Rod Lurie exposed the tabloid National Enquirer in Los Angeles Magazine
in 1990 and 1992.
In 1989, Lurie got a hold of a list of the Enquirer's paid tipsters.
Soon after, Anthony Pellicano called Lurie, and according to Rod, became
"very threatening [and] told me in no uncertain terms that he was
working for the Enquirer and he was being paid a lot of money to get this
Pellicano called Lurie's editor Nancy Griffin and warned, "Bad things
can happen to nice lady editors."
Kim Masters writes in the March 2003 issue of Esquire: "In March
1990, Lurie was knocked from his bike by a hit-and-run driver, breaking
some bones. He doesn't claim that Pellicano was somehow involved in the
accident, but Lurie says Pellicano may have wanted him to think so when
Pellicano called him shortly afterward. "Pellicano knew about it
awfully fast," he says. "But that could be drama-queen stuff
- on his part or mine."
An entertainment journalist tells me: "Don't forget that Rod Lurie
was writing this series for LA Magazine 'To get the National Enquirer
out of my Gelsons [supermarket chain]', said the editor at the time."
Now they're playing dirty! Hey, if you thought the Enquirer was sleazy
before, look what it's up to now - using everything from mail theft,
false police reports and even blackmail to set up the town's biggest
My wife's private line rang. A minute later she returned, slightly
ashen, and said an "old friend" was calling.
When I took the phone, he didn't introduce himself. He didn't have
to - I recognized his voice immediately.
"I thought I'd never have to call you again," Anthony Pellicano
The last time I heard from Pellicano was a year and a half ago, while
I was working on a story for this magazine called "I was on the
Enquirer's Hit List." Pellicano, a notorious private detective,
had been hired by the National Enquirer to "discourage" my
story. He was the man who Assistant U.S. Attorney James Walsh claimed
had intimidated government witnesses in the John DeLorean case and who,
in a recent issue of GQ, bragged he'd beaten somebody with a baseball
bat on behalf of a client. Pellicano had said he'd killed "hundreds"
of stories and strongly suggested I drop mine.
"What do you want?" I asked him.
"What do I want?" he said, as if the answer were ludicrously
obvious. There was a small pause. "'Don R... [Pellicano's attorney
Don Re?] whore...Don...Pellicano wants his job...call Patrick about
Norm and relationship to Pellicano....'"
I was stunned. Pellicano was reading from the notes I had compiled
during my current investigation into the Enquirer. "This is libelous,"
he said with a drawl. "I spoke to Don. R. He's one of my best friends.
He says he never spoke to you... I'm going to subpoena all your notes...
You've brought yourself a lawsuit, pal."
"Where did you get my notes?"
"Would you tell me your sources? So why would I tell you mine?"
As I was soon to find out, Pellicano had paid my research assistant
$3000 for the notes. Not only that, the Star, which the Enquirer had
purchased in 1990, had given my assistant a check for $500 to monitor
the progress of my article. For the record, Michael Boylan, a high-ranking
executive of Macfadden Holdings, a publishing-investors group that owns
a dozen magazines, including the Enquirer/Star, insisted Pellicano was
no longer in the company's employ when I called to complain. A few days
later, I learned the Star not only had paid my assistant to spy on me
but was allegedly researching a story linking me romantically to a celebrity
who was married to an actor the tabloid had previously "outed."
So here we went again. Round two. That first time out, I had uncovered
what amounted to a sourcing scandal. Tabloid reporters were falsifying
sources as a way to meet the publication's three-source requirement
and back themselves legally. The Enquirer had gone into a frenzy, hired
Pellicano and hit me and Los Angeles Magazine with a barrage of calls
and letters, charging, among other things, that I was harrassing and
threatening Enquirer employees. Ultimately, the piece became the basis
for dozens of TV shows and articles, including segments on 60 Minutes
and Entertainment Tonight.
NINE MONTHS AFTER Lurie's article appeared, he got a phone call from
an employee at the tabloid's headquarters in Lantana, Florida. Then
the employee faxed Lurie dozens of pages of private hospital records
of Richard Pryor, Carol Burnett and Burt Reynolds. It's illegal to have
those. The Enquirer's public policy is that it does not purchase or
accept those that have been stolen.
Over the next six months, Lurie's source would put him in touch with
75 other sources who all had some horror story to tell. Under pressure
from their bosses, Enquirer and Star reporters had run amok, getting
involved with not only invasion of privacy, filing false police reports,
mail tampering and theft but, in some cases, out-and-out blackmail,
forcing stars to collaborate with the tabloids on a long-term basis.
ROD LURIE TALKED TO Jim Cruse, who was fired after three years as an
Enquirer reporter. Cruse believes the Enquirer fired him when it found
out about a book he was planning to write.
According to Cruse, star Enquirer reporter Brian Williams made-up a
story about Roseanne Arnold beating her daughter.
Williams has broken such stories as Jill Ireland's "bizarre"
cancer treatments and the discovery of Roseanne Arnold's long lost child.
Cruse says Williams telephoned the Child Protection Services unit in
Van Nuys and reported Arnold had been abusing her. Brian knew the CPS
is required to investigate all charges of child abuse, even anonymous
ones. "He said he was a parent of a classmate of Jessica Pentland's
[Arnold's daughter by her first marriage] and reported that she came
to school with bruises, and that maybe Tom Arnold, supposedly on drugs
at the time, had [done] her harm," Cruse stated.
Cruse, another reporter and a photographer, staked out Arnold's home
for two days until the social-services representative showed up, talked
to Arnold and her family and concluded there was no basis for the allegation.
The Enquirer shortly thereafter ran a story that Arnold was being investigated
for child abuse.
Cruse said on May 10, his editor, Steve Coz, told him to go to the
Benedict Canyon home the Arnolds had been renting. Cruse determined
that Tom and Roseanne were packing.
Two days later, Cruse returned to the property with another reporter,
Robert Jordan [aka Robert Hudson], to see if the house had been trashed.
"What Coz wanted was a pigsty story," Cruse said. The two
reporters wandered the house and could find no damage.
When the story appeared in the Enquirer July 17, 1990, it reported
broken windows and ruined rugs in almost every room, a shattered $5000
antique chair, a giant tic-tac-toe board drawn in black paint on top
of expensive wood paneling, holes punched in walls and moldy, half-eaten
What happened? Cruse says Jordan returned to the house and trashed
it. "[Jordan] said he'd taken garbage cans and emptied them all
over the house and the pool area," Cruse said. "He photographed
it right after he had hit set up." The photos were never published.
ROD LURIE discovered that manufacturing stories was common among tabloid
reporters. According to one tabloid editor, to add a little zip to one
story, an Enquirer reporter informed the police that he'd heard screaming
and furniture braeking in Fawcett and O'Neal's home. Though the police
found nothing, the tabloids reported the police investigated disturbances
at the home.
Stringer Bob Daniels remembers how in late Spring 1989 reporter Neil
Hitchens and paparazzo photographer Phil Ramey tried to get photos of
Farrah in a compromising position with a carpenter who claimed he was
banging the actress. Three sources corroborated the story to Lurie.
Why the need for such photos as the Enquirer does not publish such
material? "My understanding," Daniels, said, "Was that
we would get the photos to use as leverage with Farrah on future stories."
BY THE END OF ROD LURIE'S investigation, it was clear that Enquirer
and Star reporters "blackmailed" a number of major stars into
becoming "friends" of the tabloids. One instance involved
a major - and wholesome TV megastar. The Enquirer got photos of him
in a compromising position. The Enquirer wouldn't run the story because
the actor was too popular. To bash him in the paper might backfire,
alienating readers. But the photo and story were too good to waste.
The Enquirer used them to blackmail the celebrity. Cruse said he was
present when Coz called the star. "Coz told him about the photo,"
he said. "He also made up some things. He said the girl had told
us about bondage and drugs and things like that. It was all a bluff,
but he bit."
The star agreed to be accessible to Enquirer reporters. Soon after,
he was on the Enquirer's front page, lamenting the drug problems of
a family member.
MIDWAY THROUGH LURIE's INVESTIGATION, he began hearing stories that
U.S. Postal Service investigators had begun looking into allegations
that Enquirer reporters were stealing mail - a federal offense punishable
under U.S. Code 18, Section 1708. The press agent who had set up the
purchase of Madonna's stolen medical records, in fact, admitted that
a few years ago, when Faye Dunaway was going through her divorce, it
was his job to stake out her mailbox. Each day for about a week, he
would wait for the mailman to arrive, then check all the envelopes in
the box. If there was anything of interest - say, a letter from an attorney's
office - he would pluck it.
Another Enquirer staffer said rifling mail was routine practice and
that reporters even had a name for it: "Playing Mailman."
Here's how it worked: A reporter would go to a celebrity's local post
office and fill out a forwarding-address form for the celebrity, rerouting
the star's mail to a prearranged address. The reporter would then pick
up the mail and peruse it for any usable information. (When I asked
paparazzo Phil Ramey if he had ever heard of "Playing Mailman,"
he chortled, "Yeah, yeah. But they do it just to fuck with people.
What's the big deal?")
One of my sources, whom I'll call Jerry, a three-year veteran of the
tabloid, also admitted he had been involved with mail theft. "We
paid a live-in friend of Tony Danza to steal one specific piece of mail...a
letter from the Screen Actors Guild," he said. "My bosses
felt it contained information we needed. We made arrangements through
one of Danza's employees to have this friend pick up the mail when it
came in and bring it to me."
Dr. Park Dietz, an expert on obsessed fans and the prosecution's psychiatric
expert in the John Hinckley trial, once said that obsessed fans have
an "unholy alliance with the tabloids." Many rely on the tabs
for personal details and the latest information on their celeb idols.
For their part, the tabloids don't seem averse to exploiting these
delusions - or, in fact, aiding and abetting them. According to Cruse,
on several occasions Enquirer reporters allegedly sold the addresses
and phone numbers of celebs to overzealous fans. According to a friend
of Greg Louganis, a mentally ill man who had approached the Olympic
diver said he had gotten his address from a reporter at the Enquirer
looking to make a few bucks.
The Star and Enquirer sometimes print the delusions of fans as facts
(e.g.the claim of a San Diego photographer he had an affair with Kirk
Cameron's bridge Chelsea Noble in 1991).
According to Dr. Walt Risler, a University of Indiana professor and
a nationally recognized expert on the subject of obsessed fans, playing
into the fantasies of an obsessed fan is not only shoddy journalism,
it's potentially dangerous. "Tabloids are already part of the lives
of celebrity stalkers. When they validate their delusions like this,
they are lighting a fire under a combustible situation."
Why are tabloid reporters running amok? ROD LURIE concludes it's because
the tabs went public in 1991 and are driven to find sensational stories
to attract readers, advertisers and profits.