By Roger Friedman, ,
Published May 18, 2015
Whoops! We’re inundated with news — and old news, at that — about Barbara Walters’ affair in the mid-1970s with Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts.
But what about Barbara’s short-lived nuptials to Lorimar Pictures president Merv Adelson in the mid-1980s?
In her much-hyped autobiography, "Audition," the septuagenarian broadcaster makes short shrift of her time with Adelson, whose film and TV company brought us "Dallas," "Knots Landing" and "Falcon Crest," three of the biggest hits of the 1980s.
Adelson also was co-owner of a Southern California health spa called La Costa. His partner was Moe Dalitz, a self-described bootlegger, liquor-smuggler and gambling house operator. (Dalitz died in 1989 at age 90.)
I say self-described because that’s how Dalitz characterized himself on the stand when he and Adelson sued Penthouse magazine for libel in 1975 after the magazine published an article asserting that La Costa was a haven for criminals.
According to many reports, including one in Fortune magazine, La Costa was built on money borrowed from the Teamsters Central States pension fund, which once was controlled by Jimmy Hoffa.
When Dalitz testified, he also said, according to The New York Times, that "he knew or was friendly with a long list of organized crime figures, including Meyer Lansky, the reputed Mafia financier, and Sam Giancana, a Chicago mob leader who was murdered in 1975."
Initially, Penthouse won the libel suit. According to The Times, "among the witnesses were a Mafia killer, Aladena (Jimmy the Weasel) Fratianno, and other ex-convicts who supported the Penthouse contention that La Costa was an organized crime center."
The verdict was overturned on appeal and then settled out of court with a letter of clarification. The whole process took almost a decade, beginning in 1975.
According to The Times and other reports, Dalitz testified "he knew Mr. Giancana and that the Chicago mobster had been a guest at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas when Mr. Dalitz was a part owner of that hotel and casino.
"Dalitz said that he had met several people whom he would characterize as organized crime figures, including Mr. Lansky, Anthony (Big Tuna) Accardo, Jake (Greasy Thumb) Gusik, Abner (Longie) Zwillman and Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel, who pioneered the Las Vegas gambling strip in the 1940s."
There’s more about Morris Dalitz in mob history, but you get the gist of it. Still, no one ever accused Adelson directly of being in the mob or tied to the mob, just knowing and being partners with people who did business with the mob. There’s a big distinction.
Still, Walters, a savvy journalist, married Adelson in 1986. But the marriage never shook off questions about the mob — something that wasn’t helping Barbara’s reputation as a journalist.
Walters told me: "It was something other people were concerned about. I think it was unfair attribution to reputation. He’d had this difficult libel suit. It was something that clung to him. And there were people professionally and personally who were concerned."
In 1986, right after they were married, the Wall Street Journal published a story citing a 1966 FBI report describing Adelson as being in "close association with the hoodlum element."
The stories about Adelson and his associates started once again.
I did ask her if the marriage suddenly had shined a big light on his activities. For example, she’d hosted a big charity party at La Costa after their wedding that attracted guests from both sides of the aisle — her celebs, his Las Vegas cronies. There was a lot of negative press.
Walters said: "La Costa had a reputation for attracting members of organized crime. Merv was never a member of organized crime. He had nothing to do with that. When we were married, [the attention] happened because he wanted to buy a very large chain of [television] stations. The fact that he was married to me might have made him more vulnerable."
The Journal story may have queered the deal for Lorimar to buy the stations. It cost the company $7 million and instigated several years of financial losses for Adelson. Within a year of his marriage to Walters, he sold both Lorimar and La Costa.
It’s unclear when they divorced. When I interviewed Walters for a magazine piece in the summer of 1991, they still had not legally filed legal papers. He lived in Los Angeles; her life was in New York. When they broke up, that was the given reason: distance. Walters writes in her book that "the marriage sputtered along" and that by September 1990 "it had run out of steam."
Warner M. Group, or WMG, had a $37 million loss in its second quarter, it reported Thursday morning. This is $10 million more of a loss than it had in the second quarter last year. The company has cut its dividend.
How, then, knowing this would happen because the facts were all there in public, did the company’s stock miraculously rise nearly $5 over six weeks to a close on Wednesday of $9.05?
Better yet, what happened on April 18 of this year to cause the volume of traded stock in WMG to jump to 2.3 million shares from 463,000 the day before? The stock price on the 18th was $8.24, up from $7.01. Nothing on the surface had changed: WMG didn’t start selling more CDs. It didn’t break a new artist.
What game is this that’s been played this spring with WMG stock? It remains a mystery.
On Thursday morning’s earnings conference call, WMG claimed that “A&R and artist promotion” was their biggest focus. But really, WMG has had one solid chart hit this winter and spring, and it was a fluke: the soundtrack to “Juno” on the Rhino label.
Domestic recorded music fell 17 percent they say, year to year. Ouch! But of course we all know this is true: Otherwise, their few releases have been disappointments: REM has been a slow seller. Madonna has underperformed. Gnarls Barkley’s CD has been a disaster compared to its prior release. James Blunt’s sophomore release was obliterated.
WMG actually believes their A&R department has been more successful than the one from the old (the real) Warner Music Group. What? The old Warner Music left this gang with all their current artists. The new WMG has been unable to develop one new artist into anything more than a one-off act. Are they kidding? Old WMG: Josh Groban, Linkin Park, Madonna, REM, Eric Clapton, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nickelback, Metallica, etc. New WMG: Barkley, Blunt, Danity Kane.
On the sales call, this is what WMG was proudest of: ringtones, and the news that their songs can be heard on cell phones. They’re focused on “social communities” like IMeem. I thought this was revelatory, since IMeem had Madonna’s album at least two weeks before its release. Fans were able to sample it in full streaming of singles. You could argue that this cut into eventual sales by almost 200,000 copies.
The call was also very interested in comparing apples and irrelevant oranges. For example, digital downloads vs. ringtones. Huh? What about CDs? What about the actual music?
The sales call also really stressed Warner Chappell music publishing. The company is very excited about making a publishing deal with the songwriters from the movie “Once,” but WMG has still not made a deal with the duo for an album — something that should have been done months ago, with a follow-up CD already released. That’s how Clive Davis or Doug Morris would have done it. But you can understand that the “Once” pair probably wouldn’t be interested anyway. They need a real record company.
Sources close to actress Liv Tyler — who may be ending her marriage to rocker Royston Langdon — were very amused to learn she has two daughters. Tyler and Langdon, as far as they know, have one son, Milo, age 3 1/2. If the marriage is over — and reports seem to indicate that it is — two more things should be clarified, say friends: The couple simply may have drifted apart, but Langdon is far from being a "leech." A talented musician, Langdon is busy producing and recording. Friends say he also is a very good father and that whatever is happening in their family is amicable — except, of course, for those two missing little girls! ...
Katrina Bowden is a very pretty blonde and a pretty good comedienne. She’s also a good sport since she plays Cerie, a kind of wise bimbo on "30 Rock," my favorite sitcom. I had the good fortune to sit next to her the other day at a luncheon thrown by the Diamond Information Center on a balcony overlooking the main hall at Grand Central Terminal. Actresses Diane Kruger and Lake Bell also were at the long table, as well as famed society writer and editor Billy Norwich and a bunch of very attractive, thin people I didn’t get to meet.
So what’s up, and why were we there? I will quote the press release, it’s easier: "Through Friday, May 9th anyone who walks by the DIC’s Floral Spectacular inside Grand Central Terminal has the chance to pick up one of 1,000 roses being handed out daily by A Diamond Is Forever. Everyone who picks up a rose will get a code that they can then enter online for a chance to win a 3 Stone Diamond Necklace worth $5,000. If you can’t make it to Grand Central Terminal, you can also register for a chance to win."
The Floral Spectacular, if you’re looking for it, is along the Vanderbilt Hallway Bridge inside Grand Central Terminal. It’s designed by a famous floral designer named Antony Todd, who, I’m sorry, sounds like he got his name from "Sweeney Todd."
As for Katrina: On the show, her character, Cerie, is engaged to be married. Creator Tina Fey still has told her very little about her fiancé, who’s never been seen on screen. It’s all a mystery. They still haven’t cast the man!
"I don’t know if we’ll ever meet him," Katrina laughed.
And Thursday night, Bowden says, the show is presenting several cliffhangers to get us through until the fall season starts in September. By the way, she told me that sometimes they film little ending scenes for the episodes and she hasn’t seen them till they air. "They always crack me up, too."