Page Six is gloating this morning. Talent agency William Morris just sold its Beverly Hills headquarters for $143 million and the Post gossip section totally called it, even in the face of William Morris' heated denials. "We told you," brags Page Six. But here's the thing: It took three and a half years for Page Six's gossip to come true. So for their scoop to be valid, you have to believe the headquarters sat on the marker for several years, even though it listed during one of the most frenzied commercial real estate markets ever, only to find a buyer in the worst office downturn in four years. Or maybe a company "desperate... to raise cash" (according to Page Six) took three years to organize a fire sale. Not likely.
A new kind of crisis recently befell the Church of Scientology, accusations serious enough to reduce those Suri-sippy-cup and Will Smith Brainwash Academy rumors to mere enturbulatory afterthoughts: An ex-member has filed a $250 million suit against the Church in Florida, invoking federal racketeering statutes generally reserved for the Mafia and other crime syndicates. Even more ambitiously, the suit reportedly names Tom Cruise as a primary conspirator in Scientology's global scheme, which plaintiff Peter Letterese claims to have encompassed threats and harassment of himself and his attorney. It's a devastating charge that stands to upend celebrity religion as we know it — more details and a brief analysis by the Defamer Legal Team follow after the jump.We know, we know: Racketeering? Scientologists? But they seem so modest! Nevertheless, as we're learning today, it's not just the Catholics who allegedly have ethics-challenged leeches dangling from the flock's soft flesh:
Remember Anthony Pellicano, the thuggish Hollywood private eye recently convicted of racketeering and wiretapping? He worked frequently with attorney Bert Fields, Fields' celebrity clients and other lawyers at Fields' firm. And he reportedly worked for Tom Cruise. But now that Pellicano is lost to the justice system, Cruise, still represented by Fields, has a private investigator named Paul Barresi defending his interests. And Barresi just did a strange thing: He provided to the Daily News federal court papers accusing Cruise of helping lead misdeeds by the Church Of Scientology, including harassment of this lovely sort:
Drew Pinsky is downright respectable, at least by TV doctor standards. Unlike "Dr. Phil," he has an actual medical degree, practices medicine and even teaches psychiatry. His reality show, Celebrity Rehab, is both more gripping and responsible than other celebrity "reality" vehicles. But Tom Cruise has allowed his lawyer to compare "Dr. Drew" to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, because the doctor told Playboy the following about movie star Cruise's fevered devotion to the Church of Scientology:
And so it ends: The long local nightmare that was the Anthony Pellicano trial has ended with essentially the same whimpering inertia that marked its duration. Those early reports of Pellicano's convictions have fleshed out in the hours since: guilty as charged on 76 of 77 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, wiretapping, wire fraud and identity theft, yet acquitted of "a single count of unauthorized computer access," according to The New York Times. (His four co-defendants were convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy.) Pellicano will be sentenced Sept. 24.
After having a Bert Fields-shaped carrot dangled before them, Pellicano trial-watchers will be disappointed to learn the famed Scary Hollywood Lawyer will not be testifying. Reports THR, Esquire: "Co-defendant Mark Arneson, a former LAPD sergeant, planned to call Fields, and the veteran entertainment attorney even showed up to court twice this week to take the stand. But he was never called, and today a spokesman for Fields said Arneson's attorney decided not to call him after all." With a witness list quickly running dry of A-list celebs and Hollywood power-players, we fear we'll soon go back to not caring again. Is there any way we can get someone fun on the stand? Maybe Bruce Vilanch in a "What, Me Worry?" T-shirt? [THR Esq.]
The Anthony Pellicano saga accidentally became interesting again when a disgruntled hedge-funder testifying Tuesday in the private investigator's wiretapping trial recounted that one time Pellicano offered to whack a producer who ran off with his money. After a $1.1 million investment with talent agent-turned-producer Aaron Russo resulted in exactly no movies and a full year of Russo's evasions, Exis Capital owner Adam Sender turned to Pellicano upon lawyer Bert Fields' recommendations. After the jump, a courtroom report in The NY Times and phone recordings at The Huffingon Post reveal how that could have gone better.
The Bert Fields Chronicles. Chapter the Third: The Fifth Amendmenting: HuffPo's Allison Hope Weiner stands by the story she broke about Scary Hollywood Lawyer Bert Fields taking the Fifth at the Pellicano trial. Standing in direct conflict to Fields's rep's statement to us that Fields had not received so much as a Hanukkah card from the government "in five years," Weiner reports that prosecutor Daniel Saunders "said again this afternoon that the government had been notified by Mr. Fields' counsel of his intent to take the Fifth Amendment if called to testify." Saunders added that "Mr. Fields invocation of the 5th would be improper because the statute of limitations has long run on any of Mr. Pellicano's alleged crimes with respect to Bert Fields." [HuffPo]
We just got off the phone with Lonnie Soury, a rep for Greenberg Glusker Fields, who tells us there's nothing to HuffPo's report that Bert Fields would be taking the Fifth at the Pellicano trial. Soury tells us that "Bert has not talked to the government in five years," that he has "not been called as a witness," and that if he is, "he will testify. He won't be taking the Fifth. He has nothing to hide...That comes from Bert himself." Where, then, did HuffPo reporter Allison Hope Weiner get the idea that Fields would be taking the Fifth? According to Deadline Hollywood Daily's own "Extra! Extra! Bert Fields Has Nothing to Hide!" story, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders told the judge at a pre-trial hearing today that "one of our witnesses" would plead the Fifth. A Pellicano attorney asked who, and Saunders replied, "Bert Fields." Developing...
A round-up of several delicious developments in the Anthony Pellicano Wiretapping Trial of the Century:
· The biggest news by far is that the Scary Hollywood Lawyer at the center of this sordid affair, Bert Fields, has invoked the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination. Unfortunately for Fields, no amount of scarily worded cease-and-desists printed on firm letterhead and delivered by Krav Maga-trained assassin-couriers will serve to lessen the culpability implied by such a bold legal action. [HuffPo]
UPDATE: Bert Fields will not be taking the Fifth, and "has nothing to hide," a rep tells us.
The now-peaceful world of onetime international megastar Tom Cruise, who had recently settled in to a quiet life of running a studio that could produce the kind of personal, little-seen vehicles that would help reduce his public profile enough to free him up to attend Redskins games and personally accompany daughter Suri to her ball-crawl romps at the Celebrity Centre's in-house Gymboree, has been temporarily rocked by accusations made in the new Andrew Morton tell-all Tom Cruise: An Unauthorised Biography, explosive excerpts from which were published in The Daily Mail this weekend. Scary Hollywood Lawyer and Designated Protector of the Cruise Brand Bert Fields was already hurling himself upon the grenades Morton had lobbed in the direction of his prized client (whom the author says has ascended to the position of the vice-pope of Scientology), especially a headline-grabbing, "sick and bizarre" section that claims some Scientologists believe that Suri is L. Ron Hubbard's baster-baby, according to the Mail:
At least, that's what lawyer Bert Fields said when he announced yesterday afternoon that our favorite golden-gina'd battleaxe is going to sue the Jew cabal at HarperCollins for wrongful termination. He also contradicts HarperCollins lawyer Mark Jackson's assertions about the content of the phone conversation that prompted Regan's firing, and implied that he may have a tape of the conversation. "They should worry about that," Variety quotes him as saying.
Hollywood Interrupted recently published a chapter from a "book-in-progress" by Anthony Pellicano-heavy/gay porn producer/general skeazebag-about-town Paul Barresi. In it, Barresi writes of the time a gay hustler known as Big Red approached him between takes on a porn set, offering up many anecdotes of lusty, same-sex encounters with paying celebrities, most notably among them a detailed account of a wrestling mat tryst with Tom Cruise. (The chapter is here, though you'll find yourself rummaging under the kitchen sink for industrial solvents and SOS pads to scrub yourself with once you're done.) The Scoop approached Scary Hollywood Lawyer Bertram "Bert" Fields for his response:
Moments after grumpy, 168-year-old Viacom mogul Sumner Redstone fired his now-infamous "That Tom Cruise Character Is Far Too Nuts To Ever Work For My Company" Shot Heard 'Round The World across the pages of the Wall Street Journal, chatter almost instantaneously commenced that the notoriously thin-skinned Cruise would dispatch his legal strongman, Scary Hollywood Lawyer Bertram "Bert" Fields, to devour Redstone's children. But rather than paralyze his quarry with a quick dose of poison, unhinge his jaw, and slowly swallow his retaliatory prey down until the clearly discernible shape of Shari Redstone bulged from his grotesquely distended belly, Fields instead announced that Cruise has "no intent" to call in a hit, telling The Hollywood Reporter, ESQ:
Two big-shot attorneys from Scary Hollywood Lawyer Bert Fields' firm might be stuffing seven of their colleagues into a cardboard box and slipping out to start a new, less suspicion-riddled practice, reports today's LAT. But just because the timing makes them seem like they're trying to sneak away before a much-rumored indictment of firm partner Fields can be handed down in connection with the Anthony Pellicano Wiretapping Trial of the Century doesn't mean they think anything bad is going to happen to their soon-to-be ex-colleagues. Says the Times:
Shortly after the official denial of last week's Cruise-Holmes break-up story in Life &Style, Scary Hollywood Lawyer Bert Fields took some time off from nervously clacking the metal balls on his desk toy while monitoring the updates in the Anthony Pellicano wiretapping trial to publicly muse about suing the magazine for temporarily upsetting his client's suspicious domestic bliss:
FindLaw columnist Julie Hilden asks the Tom Cruise Legal Question That Dares Not Speak Its Name, using the occasion of the recent South Park episode in which an animated, fictional Cruise quite literally finds himself "Trapped in the Closet" to wonder if the actor could (or even should) sue over the show's thinly veiled (OK, completely transparent) questions about his sexuality. Hilden raises this fascinating parallel argument about whether being accused of being gay should even be considered defamatory:
Hey, all you people who care about stories of "national importance," breathlessly awaiting your fancypants indictments for CIA leaks. Hollywood's got its own problems, thank you very much, as its collective face turns blue waiting for indictments to be handed down in the Anthony Pellicano Wiretapping Trial of the Century, when we will finally find out which of the industry's players wind up groped by the cold hand of scandal. The NY Times runs down the all-star roster of names tied up in the case against the eavesdroppingest private detective in town:
Today's Page Six reports that the beautiful friendship between Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg may be over, as the director was less than pleased that Cruise used the War of the Worlds publicity tour to evangelize for Scientology and personally—personally! God, that never gets old—launch an invasion against the harmful street drug Ritalin, which Spielberg thinks has helped children he knows. (We shudder to think what would happen to the market for Vicodin should the Scientologists succeed in removing this important gateway drug from Hollywood.) Cruise's lawyer, frequent Defamer penpal Bert Fields, got wind of the story and immediately fired off one of his signature love notes: