So What's The Story With Anita Busch?
Anita Busch was the prime topic of conversation among the circles I mixed with Thursday night, 9/12/02, at the Nacional, a brand new bar/restaurant in Hollywood, brought to you by the people behind Tengu.
Nacional is located at 1645 Wilcox, in Hollywood. (There's no name on the building but it has red glass doors and a fireplace outside, and the restaurant next door, Paladar, is under construction.) 323-962-7716
Tonight's drink-up and schmooze was put on by the Los Angeles Press Club, located at www.lapressclub.org.
Anita Busch covers Hollywood for the Los Angeles Times. She's also written for the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. She rarely stays at any one outlet for long.
In June, Busch reported that she was threatened while pursuing a story about Steven Seagal, producer Julius Nasso and the Mafia.
There's no doubt about Busch's commitment to her work. During her tenure at the Hollywood Reporter, she'd come in seven days a week. Reporting on Hollywood is her life. In her early 40s, she's never married and has no children.
An attractive, intelligent woman, it's revelative that she's never married. I figure she must have some deep psychological issues, including some issues particularly with powerful men. Busch has made a career of sucking up to powerful men then betraying them. Two examples in her life - Peter Bart and Bob Dowling. Bart is the editor of Variety. Busch eventually accused him of practicing unethical journalism and quit Variety for The Hollywood Reporter. After a couple of years as editor, she quit, accusing the publisher Bob Dowling, whom she'd once fawned over, of practicing unethical journalism. Notice a pattern here?
After each episode of quitting a Hollywood trade paper in righteous indignation over ethical breaches (when we all know, as Rick Barrs pointed out in the New Times, trade papers are all whores anyway), Busch managed to raise her profile and standing as a journalistic icon.
Busch particularly suckered David Shaw, who in his February 2001 longwinded series in the LA Times on entertainment journalism, practically deified Anita Busch, notes entertainment journalist David Poland of www.thehotbutton.com.
Shaw "deified" Busch for courageously opposing the violent movie Fight Club. Shaw, along with many other publications, claimed that Fox studios dropped their ads in The Hollywood Reporter over Busch's allegedly courageous editorial stand against Fight Club. But that never happened. Fox did not cancel its ads. But the perception was spread around various news outlets that it had happened.
I have no evidence that Anita Busch was behind spreading that false report, but it fits with my understanding of her as a canny operator at inflating her image. Busch befriends powerful men, including powerful male journalists like Bernard Weinraub of the New York Times, who came to town knowing little about how Hollywood operates. Anita helped Bernie out in a big way, giving him sources and insights and tirelessly assisted him. In return, did Bernie and the NY Times pay her? No. But Bernie watched her back in his articles. And eventually, in 2001, Busch got a job at the NY Times.
This pattern continued in Busch's relationships with many entertainment journalists. In return for her "selfless" help, they put her in a good light in their columns.
Busch's coworkers do not share this adulatory approach. Three solid Hollywood Reporter journalists went crazy under Busch's reign, including Dana Harris, and defected to Variety.
So, a few insights into Busch:
* She works hard. Perhaps too hard. There's something decidedly unbalanced, perhaps psychotic, in her monomaniacal approach.
* She helps many fellow journalists and many others in Hollywood. In return, they place her in a flattering light in their articles. Hollywood players like Ron Meyer and what Michael Ovitz called "the gay mafia" use Busch to further their agenda, which included for much of the past year, sinking Mike Ovitz.
* Busch has a screw loose. She has deep issues with men, repeatedly betraying her powerful male benefactors, who she at one time seduced. One person who's worked intensely with Busch suspects that the real reason she hated Fight Club was not the violence in the movie, but that the female character appeared to her as helpless. This violated Busch's fervent feminism, setting off a volcanoe of irrational rage that spewed all over the news columns of The Hollywood Reporter as well as her editorial against the movie.
Journalists who've worked with Busch report that she tends to believe in conspiracy theories. "Anita wants to be good," says one, "but she can't help [being vituperative]." Several say that if Busch sees a chance to step into the limelight as a Joan of Arc, she will stop at almost nothing to achieve such a perception and iconic status.
Because of her reputation for manipulation, Anita Busch's claims that her life was threatened was immediately greeted with skepticism by many, if not most, of those journalists who knew her.
For one thing, Busch showily "resigned" from the Seagal - Nasso story. Most journalists I've talked to can't recall another instance of a reporter "resigning" from a story.
My hunch at the time was that Busch was herself the source for this hysterical Rush & Molloy gossip item in the New York Daily News 7/11/02: "Los Angeles Times writer Anita Busch has been looking into the federal indictment of reputed Mafia captain Anthony (Sonny) Ciccone on charges of extortion and threatening to kill actor Steven Seagal. After digging into the story for a couple of weeks, Busch recently discovered that someone had come to her L.A. home and smashed her car's windshield, leaving a note that said, "Stop," sources tell us. She also found a metal box on the car. Bomb-squad cops found a dead fish in it. While police investigate the incident and other threats she has received, Busch has resigned from the story and is in hiding, say sources."
Now I've found out that the story was given to the Daily News by journalist John Connolly, who wrote the March 2001 Premiere magazine piece that nailed Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Premiere has never published an article so damaging to itself as this one. The magazine has been going downhill for about seven years. They've had some of the greatest journalists write for it - Nancy Collins, John Richardson, etc... Now it's lost its way. The Arnold piece, though fundamentally correct, infuriated many in Hollywood. Premiere's editor was fired about eight months later and the new editor kisses up to celebrities. He doesn't like investigative pieces.
Connolly, a former policeman, is a big burly guy who knows how to intimidate and work a room.
With Busch's blessing, Connolly gave the story of Busch's harassment to Rush & Molloy. Score another for Anita's abilities to manipulate the media to place her in the most flattering light, suspected many of her peers. They didn't believe Anita Busch in her putative hour of need because Anita Busch had not given them reason to believe that she could be trusted. They didn't rally to her side because they'd been jerked around and manipulated by her too many times before.
After the Daily News article, Poland and Jeffrey Wells announced their suspicions but did not elaborate. "Pure Anita" was a typical reaction from Anita's peers.
David Poland wrote: "Then again, there are some people who think the whole thing is a little fishy… after all, it was leaked to a gossip column and Busch’s journalistic integrity was just publicly questioned by the Vanity Fair article on Ovitz, her close relationship with Ron Meyer being one of the few things in the article that wasn’t pulled apart or denied."
I piled on and gave some history on Anita. Then Rick Barrs at www.newtimesla.com wrote three consecutive columns casting doubt on the notion that the Italian Mafia was after Anita. That's not the way that Mob operates. They leave journalists alone says Mafia expert Jerry Capeci.
Rick Barrs first wrote on the Busch-Seagal story in the New Times LA 8/29/02: "The Finger could find nobody in the New York press covering the Seagal story who'd been threatened. LAPD spokesman John Pasquariello...said there were no suspects in the case and that the LAPD had not advised Busch to go into hiding. "Whatever she's doing, it's strictly on her own," he stressed.
Commented one former Times staffer familiar with the alleged threat: "Most people at the Times think it's bullshit. Both [Busch's boss and top features editor] John Montorio and [the Times' editor and chief] John Carroll really like this cloak-and-dagger stuff, so they encouraged her to go into hiding and let her choose her own hotels. L'Ermitage was one."
A WEEK LATER, Barr published another column making Anita look like nutcase. Then came this bombshell from the NY Times 9/4/02: "The author of a article in Vanity Fair about the actor Steven Seagal's allegation that he was extorted by the Mafia has told the police that he was threatened at gunpoint last week in Los Angeles, the police said yesterday. The writer, Ned Zeman, is the second journalist to report being threatened while working on an article about Mr. Seagal's allegation, which grows out of a federal investigation into charges of corruption on the Brooklyn waterfront."
So now the evidence mounts that Busch really was threatened.
VF approached the story in a tricky way. Ned, who lives in LA, went to New York to report. In LA, John Connolly nosed around, claiming he was investigating the story for a possible pitch. In reality, he was working closely with Vanity Fair and Zeman. Seagal didn't know what hit him until just before the article was to come out. Shortly afterwards, Zeman got threatened. A man drove up to him and pointed a gun at him.
So what's the story here? It's not that Anita Busch is a nut. The evidence looks strong that she really was threatened. It's not the dead fish throw in her car that argues for this, it's a yet unreported phone call that Busch received after her car was smashed that sent Busch into hiding.
Anita then called her superior at the LA Times and they arranged for her to go into hiding. Busch knows who threatened her. She and her LA Times superiors know it isn't the Italian-American Mafia.
So who is it? My common sense, and my gut, though I have no evidence to support this claim, points in the direction of Steven Seagal's camp.
New Times Los Angeles editor repeatedly interviewed officers in LA's organized crime unit about the Busch story. They at first denied any investigation of it. In a NT column 9/12/02, they said they were investigating.
I now hear that the primary investigation of these threats to journalists has been carried out by the FBI, who basically told the LAPD to leave it to them.
If I may be personal for a moment, I believe that I have some special insights into this story because receiving death threats, physical attacks and lawsuits have been a way of life for me since 1997.
I Get Phone Calls
Joe Producer calls 5:21PM 9/5/02:
Joe: "You have a fucking death wish?"
"Secondly, you are so fucking inaccurate, you can't even get names right. Your spelling and your fucking listing of names is just fucking unbelievable. So let me tell you something. I'm now making it a career to go after you and break you. So you better get my shit off your fucking website.
"So if you think you can come into this town you little snot-nosed fuck and just put shit like that up there, let's see how much you can afford fucking lawyers. I'll own your fucking shirt when I'm finished because I can just afford to keep your fucking ass in fucking depositions for the rest of your fucking life. Do you understand that?"
Luke: "Yeah. What would you like me to do?"
Joe: "Get my fucking shit off the website especially my kid's fucking poem, which as far as I'm concerned, I haven't decided whether to call the police and say you stole it off my desk."
Luke: "I'll take it off right now."
Joe: "That's the fucking position that I am going to take with everybody in my office, that you stole it. You came in my office and stole it. You're a little motherfucker. You came in here. You were going to write a book. You put up all that shit on the website and you think you can come into this fucking town and trash everybody. You're not Julia Phillips pal. She had a long fucking history with me and a long history in this town. She's an Oscar winner. You're a fucking pimple on my goddam ass.
"I'll break you the fuck down like you've never seen in your fucking life. You want to see some shit? Let's see how much fucking money you have. You'll never have a fucking dime as long as you live. Because that's how long I'll fucking keep you in court. And I don't give a fuck if I lose. I'll just keep going after you in fucking court. Do you understand that? I'll make sure that every fucking penny you earn for the rest of your life will go in fucking lawyers. I can finance that with my residuals."
Luke: "I've taken it off. Is there anything else you'd like me to do?"
Joe: "Lose my fucking name. If I see one more word with your name attached to me, and you're fucking dead. Do you understand that? You can tape-record that. You can put that as a threat and anything else. You're financially fucking dead. Ok, and if I were you, I'd leave Anita Busch alone. She's got a lot of fucking friends in this town. And right now they're not real happy with you."
Luke: "Is there anything else you'd like me to do?"
Joe: "That's all I want you to do. Get it the fuck down right now. Don't let me go on a website and find anything with your name and my name."
Joe Producer phones 9/6/02 at 5:30 PM.
Joe: "You think it's funny with Medavoy's letter and Anita Busch? You're playing with the wrong people. I want my whole thing down. I want nothing to do with you. I'm fat with a pot belly? Who the fuck do you think you are? I can make you not fucking breathe. Everyone else will be polite and send you a letter like Medavoy did. I'll stop you from breathing. Do you understand me? You can put that up there and quote it. I'm just telling you something right now. We will crush you with fucking lawyers. And that will just be the fun part. That will be the part of your day that you fucking enjoy when you run out of fucking money. Now take it the fuck done. You came in here under false pretenses. Take the whole fucking thing down. And you've got that shitty thing on Anita Busch up there. What the fuck is the matter with you? Do you want to win friends here and get any kind of cooperation? I'll put your name all over this fucking place. I'll send out emails to everyone in this fucking town and nobody will take your fucking calls when I'm finished. I'm just telling you something. You're fucking with the wrong guy here. You put up all the times I've been arrested. They were for assault pal."
Luke: "I sent you most everything I wrote about you."
Joe: "I got it. I don't like it. You twisted things. You got things wrong. I'm just telling you I want it down. I want nothing to do with you. Don't write about me. I will sue the shit out of you. I don't give a fuck if I lose. I'll just resue you. You can't afford the lawsuits. I'll fucking hire a lawyer fulltime right out of fucking law school whose job will be nothing but to file depositions and shit on you and make you defend yourself. I'll break you."
Greg writes: Great interview you did with him but jesus it sounds like this is an enemy you don't want. I remember the guy. Hopefully his years of cocaine abuse will do him in and you won't have to worry about him. How old is he? 60? Do you get scared when people do this trip on you or are you used to it from all the porners threatening to get even with you? What's he so pissed about? You didn't make any of that stuff up did you? You did an interview with him. Where did his son's poem come from? Who gave it to you or did you lift it off a website or something? Hopefully he's just a blowhard.
Curious writes: I notice these Hollywood producers claim everything they touch is copyrighted. Fred, isn't there a process involved in copyrighting material or does just claiming your teen son's inane poetry is copyrighted make it so?
Emma writes: It's a shame: it was one of the most interesting profile and the poem impressed me. So you won't take the page down at the end?
Khunrum writes: Did Luke steal the poem or was it given to him?
Chaim Amalek writes: Not having read the original material, I will venture a guess.
Luke presented himself as the dutiful (if weirdly old) son; someone this guy could open up to. So he did, to the extent that he let Luke see a copy of a rather embarrassing poem penned by his 15 year old kid. (Luke, have I got that right? This guy is an idiot if he shared that poem with you.)
When Luke put this up on his web site, he naturally triggered the guy's paternal defensive instincts on behalf of his boy. Entirely predictable. Luke, ya just don't have the brains to hang with this crowd. Stick to what you've been doing of late....
PS Would that Marc were in your media shoes, oh, what could be done.
I am coming around to the conclusion that the Torah I spent four solid months on is dead in the water if I have to count on you or your name to get it a friendly reading. Didn't I urge you to KISS EVERY ASS IN SIGHT until this got done? You just don't think like a jew.
And you didn't foresee his reaction to your publishing it? You're treating these people as though they were no smarter or better calibrated than the cud-chewing psychologically damaged porners who marked your previous excursion into "fame." While I am not one to elevate Hollywood folk above me, I acknowledge that they are at least average in intelligence and in many other respects, which means that their reactions . . . aw, what am I doing writing this? From your parents to porners to producers, the end result is always the same with you. You just don't have the social smarts to move in these circles. Your instincts are wrong, you have no idea what you are doing, you cannot think ahead even two moves (if that), and your weird eating habits place you just one step away from being a raw-foodist or fruitarian.
Frank writes: I just got a call from Joe Producer about your .... I must say, I was very surprised you would be meeting Joe, and equally surprised to know that you would be using my name to open doors. Having not spoken in about nine months, I was surprised to hear that you might have thought I was your ... I am not now nor was I ever.
As I am sure you are aware, we never had any agreement of the sort. I just wanted to help bring .... to light. When we couldn't we went our separate ways. With that in mind, I would ask you nicely, please do not use my name. I will be happy to help you if I can in the future -- but I would appreciate your letting me know in what context first. Thank you.
As for Joe, he is not happy. And an unhappy Joe Producer is something you definitely do not want. I really don't know the circumstances, nor do I care, frankly. My recommendation -- just drop the whole thing. The alternative is a bunch of troublesome legal stuff that will do nothing but burn energy and make lawyers money. I would appreciate it if you would get back to me via email or phone to let me know we are on the same page here.
Fred writes: Ya know, being able to do that as an interviewer might be a valuable skill. Maybe you can put that to better use career-wise. Things coulda been worse. You could have presented yourself to John Gotti as the dutiful (but weirdly old) son-type.
Also, if you were in a position to fight with this jerk I would point out that his e-mail to you is nothing more than a long admission that he is essentially planning to abuse the legal system in a tortious manner, and if he does so, you can sue him. As it stands, the better course might be to avoid a fight and stay away from him.
Everything is, in fact, copyrighted. Everything you put on paper. It really doesn't matter whether it is a work of great literary merit or a completely idiotic poem. There is a process by which one registers the copyright. Whether or not you register the copyright affects what sort of damages you can get. One registers the copyright by sending the copyrighted material with the appropriate form and a few bucks to the copyright office. It's pretty easy to do. The copyright office doesn't do an examination to see if the work has any merit. They just check to see if you filled out their form right.
JMT writes: It's too bad that you couldn't have had a confrontation with someone who's still important. This isn't going to help sell many books. I don't think you would have stolen the poem, and I don't think you could have memorized it, so presumably the dumbshit gave you a copy of it, or sat there as you read it into your tape recorder. Either way, what did he think, that you were just going to add it to your secret, private stash of treasured Hollywood mementos?
Decoding Jewish Text
A Mystery Sage, West of Satmar, writes: (If I had the textual tools, I would put David's comments here as a central block of text in archaic english, with my commentary on the margins in tiny script.)
The Jewish Boychick "David" writes: "I work in the industry and have been following your site, but I'm giving up. What is with all of the Judaism crap? Everyone is a Jew in LA, I'm a Jew. Who cares that your Jewish; that is really boring. DO you actually think anyone wants to read that?"
TRUE MEANING: "We Hollywood Jews want to continue pretending that we're just like the goyim in every respect. Hence, the fact that almost everyone here with real power is Jewish has no impact on what we make. Or at least we want the goyim to believe this. Stop talking out of class. It's disturbing."
As is true for most people, "boring" things do not animate the concerned Jew to write to a website, especially not to one as obscure as yours. When a Hollywood Jew writes to tells you that he is bored by what you write, what he means to say is that he finds it disturbing.
Personally, I think the "everyone is a jew in LA" remark is hilarious. Does he mean to say that there are no Roman Catholic Mexicans out there, or just that everyone who counts in Hollywood is Jewish? Dovidel, you have a sensitive job. Please be a bit more careful when dealing with a genetic shaegitz like Luke!
Six-pointed Dovidl continues: "And with the Regan Starr item... Do you actually think any REAL producers will talk to you with that shit on your website? Thats why the only "producers" who have talked to you are a bunch of wannabes and, well, I was going to say "has beens" but "never were(s)" would be more like it. You should have stuck with the minor leagues (porn)." Luke, this yingel is right on the money. I have been warning you of this from the start. It is disturbing though, to hear someone else confirm my fear that nobody of current importance has spoken with you. And you know why this disturbs me. Just as I thought, I am going to have to do all the heavy lifting.
Nikki Finke writes in the LA Weekly: Pay cable's hype is totally out of proportion compared with publicity for the 180-plus shows on the seven broadcast networks. But more than half the lead-out sitcoms on the networks are failing to retain a decent portion of their lead-in audience. Yet the broadcasters continue to spend billions on what they know is a broken system. Some of the Big Four hold focus groups for their prime-time programs with the polyester-slacks set posing as a cross section of average Americans (specifically, tourists who travel to Las Vegas and are trapped into watching pilots instead of going gambling). CBS tempted fate by nearly wrecking CSI with what talent reps claimed were the most brutal renegotiations for series performers in modern memory. (Pleading poverty even though the crime show's revenues are already gigantic, CBS adopted Law and Order's bargaining position: Fuck with us and you're gone.)
The Rise Of Anthony Lane
John Powers writes in the LA Weekly: Nobody says Lane is the best or most knowledgeable, but he's clearly the biggest star. His fat new collection was published by Knopf (not a university press). It garnered terrific reviews, including one from Time's film critic Richard Schickel (whose rave betrayed such corrupt disdain for the movies, the audience and film criticism itself that I kept wondering if he was actually the third Weinstein brother). On Monday, Lane even turned up on Talk of the Nation right after discussion of Kael -- sort of a passing-the-torch moment, NPR-style. He is the critic that every magazine editor covets, the critic that Hollywood most enjoys reading, because even when he pans its films, he does it so divertingly that what he's actually saying barely registers.
Anita Busch Update
From The Finger on www.newtimesla.com: Some of The Finger's sources (present and former colleagues of Busch's) speculated at the outset that Anita may have been threatened by a Hollywood enemy. Two said she had complained to them about such threats in years past. Some went so far as to say that whoever was behind the incident with the fish and the broken window may have been trying to hoax her into believing the Mafia was involved. She and her lawyer have refused to comment.
Now, The Finger's hearing from knowledgeable sources that the police have identified two men who may have been involved in the Busch incident. Apparently, they're hoods for hire who, indeed, have no known connections with the Mob. So the question remains: Who's behind the threats?
Before Night Falls
I just watched this excellent film about Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas. Why didn't the boxcover warn me it was about thomosexuality? I've accidentally rented several films now that had prominent homosexual themes that were never mentioned on the boxcover. I guess these homosexual themes are hidden because many of us would not rent such films if we knew we had to watch men having sex with men. Call me a homophobe, but I find it revolting to watch men kiss other men.
Richard Riordan's New Paper
From PageSix.com: Riordan is also vowing not to kowtow to Hollywood, as the L.A. Times - which runs countless pages of studio advertising - has been accused of for decades.
From New York Post: A pal of Riordan's said: "Dick wants to have an anti-Hollywood paper that won't be afraid to take people on - and actually have a gossip column."
While the Los Angeles Times carries our colleague Liz Smith's widely read column, she has complained about the way it's butchered and buried at the bottom of the page. When the Times made rumblings in early 2001 about hiring its former crime reporter Ann O'Neal as a gossip columnist, Smith wrote: "The L.A. Times . . . edits me so stringently, I often seem to disappear entirely . . . The truth is, the L.A. Times doesn't believe in gossip (a Hollywood hometown newspaper that does not believe in gossip!). They don't want a gossip columnist. Good luck, Ann!"
Producer Paul Pompian
I met producer Paul Pompian at his Crusader Entertainment office June 11, 2002.
Paul: "I grew up in Chicago. My dad (George) was in the hardware industrial supply business. He started out with a small store. I worked with him through grammar school and high school. Then he expanded to a wholesale business on the South side of Chicago. His parents were from Italy and Russia. My mother's parents were from Germany.
"My mother (Lillian) was a well known writer. She wrote for the Chicago Tribune for many years. She was the first woman allowed in the Kinsey Institute. She wrote about sex and sexual research when women were not allowed to do that. She wrote difficult pieces about air and noise pollution. She wrote about women's rights. She once wrote a satirical piece for the Chicago American called 'The Little Woman in the Kitchen.' She suggested that men swap roles with women. And the American got 25,000 pieces of hate mail demanding that she be fired, not realizing that the piece was largely tongue in cheek."
Luke: "You raised yourself because you had two busy parents."
Paul: "I was a latchkey kid. I participated in athletics in highschool but I still managed to go to work for my dad at the end of the day. After a year of college, I was tired of it. I got drafted and went into the Army and that sobered me up. I was discharged in 1964. My Army experience was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. I went back to school on the GI bill. I went to Loyola University. I became a serious student. I graduated with a degree in Political Science. Then I went to New College School of Law in San Francisco. I moved to Los Angeles in 1971.
"I got a grant to do a documentary on crime. We didn't know what we were doing but it turned out well and won awards. I was working for the Chicago Committee on Criminal Justice.
"I then went to work for some guys who didn't do porn, but it was one step above porn. Bob Cresse (6/19/36 - 4/6/98) had a company called Olympic International."
In their book 'Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of "Adults Only" Cinema,' Eddie Muller and Daniel Faris write:
Most of [Lee] Frost's films were produced by Robert Cresse, another alumnus of the carnival midway. Cresse came to Los Angeles from Sarasota, Florida, by way of the University of Miami. He looked like a less-cuddly Jonathan Winters, and had a gift for the gabby hustle that worked just fine in Tinsel Town - after he'd paid his dues as a bike messenger at MGM. He worked himself up the production ranks, but decided to go independent when he realized there was no job security at a major studio. While Dan Sonney and Dave Friedman ran Entertainment Ventures Incorporated, the "Capitol of the Exploitation Film Industry," out of their Cordova Street complex, Cresse set up his own shop, Olympic International Films, on tonier Sunset Boulevard. Where as MGM pompously used as its credo "Art for the Sake of Art," Olympic's banner declared "Art for the Sake of Money."
Cresse produced one of the first nudie documentaries, Hollywood's World of Flesh, a Shocking! All True! production in the grand exploitation tradition. All the scenes, filmed "on location as they actually happened," were staged over one weekend, with Cresse and Frost using unpaid friends as actors.
Cresse soon carved out quite a reputation. He had that me-against-the-world attitude required of an independent film producer, but his predilection for weaponry and Nazi regalia put an unnerving edge on it. He also kept two full-time bodyguards on the payroll, as a warning to people that it wasn't wise to steal from Bob Cresse. He told interviewer Mike Vraney, in the magazine Cult Movies, about the time he had to collect his rental fees from a unforthcoming exhibitor by jamming a .38 into the guy's mouth and threatening to blow his head off.
Cresse fancied himself in the macho mold of Sam Peckinpah, and toward the end of the sixties he took the roughie genre in a Western direction. Hot Spur was the archetypal Cresse production: filled with cruel, sadistic men abusing attractive women.
Cresse left the Adults Only business after an unfortunate encounter on Hollywood Boulevard. Heeding cries for help, he confronted two men beating a woman outside a store. Cresse ordered them to stop, and punctuated the command by brandishing the handgun he liked to tote with him. One of the men promptly shot him in the stomach, then shot Cresse's dog, then informed him they were the police.
Cresse had no insurance, and his seven-month hospital stay depleted most of the money he'd carefully funneled into a Swiss bank account.
Paul Pompian: "He was extraordinarily nice to me. They were doing a picture every two weeks. They had titles like House on Bare Mountain. He was a showman. He did a lot of pictures with Dave Friedman. I knew Dave well. He's a raconteur. He lives in Alabama. He made a lot of incredible pictures with titles like Southern White Trash.
"I did a bunch of pictures for Olympic. I worked with Roger Corman."
Pompian's first credit on Imdb.com is for the 1974 film Street Girls. According to Imdb.com: "When a middle-aged father searches for his dropout daughter, Angel, his quest takes him into the underworld of prostitutes, pimps, drug addicts and thieves. Angel has become a dancer in a topless bar, and her dealer boyfriend is turning her on to heroin."
Paul: "It's a forerunner of the George C. Scott film Hardcore. It's almost as though they lifted our story to suit their movie. I did a few of those."
Luke: "A studio executive told a producer, 'I'm determined to wipe out child prostitution and I don't care how many movies I have to make to do it.'"
Paul: "In the late 1970s, I worked on a bunch of projects that were failed studio movies. I developed a lot of docu-dramas. I went to work at the Begelman-Fields company [founded by Freddie Fields and David Begelman]. Then David moved over to MGM and I went with him. I was there from 1979-84. I produced the 1981 TV movie, 'Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story.'
From Imdb.com: "TV version of the life and death of "Playboy" magazine centerfold Dorothy Stratten (1960-1980), a starry-eyed Canadian teenager who moved to Hollywood in the late 1970's seeking stardom and found it with her seedy promoter Paul Snider who promised Dorothy a career both as a star and his wife."
Paul: "The New York Times was lavish with praise of our movie. We spent $1.7 million and Star 80 [also about Dorothy Stratten] spent $14 million. Don Stewart, who later won the Academy award for Missing, wrote the script. Don was a former Reuters newsman and a fine crusty writer.
"I acquired this supposed expertise for doing docu-dramas, which are a different animal from fiction. You have different constraints. Some of these were not worthy of being made. They reflected the mood of the networks at the time. Frankly, a lot of it was crap. I always lobbied hard to elevate the tastes of the audience. That falls on deaf ears.
"With docu-dramas, sometimes you have to protect the innocent. People that don't want to be brought into something, or be portrayed in a bad light. Sometimes you have to create a composite figure yet adhere to the truth. There are all these tripwires along the way that you have to watch out for. This "inspired by" is a politic way of saying the movie is loosely based on truth.
"People are always concerned about how they are going to be portrayed. Sometimes they don't acquit themselves well. Someone might appear disingenuous, duplicitous or dumb, the three Ds."
Luke: "Aside from legal concerns, why should you care how someone comes across?"
Paul: "You have to be sensitive because you are vulnerable to criticism if they have any kind of a forum to denigrate the movie. If they are a principle character, you have to make sure they serve the interests of the film. You have to be fearless also. You can't deviate from the truth without destroying the integrity of what you are doing. I haven't done any picture where we've had a lawsuit that somebody's won.
"I'm proud of The Preppie Murder (1989). Everybody felt that it set a new standard for television movies. My close friend John Herzfeld directed. He took a script that needed a lot of work and recrafted it. He worked closely with the major figures in the case - the lawyer for Robert Chambers, the head of the Manhattan DA's rape squad who has gone on to a big career... Jennifer Levin's parents were too distraught to cooperate.
"We had a tremendous number of new talent that John discovered - Sandra Bullock, William Baldwin, Lara Flynn Boyle."
From Imdb.com: "This is the story of a young woman who was found dead. Now the police investigate, and evidence points to a man she was seen leaving a party with. Now when questioned, he claims that her death was accidental, as a result of rough sex. Now her family doesn't believe this, so they press the district attorney's office to try him for murder, but he has a good lawyer who plays his defense right down to putting the dead girl on trial."
Hollywood & Orthodox Judaism
I used to think that orthodox Jews were overly concerned with their image in the community and overly concerned about not speaking ill of other orthodox Jews. Now I've spent the past year interviewing about 100 movie and TV producers and I've come to realize how incredibly sensitive they are to their image within the entertainment industry and how careful they are not to cause controversy.
David writes: I work in the industry and have been following your site, but I'm giving up. What is with all of the Judaism crap? Everyone is a Jew in LA, I'm a Jew. Who cares that your Jewish; that is really boring. DO you actually think anyone wants to read that?
And with the Regan Starr item... Do you actually think any REAL producers will talk to you with that shit on your website? Thats why the only "producers" who have talked to you are a bunch of wannabes and, well, I was going to say "has beens" but "never were(s)" would be more like it. You should have stuck with the minor leagues (porn).
Luke's Feminine Side
An upper west side sage writes: "Luke, you're such a woman. If you had converted to Islam instead of Judaism, I'll bet the threat of all these lawsuits would have found you chuckling as you prepared your lamb for Friday slaughter."
Producer Regan Starr
I spoke with Regan Starr, a producer and former B-actress, by phone 9/8/02 at 9:35PM.
Luke: "Mike told me you only get up at 6PM. He says you are a vampire."
Regan: "Sometimes I have to go places during the day. Today I went to bed at 12:30PM. I just woke up."
Luke: "How did you get in the industry?"
Regan: "I answered an ad in the newspaper placed."
Luke: "Oh boy."
Regan: "Oh boy is right. It was June 1998.
"Talking with Regan was a positive experience. He was articulate. I enjoyed his enthusiasm. Before I met with him, I asked him what the meeting would be like. I grilled him. Then when I felt comfortable enough to walk through the door, I came in."
Luke: "Did you do a scene with him?"
Regan: "Yes. It was easy. He finished in two minutes. At the time, I didn't know any better. It seemed normal. Afterwards, people told me, 'He's such a slimebag, he does that to all the girls.' I said, 'Hey, that's not cool Regan.' At the time, I just wanted work. I wanted to be a good girl.
"Regan would call me all the time and ask me what I was doing. I thought that was odd."
Luke: "How long was he your agent?"
Regan: "About ten days before I felt like I should go out on my own. I called him up and severed our relationship over the phone. I've never had another agent. I've gotten all my own work.
"I've done about 200 movies. I worked about five days a week my first year. Then I worked about four days a week my second year. Anything I could get my hands on. In my third year in the industry , I focused on my website and I worked here and there."
Luke: "Which of your movies are you proudest of?"
Regan: "Seven Deadly Sins. I was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and for Best New Starlet.
Luke: "Do you do interracial?"
Regan: "I don't anymore on camera."
Regan: "I worked for an African-American gentleman by the name of Caspar about a year-and-a-half ago. He had me meet him in the Valley to do a movie one day. He was very ghetto about the whole thing. He wound up taking me for a ride. He wound up really using me that day. He never paid me. He went off to Japan and ended up doing that to a lot of girls. His cameraman had to take money up front before shooting because he knew Caspar wouldn't pay. I didn't know any better. I just trusted that everything would work out fine. And this guy pulled a total street maneuver on me and robbed me. I was really upset. That's the reason I stopped working with [African-Americans]. It was an uncomfortable experience. He was very ghetto. I don't know how clean he was. He had a test but I don't know how real that was. After that, I stopped [doing interracial]."
Luke: "Was the industry what you expected?"
Regan: "Yes. I didn't have any pre-judgments on anything going in. I took the blows as they came and made my decisions wisely after that. I took the wonderful experiences as they came and I was grateful that I was able to master some things."
Luke: "What were some of your wonderful experiences?"
Regan: "I got to travel to the East Coast Video Show and sign out there. I got to travel all over the United States feature dancing. I don't think I would've gotten on a plane and traveled by myself to all these wonderful cities - New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit. I would never have been there if I did not have a job to perform there. I got to see more of the country and I became more broadminded. The website has continued to be a blessing. It's brought in an income even though I'm not pounding the pavement in the Valley. The money has been good. I've saved everything I've made. It's fueled my art career. I do mixed-medium canvas.
"I use acrylic and oil and watercolors and I throw them all together. I'm hoping to get into a gallery soon to show my work. The industry has allowed me some time to develop my skills and go right-brain crazy."
Luke: "How has working in the industry affected your enjoyment of your personal life?"
Regan: "It's enhanced it. I've never had a relationship with somebody from the industry. But in my life with my boyfriends from outside, they've enjoyed it because it's like a tornado coming through the room. 'Whoa, where did that come from? Where did you learn that?' They've always been very appreciative that I've had my appetite developed. Before I went into the industry, I was more timid. I could do without sex. By having it more, and having my inhibitions broken down, it's helped me come out of my shell as a woman.
"But as far as my personal relationships goes, it's been topsy-turvy. Men have said, 'Yeah, I'm totally cool with your being an actress.' They have all these great intentions. But in the back of their minds, they wonder, 'Gee, is she really safe?' That's surfaced a number of occasions. They wondered how committed I was to the relationship because I did movies for my job. They thought I was a cheater. I've had a hard time in finding normal men accept that. Those men who aren't so normal, and maybe cheat themselves, say, 'That's great.' It's been hard because I'm a one-man kinda girl and they think I'm being hypocritical, even though the industry is in my past now."
Luke: "Does you family know you are a star?"
Regan: "They do. I have an older and younger sister. My family knows I've been in the industry in the past. They believe I am out of the industry now. They try not to ask what's going on currently. They're glad that I am doing art work. They felt negatively about it."
Luke: "You did some rought stunt work in that one movie. Looking back at the controversy, how do you see it now?"
Regan: "I see it as a prime example of innocence being taken for granted. I think innocence should be preserved in life. I just see it as a very strong example of what happens when you mix nice girl with big bad wolf. You don't always know what to expect when you go into a shoot. I didn't. I know they'd like to believe that they informed me about the entire circumstance but they didn't. Not to the degree that I was abused."
Luke: "They got their head handed to them over the series and I think it was in large part because of your comments."
Regan: "Absolutely. I was excited to have been able to make a difference like that. To protect some other innocent girl from Orange County who comes to Hollywood and has no other intentions but to do a good job."
Luke: "Anyone else not pay you aside from Caspar?"
Regan: "One other time. John T. Bowen tried to screw me. His was my worst film ever. He gave me a check that I tried to cash in the Valley. I ran out of gas. I was scared. I begged a dollar from a guy at a gas station to go to a check cashing place for a check I'd just got for my scene for John Bowen. The place said the $500 check wasn't going to clear. There was no money in the account. The lady said, 'You might be able to take it to a place in a seedier part of town where their employees are not so thorough. You might be able to cash it and then it would be on him to fulfill the money.'
"I found a place that took the check. Then they kept calling him and they were going to sue him if he didn't pay.
"John called me the next day. He was livid. 'Why did you cash the check? I told you not to cash it for two weeks. These people are calling me constantly.' He tried to play me for stupid. He probably expected to try and fail to cash the check and then go, 'Oh well. It's Hollywood. What can you expect?' He knew it was one of my first movies. He likes to get new girls because they will turn the other cheek if the check bounces. I've heard lots of stories about him having money troubles."
Luke: "Have you had friends from high school recognize you?"
Regan: "Yes. It's always been wonderful. At least to my face. I've had friends who thought it was cool and they've tried to hire me for their parties. I was a cheerleader in high school, socially active, student body president. My name was known. When the word went around that I was 'Regan Starr,' they were shocked. A couple of people I didn't see face to face emailed me. 'We don't think that's very cool.' But I just pressed my delete key and went on my merry way. I'm very live and let live. And I don't like it when people pass judgment. Especially when it is somebody who is not doing anything to hurt anyone else.
"I'm extremely moral. People have a tendency to believe that if you are in the industry, you are not moral. It's free game. The floodgates open and you can be a thief, a coke dealer..."
Luke: "What does being moral mean to you?"
Regan: "It means doing the right thing. It means not hurting somebody's feelings. Not taking advantage of somebody. Not robbing somebody in any way. Not robbing them emotionally, physically, or financially. It means taking the higher road. Asking, What Would Jesus Do?
"You can go through this industry and come out on top and go on to other things. When there's the suggestion that you are a piece of trash if you do Hollywood and that your life afterwards is ruined, there are those in the industry who fall victim to that suggestion. It's only a suggestion. It's only as hypnotic as you let it become. I would like to write a book or dedicate a website where I offer the facts about the industry."
Luke: "To what do you attribute your ability to survive and prosper in the industry?"
Regan: "My faith in God."
Luke: "I'm sorry. I didn't hear you."
Regan: "My faith in God. That's probably it."
Luke: "That kept your moral compass on due north."
Regan: "And my perseverance for a big bank account. I didn't want to lose it all."
Phone goes dead then comes back.
Regan; "I keep smiling and pushing the off button on my phone.
"Also, that I lived in Orange County, miles away from where I worked. I never wanted to live in the Valley. I was afraid that if I did, I'd be swept up in the social scene and get confused. I'm such a social person. I let my social surroundings affect me. I probably would've let it hinder my work ethic and prevent me from making all my shoots on time. I wanted to be like an outsider and not associate too much with Hollywood. Not that I didn't love everybody. I just felt like I should keep them associated with my workplace only. That would motivate me to go to my workplace so that I could see them."
Luke: "How have you enjoyed being a star?"
Regan: "I've loved it. Going to conventions and having people ask you for your autograph, that was surreal. I like it when I'm in New York City and somebody recognizes me all the way across America."
Luke: "So the good experiences of being a star have far outnumbered the bad?"
Regan: "Yes. It's hard for me to say that there are a lot of negatives with it because I don't get a lot of negatives to my face. Every once in a while, I'll get a reminder that people do judge. But the president of the United States gets more criticism than I do and he has a prestigious role."
Luke: "Why did you stop doing regular videos?"
Regan: "Because I didn't need to anymore with the site, and because of what I'd achieved, where I felt I was, and how I left the industry with a good reputation.
"I produced a movie, Red Venus, with John Stanner from Amsterdam. We're trying to sell it. We shot it in Orange County. It's a wonderful feature film I produceed and acted in. I just felt in a different position as a producer. I felt like I didn't need to be an actress anymore. It's not that doing movies is below me but pounding the pavement is below me. Having to go solicit work, I was tired of that. You have to call people and remind them that you are still around."
Luke: "Do you want to make more videos for commercial distribution?"
Regan: "I do. Mostly I want to focus on my website and my art work. I don't think I want to compete with everybody else and do more movies."
Regan gives me her email address. "My message box fills up so fast. I have to go in and delete all the junk mail every day. If it gets bounced back, try me again later that day. I get a lot of crazy things in my box like 'Barnyard Girls!' I have a real email address but I don't know how to set up my Outlook Express to recognize it."
Luke: "I got a little too comfortable with my income from the industry and I got lazy."
Regan: "Me too."
Luke: "I wasn't growing."
Regan: "Me either. I wasn't happy doing it anymore and I had this urge to feed my creative side. I'm an artist and a writer. What I could create in the industry was not making me happy. I couldn't totally get into making a B film as creatively as I could because it was still a B film. I know you can relate to that. The entire time I was in Hollywood I knew there was something better for me out there. I never thought there was anything amazing at being at the top of this game anyway.
"There are a lot of people in the business who have other things going on. It's just easy to get sidetracked. Every girl has to shed her skin and move to something else. That's hard because you are so used to the money, fame and the false security you have. When you leave the industry, you struggle with an identity crisis."
Luke: "It's not like Hollywood is a great stepping stone for other careers."
Regan: "I've learned web design. I do it for other people. I learned graphic arts. I learned Photoshop.
"People ask me how I got into the web business. Oh, I just stumbled upon it.
"I'm the type of girl that if you met me in a bar, you could take me home to mom and dad. Just don't show the tattoo on my back and we're cool. I have a pin-up girl tattoo in the middle of my lower back. My dad was in the Navy. I thought it was cute to have a WWII thing on my back. It's only six inches tall."
Luke: "Any other tattoos?"
Regan: "Next to the pin-up girl, I have a blue star on either side about the size of a quarter."
Luke: "Any other tattoos?"
Regan: "Then one on my toe. That's it."
Luke: "When you go out in real life, do you dress sexy or do you dress conservative?"
Regan: "I dress moderately conservative. I don't cover my shoulders a lot. I wear a lot of spaghetti type tanktops, the tight ones, flipflops and a pair of shorts. I wouldn't wear a bikini top to a club or bar. My Dad doesn't think that I dress conservative. My sisters dress from the Gap and Banana Republic. The less clothes, the better for me. I'm always hot and moving around. I like wearing tanktops and shirts that don't have sleeves, tubetops, one-shoulder tops... I don't wear high heels that much. How do you dress?"
Luke: "Like a slob. I have one nice black suit that I wear out to formal occasions. And then I wear shorts, blue jeans, T-shirts... I wear a lot of black. I'm the furtherest extreme from a clothes horse but if I have to dress up for an occasion, I know a handful of things to wear that I think I look good in. When I get a girlfriend, she takes charge of my wardrobe."
Regan: "Are you a neat freak at home or sloppy?"
Luke: "In between. I'm not neat and I'm not dirty. How about you?"
Regan giggles: "I hope no one is listening in my house because they're going to come running in here and disagree with me. I'm moderately neat."
Regan peals off.
Luke: "It doesn't sound like that's true."
Regan: "It's not. I'm not tidy. I'm an artist. I have paint brushes and water spills that I'm looking at right now. I have a carpet spray on my boudoir. I don't put things away. I have an empty wine bottle from two weeks ago."
Luke: "Did you get sloppier from your time in Hollywood?"
Regan: "A little bit."
Luke: "The industry makes you sloppy."
Regan: "I didn't know there was a correlation. Ohmigod, I'm such a slob right now. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to clean. I've been dating different people since I broke up with my fiance three months ago. I have been so offended. Usually, on a third date, I'll have them over. I'll start cleaning up. 'Oh, I was really trying to clean before you got here and I got so busy getting ready.' I'm just trying to sound sweet. And guys will say, 'Yeah, you really do need to clean up this dump.' They will say things so hurtful to me.
"You know how you said you're grateful to girls to help you out with your clothes. Being neat hasn't been my thing lately. So I'm grateful to guys who help me clean up. They show me things to do. Some of them bring over their vacuum. Others help me organize my shelves.
"I will say, 'Thanks for telling me, now here's the mop. You can help me clean.' My mom was the same way. She was an artist. She'd clean if people came over, otherwise, she'd have random stuff put in little nooks and crannies.
"My hotel rooms on the road were a nightmare. The maids would come up and offer to clean. And I'd say, 'Sweetheart, it's pointless at this point. Don't even make the bed. Just throw me in a couple of towels and some soap. I like my bed the way it is.' I wouldn't know where to find things if anyone came to clean up my room."
Luke: "What would create the mess in your room? You'd have your outfits everywhere?"
Regan: "Food. I like to have snacks in my hotel room. I'm hypoglycemic and I need to always have food around. I always have apples and oranges everywhere. I'm not that big of a pig that I have banana peels laying around the house. Well, sometimes. One time I woke up with a banana peel next to me on my pillow. Oh yuck, that's disgusting. I must've been really hungry and out of it, like how I get when my blood sugar drops. Maybe I took it in bed with me."
Luke: "When you dance on the road, do you have to get drunk first?"
Regan: "Not at all. When I dance on the road, I couldn't do any drugs or alcohol because it hinders my physical activity. You have to be in good shape to carry around your luggage and get on the stage. When I get drunk, I just want to law down and gossip and chitchat with somebody. I want to twirl my hair and be like, 'AND THEN...'"
Regan giggles. "And be like a total goofball. You can't be like that when you're on the road. You have to maintain prestige like, 'I'm a star and ladeeda. Where's my dressing room?' If I drank, I'd be laughing and being silly. I'm really goofy. Any drug just heightens it."
Luke: "That's better than being vicious and cruel."
Regan: "That's why the thing with ------- is so ironic that it happened to me. I'm such a humane lady. If a stray cat is walking around outside and causing trouble for the neighborhood, I'll be the first one to feed it and give it water, as opposed to calling the pound on it. The same with people. When ------- happened, I was shaking uncontrollably. I couldn't even see straight. Ohmigod, I've been victimized. My head's in the clouds all the time. I think everything's good."
Luke: "It's time for my beddy byes. Mike said you were a vampire, afraid of the sunlight."
Regan: "It's only been for the past couple of months. My mother passed away two months ago. I'm dealing with it. I've been unable to sleep. I try to fill that time with fun things to do like work or having somebody over or having cocktails or going out. I miss my mom a lot."
Jeffrey Wells writes: "[David] Poland tried to shout me down for having the ignorance and the impudence to advance such an opinion. I don’t get Gilliam, I wouldn't have gotten the film if it had been released, I have the tastes of a Philistine, and so on. The fact is that I'm sometimes able to muster the courage to render an honest, blunt opinion that doesn't necessarily conform to the elitist mode of processing movies that some critics subscribe to, and this sometimes infuriates Poland. I don't know why. Sometimes a little common sense is a good thing."
Thoughts on Simone
A liberal upper west side Jew writes: I just saw the movie Simone. Self satisfied drivel that both ridicules everyone who attempts to engage in an honest discussion on immigration, AND posits a world that is about 95% white, to judge from the racial composition of the actors employed in this project.
Even now, when America is a declining 80% white (and Los Angeles much less so), Hollywood persists in presenting an image of America that is almost all white. Maybe it is in their rarefied world, but here among the plebes things are very different. That's a profound shift that Hollywood simply refuses to address.
Also, in this movie two swarthy types are presented as the biological parents of this hyper-Aryan looking early teen who speaks lines of dialogue that no kid that age, no matter how intelligent, would utter. Very annoying.
Why don't you start asking those producers why their movies ignore the true racial composition of America, and pretend that this land is still 95% white. Is that wishful thinking on their part, or just plain ignorance?