R&B star Solomon Burke, who’s so gigantic he performs from his throne.
It’s unclear what happened next. The gift bag contained a coupon for a free bottle of 7 UP, plus a green Heineken baseball cap, some sort of knit cap with Chinese lettering, a candy bar, a CD with 20 versions of the Dr. Hook song and a copy of the 1,000th issue. The Strokes were allegedly coming on, and maybe Tom Petty or Rob Thomas.
But with the black wristbands, the wide-necked security and the added insult that you weren’t allowed even to get a glass of water from the white wristband bar, it seemed like a good time to leave.
The page in the new Stone that caught the eye of several other gossip columnists I ran into: an ad featuring CNN’s Anderson Cooper showing off what he has on his iPod: the Scissor Sisters and Mary J. Blige. Uh huh. I left that analysis to greater minds, and headed downtown for the sticky rice.
New York is a place where consensus builds quickly. If something is bad, or a failure, you hear about it fast and there’s no chance for revision.
Similarly, news of a hit travels like lightning. The most jaded types all concur: something is good and we should all applaud.
The latter seems to the case with the 5th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s still not perfect, but by letting the events seep into the rest of the city, Jane Rosenthal, Craig Hatkoff and Robert De Niro (who’s been scarce this go-round) have brought downtown everywhere.
The movies were good, and there wasn’t too much red tape. This may have been their breakthrough year.
And here’s something great: as you drive south on Seventh Avenue and come upon the Canal Street crossing, the Festival has taken over the whole south side with brightly lit signs over what used to be The Screening Room.
The Festival has created a much needed gateway to Tribeca that sings with excitement. And the grim concrete slab in the middle of Canal, that used to be a junkyard, is now a developing park. It’s all just lovely.
Tomorrow is closing night with Wolfgang Peterson’s “Poseidon” sure to be mindless popcorn fun. No Shelley Winters, but Andre Braugher plays the captain. How bad can it be? I’m psyched.
Today at 2:30 and tomorrow at 6, two more screenings of “Al Franken: God Spoke” are sold out. And today at 3:30, Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint perform in the ASCAP Lounge.
And somewhere in there is a short film about Rosanne Cash making her brilliant new album, "Black Cadillac." Don’t miss it.