Published August 08, 2008
It’s less than six degrees of separation from one unsolved mystery to another, or from the JonBenet Ramsey murder case to the current reported scandal involving former presidential candidate John Edwards.
The saga took a strange turn last month when the ex-senator was reportedly found cowering in a bathroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., in the middle of the night, reportedly after visiting a former campaign worker who a supermarket tabloid says is the mother of his baby girl.
That woman — Rielle Hunter — knows about scandal. During her decade-long marriage, her father-in-law was the prosecutor in the celebrated Ramsey case in Boulder, Colo.
Rielle Hunter was first known as Lisa Druck. But some time in the late '80s, after moving to Los Angeles from New York, the Florida native met and married Alexander "Kip" Munro Hunter III.
Kip’s father, Alexander Munro Hunter, was the famous Boulder district attorney who, beginning in 1996, tried but failed to find and prosecute 6-year-old JonBenet’s killer. The crime — still unsolved — remains an international sensation.
It seems Rielle — known then as Lisa — hooked up with Kip in Los Angeles after her run as a Manhattan party girl and inspiration for a 1987 Jay McInerney novel. The author recently recalled that the book "was narrated in the first person from the point of view of an ostensibly jaded, cocaine-addled, sexually voracious 20-year-old who was, shall we say, inspired by Lisa."
According to his own bio, Kip Hunter lived in New York from around 1990 to about 2005, and he had his own law firm, Hunter & Associates, where he "specialized in general corporate representation."
When contacted by FOX411, Kip Hunter declined to comment.
Their life may have been in New York, but Lisa’s heart was in Hollywood. "It was clear," says Emmy-nominated cinematographer George Mooradian, "that she wanted to be in the movie business."
In 2000, Lisa Druck re-emerged in Los Angeles as newly single Rielle Hunter, writer and producer of a 20-minute-long comedy called "Billy Bob and Them," which she also acted in and self-distributed.
Mooradian worked on "Billy Bob and Them." When he met Rielle, he said, she was just getting or had gotten a divorce.
He conceded he was paid about $50, if that, to shoot the low-budget film in Hunter’s "very nice" Los Angeles-area home that he supposed she’d gotten in the divorce.
The film, he said, didn’t have much of a plot. "It was very New Age-y. It had something to do with altars and temples and crystals." The shoot lasted two days.
Mooradian told me: "She definitely had some connection to the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere, and there was an offer to meet the Dalai Lama."
By 2006 Rielle had hooked up with Mimi Hockman, a New York party planner whose clients, according to her Web site, are mostly obscure corporations. Even though neither of them had any real credits for making documentaries or political promo films for presidential candidates, they somehow pitched the idea of doing Web-only short pieces to Edwards.
Since neither of them had any experience, the pair brought in Colin Weil, an experienced ad man whose company created AIDS Walk in Los Angeles in 1984 and has a long list of impressive credits. He was introduced to Hockman through a mutual Hollywood friend, Weil says, declining to give a name.
Weils said that when news of Hunter’s pregnancy — with Edwards as the possible father — broke in the National Enquirer last October, he was shocked. "E-mails went around among all of us."
Weil told me that the filming of the segments occurred from October 2006 to the end of that year. But in early 2007 the campaign decided to shelve them. “I thought it was a wimpy move,” said Weil. “The whole idea was to show Edwards not as a Ken doll — which he looks like — but in a more relaxed setting."
What happened next remains the big mystery of the Edwards story. It’s a fact that Hunter became pregnant around May 2007, because she gave birth in February 2008. How it is that she stuck around the Edwards campaign for months once the film project was quashed is the question.
As Weil, the video producer, pointed out, it’s had three separate lives since The National Enquirer began forcing the issue last October. Indeed, Edwards pulled out of the presidential race on Jan. 30, suddenly, and seemed to vanish instantly from the spotlight. The press called it "abrupt."
In the end, were Edwards’ 90 days of retreat self-imposed because of the baby’s birth? His total absence meant no more pesky questions about the Enquirer story. When Hunter’s baby was born on Feb. 27, Edwards had been away from the scene for a whole month — a lifetime in the media world. Even the Enquirer made nary a peep.
His withdrawal was so complete that even the New York Times noted it in a piece on April 29. "The silence," reporter Julie Bosman wrote, "particularly from Mr. Edwards, is strange."
When Edwards finally emerged, to endorse Barack Obama for president. on May 14, many in the press wondered why he’d waited so long, noting that his backing in March or April would have been more effective.