Rageaholic Anita Busch is one of those journalists who can dish it out but not take it. She loves to whine, scream, threaten, cry, harass and throw things to get her own way.
"Anita Busch is an amazing reporter," says Ray Richmond, a TV columnist for the Hollywood Reporter. "She also happens to be insane. She's nuts. If you go from the standpoint of well, yeah, she's nuts, you can move on from there.
"I sat next to Anita for three years at Variety when she was at the height of her movie-reporting queendom. My first day there. It's 8AM. Almost no one's there. Variety gets in around 11AM. I'm clearly a rookie because I'm here so early. Anita was sitting there. I walk up. I didn't know she was on the phone. She had one of those headsets on.
"I walk up to her and say, "Hi, I'm..." And just as I'm about to say my name, she starts shouting, 'Oh yeah? Well, fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.' Every time she says 'Fuck you,' she is slamming her headset on the desk. 'Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.'
"She flings it away and it breaks into 20 pieces. She puts her hand out and says, 'Hi, I'm Anita.'" (Relayed 12/20/02)
"She just lost her mind on the phone," one person in Hollywood told me after getting off a call with Anita. "She's pathological in addition to everything else. She's flailing away. Great. Just what I need. A crazy woman on my back. I guess I should've seen it coming."
Busch is not afraid to go on a marathon telephone rageathon when things don't go her way.
Unable to hold a job for long, Anita is widely disliked by her peers though she has a number of friends who go to bat for her, such as journalists Alex Ben Block, David Robb and Beth Laski.
"Anita is smart and talented, has great sources and knows everything going on in the industry," a former trade entertainment journalist who worked with Anita told me near the end of 2002. "She needs to learn to play well with others.
"Over the years, Anita's gotten increasingly paranoid. The great irony is what we all thought was the creme-de-la-creme of her paranoia turned out to be real.
"Anita always imagined she had stalkers and that there were people out to get her. We [her co-workers] chalked it up to her imagination. While Anita was at The Hollywood Reporter, she thought the window washers were spies for Variety. [Her computer was turned out to the window and she thought spies were looking in at her from Sunset Blvd so she had techs turn her computer around.]
"Much of the staff at Entertainment Weekly had a betting pool on how long she'd last. It was only a few months. It's a big transition to go from the hustle and bustle of the trades to a slower-paced consumer publication. Most of the news you'll find out while at EW, you'll never put in the magazine. But Anita lives on the minutaie. We knew she wouldn't be happy. She'd hear all this great stuff and be unable to do anything with it.
"Anita didn't have any episodes or battles with people at EW. She just wasn't happy. At EW, if you show up every day and write a few articles a year, they will pay you well. She wasn't fired. I don't think the editors lost any sleep when she left. EW is the kind of place where you'd have to massively f--- up before they'd fire you."
A friend of Anita's, with the partial email address of Thesp, writes 6/3/03: "I found out that Anita had her computer turned away from the window because she wanted to leave the shades open all day and with the sun glaring on the computer it was hard to see the screen. You take a half truth and then take some one's paranoid, twisted view of the world and present it as fact and in the process hurt someone who doesn't deserve it. If you can process this logically, it would stand to reason that someone who was paranoid that window washers were spies would not leave the shades open all day."
Anita Busch's friend and colleague Dave Robb writes Luke 6/3/03: "You say that you will remove any inaccuracy from your site. If this is not just another one of your lies, here's one for starters: Anita Busch is not a "rageaholic," as you claim in your latest uninformed column. You don't know her at all, and yet you feel free to spew out your venomous and libelous hate-speech. I have known her and worked with her for more than 10 years, and -- unlike me -- she is one of the nicest and calmest people in town. But you don't care about that. I am sure that you -- like all sociopaths -- have no conscience; no sense of guilt when you have wronged another person, and no sense of decency. This is what makes you so evil."
I reply to Robb with citations of other articles about Anita that note her rage and an anecdote from a co-worker about Anita screaming obscenities and throwing things. I ask Robb to not forward the email to Anita as it would cause suffering for the co-worker. Robb forwarded the email to Anita anyway. Robb did not bother to reply to me.
Cathy Seipp writes 6/4/03 on her blog:
Many people who've worked with Busch say she believes in conspiracy theories and likes to trash people in print. Busch is known around town for screaming obscenities, as in first thing in the morning to a source, "You fucked me!" (Salon 10/3/97)
Widely credited with being a good editor of entertainment trade paper The Hollywood Reporter, Busch, born around 1960, received almost universally positive media coverage until the summer of 2002.
In June 2002, Busch was doodling along with a lackluster "investigation" of actor Steven Seagal and his producer Julius Nasso and their ties to the Mafia. Neither Busch nor her writing partner Paul Lieberman of the Times uncovered a single solitary fact on the story that wasn't already widely known.
On the morning of June 20, 2002, Busch, a "petite blonde with soft brown eyes...an intensely private person" (GQ 3/03) crossed the street to her grey Audi convertible and discovered her windshield punctured, and a sign saying "Stop" left on her car. Fearing for her life, she "resigned" from the story and went into hiding for two months.
After Busch refused to answer questions about the case, many of her peers, cognizant of her paranoia, believed she'd made it all up. Anita became known as the "Tawana Brawley" of the Times newsroom. (Washington Post, 11/30/02)
New Times Los Angeles editor Rick Barrs sent questions to Busch who refused to answer them. Anita had her lawyer Paul Suzuki threaten Barrs with a libel suit. Rick has received many lawsuit threats over the years but this was the first one from a journalist. In three columns, Barrs trashed Busch as a conspiracy theorist.
Never married, with no children, Busch, a hot-tempered aggressive reporter, has covered Hollywood since 1990 for the two trades (Variety and Hollywood Reporter, leaving as editor 4/30/01) as well as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly. Several sources told me that Busch was fired from EW after a few weeks but Busch denies this.
Anita is a difficult demanding interview, blocking off much of what she says as off the record, and asking that her quotes be checked with her before publishing. After Cathy Seipp's 10/3/97 column about her in Salon, which Cathy rigorously fact-checked with Anita before publishing, Anita called up a Salon editor to loudly complain that some of her quotes had been fabricated.
Anita does not display much self knowledge, primly telling Seipp that she does not use obscenities.
Busch routinely threatens people who write about her. When that doesn't work, she goes to their editors. She put pressure on Jim Romenesko not to link to comments by David Poland about her trashing of the movie Fight Club.
Busch's journalist friends like former Hollywood Reporter editor Alex Ben Block and journalist David Robb say Anita's a great person and great journalist. Nobody claims Anita's a good writer.
"Anita Busch is one of the finest journalists, most honorable people and most loyal friends I have ever known," Alex Ben Block wrote me 11/7/02. "I have great respect for her integrity and courage, as do many other journalists."
"She was nice and funny but strange," one of Busch's former colleagues told Salon 10/3/97. "She'd think the latest Burger King promotional tie-in was a fascinating story. She was big on conspiracy theories. She probably believes in UFOs. I wish her well."
Like NYT's Bernie Weinraub and the LAT's Claudia Eller, Busch is known for playing favorites (writing positively about people she likes and ripping people she doesn't). Michael Ovitz told the 8/02 Vanity Fair: "Anita Busch plays pool with Ron Meyer [president of Universal] three nights a week." Ovitz blamed a "gay mafia" composed of his former CAA colleagues like Meyer, and journalists like Busch and Weinraub, for his Hollywood demise in 2002.
Anita writes me 11/7/02:
Exchanging email with Busch is like wrestling with a tiger. Her default position seemd to be that anything I wrote about her that she didn't like I was making up. "Add that to your list of false statements," was a typical comment. She frequently referenced the language of lawyers to warn me that she was prepared to sue. "This is going to cost you a lot of money," she wrote me 11/10/02.
After exchanging about 30 emails with me from November 7-11 (her emails tended to be terse, profane and threatening), Anita blocked her email account from receiving any more emails from my account. Two of her last five emails inquired about the name of my lawyer.
Busch has a history of sucking up to powerful men she later betrays. Busch worked for Variety editor Peter Bart and Hollywood Reporter publisher Bob Dowling and later quit each, accusing them of unethical journalism. As if the trades ever purported to be serious journalism.
An entertainment journalist tells me in 2002: "It's no accident that the best [entertainment journalists] are women, many of whom have authority issues. Kim Masters is good. Corie Brown is good. Anita Busch is good."
Busch has befriended many journalists new to town, such as the NYT's Bernie Weinraub, showing them the ropes and giving them sources. In return, they often show her to advantage in their stories about her.
David Shaw's four part ponderous series on entertainment journalism in the LA Times in February, 2001, "nearly deified then Hollywood Reporter editor and high end Bart-hater Anita Busch." (David Poland)
Bernie, a retired member of the entertainment industry, writes me 12/3/02: "Anita Busch is a one woman mafia. What's not to like? Busch is behind the demise of some of the town's biggest assholes: George Christy, Mike Ovitz, Steven Seagal and Anthony Pellicano. The girl has chutzpah. She goes after the bullies.
"I just read the profile of Anita. It's obvious you know nothing about this girl. All those lies. Why would you do that to someone as nice as her? You don't know this girl. She is one of the most generous people I've ever met. She looks out for people all the time. When she was editor of the trade paper there, she would worry about one or the other and hoped they got through some crisis okay. She tried to help them all the time. She was really upset when she had to fire a couple of people. Didn't want to do it. After she fired one person, she paid his bills until he got back on his feet. I know. She didn't want to fire him but she was told she had to. She would come over here after working a full day and bring me dinner and we'd talk. She go from the office, then to visit this guy out at the hospital. How could you do this to someone with such a big heart? I remember her being disgusted one year because the paper did no bonus, no holiday gifts, no nothing for their employees so she went out and spent $3,000 of her own money and bought something for every person on her staff. Why don't you put those things in your profile? What's wrong with you to do this to this girl? And to attack this girl now after what she's been through? I don't understand you. You should be ashamed of yourself picking on somebody you know nothing about."
When Lew Wasserman died in the summer of 2002, the New York Times mentioned prominently the definitive book on Wasserman by former LA Times journalist Dennis McDougal. The LA Times and Busch mentioned the book in passing, even though McDougal, who did not speak to the New York Times, spent close to an hour holding Busch's hand, correcting her on everything from the 1952 SAG waiver to Lew’s support of Bill Clinton.
Busch appears regularly on the KPCC program Call Sheet with her entertainment journalist friends who went to bat for her in the summer of 2002. From the KPCC schedule: "Every Monday at 5:50 pm, All Things Considered local host John Rabe anchors a free-wheeling discussion of the week's top industry stories with some of the country's most prominent entertainment reporters. Panelists include: David Robb of Inside.com; Anita Busch and [Anita's best friend according Nikki Finke] Beth Laski, former editors of the Hollywood Reporter; [Anita's friend] Alex Ben Block of the Hollywood Star News; Katie Harris of Bloomberg; and longtime KPCC entertainment analyst Brad Pomerance."
Busch grew up in Granite City, Illinois. She worked for advertising trade publications in Chicago before driving to Hollywood in 1990 because of the moderate climate and the opening at the Hollywood Reporter covering marketing. She was lured over to Variety but later quit because of what she saw as unethical behavior on the part of editor Peter Bart. Busch then went to the Hollywood Reporter where she quit over what she saw as the unethical behavior of publisher Bob Dowling.
While working as a contract employee for the Los Angeles Times, Busch, who lives alone, arrived home around 8:45PM and parked her car across the street from her residence.
Around 8AM, Busch was told by her neighbor that her car window had been "punctured." She walked to her car and noticed:
1: A note that read "STOP";
2: A shatter mark just below the note;
3. A tin foil baking tray turned upside down on the windshield. Busch called the LAPD which treated the object as a suspicious package. A bomb squad came out, closed down part of San Vicente Boulevard, and rendered the package safe. The LAPD then determined it contained a dead fish and a rose.
Busch told the LAPD she believed the incident was related to her investigative work for the Times about Steven Seagal and Julius Nasso. Busch began working for the LA Times June 3rd and was contracted through October 15, 2002. (Smoking Gun)
John Brodie writes in the 3/03 GQ: "Within the cadre of Hollywood journalists, Busch is a character worthy of a Jim Croce ballad. A petite blonde with soft brown eyes, she's a dogged reporter who enjoys piquing the powerful and "shoots stick" as she puts it, with a custom pool cue for relaxation. She's also an intensely private person who was embarrassed when her call to the police that morning resulted in her street being evacuated so the bomb squad could investigate the contents of the mysterious pan on her windshield."
A man left six messages on Busch's voice mail at the Times during the morning. The man told Busch it was "urgent" he speak to her about the article she was writing about Seagal. Around 11:45AM, Busch called the man who said he ran into Alexander Proctor a few days ago and that Alex told him he'd been hired by a detective agency to blow up Busch's car.
Also June 21, 2002, the snitch talked to FBI agent Stanley Ornellas (?). The snitch said he'd called Busch because he didn't want to see her get hurt. Snitch said he'd known Proctor for about a year. He'd run into him about five days ago at a car repair business. Alex said he'd been hired by a detective agency asked by "some people back East" to set fire to the car of a female reporter writing articles about Steven Seagal. Alex said this would warn the reporter to stop writing about Seagal.
Alex said he'd stopped by the reporter's residence and noted it would be difficult to set the car on fire because of its proximity to an apartment building. Alex was concerned about an individual who lived in an apartment above Busch's parked car who stayed up late at night walking from room to room. Alex said it was going to be a "tough job." He didn't want to do it but was told that the people back East were "ruthless" and would "get somebody to do it."
Alex, who stood about 5'6', weighed about 130 pounds with blue eyes and no facial hair, tattoos or glasses, distributes cocaine and heroin and was on a drug run, for which he normally received $10,000.
Proctor asked the snitch several times if he made the drug ecstasy. Proctor said he traveled to Atlanta with ten pounds of "blow" and returned with $200,000 in cash and a couple of pounds of "black tar."
Proctor has a hidden compartment in the trunk of his vehicle.
The snitch is under indictment for conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, forged securities, and interstate transportation of stolen property. (Smoking Gun)
Busch's LA Times editors told her to go stay in different hotels and not to use her regular computer. Why? Because the bad guys purportedly after her were purportedly connected with the FBI.
The head guy of the FBI's West Coast operation, Ron Eider, is good friends with Steven Seagal, according to New York defense attorney Barry Levin. Eider has had Seagal over to his house to meet Eider's family. Eider and Seagal play golf together. Eider is star struck by Seagal. Eider shows Seagal off like Steven is his cupie doll.
According to Barry Levin, Eider told the FBI's New York office not to believe anything negative about Steven Seagal. According to Levin, Eider told Phil Scalia, who's running the FBI's investigation of the waterfront, "Hands off Steve. He's a good guy. He's one of us. We vouch for Steven. We take Seagal at face value."
So Anita Busch is scared out of her mind that the FBI is protecting Steven Seagal and possibly bugging her telephone and monitoring her computer and her emails. And this is the same FBI whoo took over the investigation of the threats to Busch from the LAPD Organized Crime division.
According to Seagal's attorney Marty Singer, Steven Seagal is a federal agent. With which branch? I dunno. Perhaps the EPA? Seagal played an EPA agent in one movie. Seagal pals around with federal agents and has long claimed to have done work for the CIA.
Seagal has all kinds of gun permits. Being a federal agent would allow him to have those. There are many things you can do as a sworn federal agent.
Stanley Ornellas is a West Coast-based FBI agent who's been tracking an Israeli-led Ecstasy ring with ties to the Russian Mob. Ornelius was brought on to investigate the Busch threat. His boss is Eider, who's buddies with Seagal. So Ornellas doesn't want to investigate Seagal, but he has evidence that he needs to investigate Seagal's camp as being the possible origin of the threats to Busch. So how serious an investigation is Ornelius going to do of his boss's buddy?
The FBI wants to concentrate on their ecstasy investigation in Canoga Park and their New York waterfront investigation and they don't really care that journalists get threatened.
Anita Busch resigned from investigating Seagal and she wants nothing to do with any journalistic investigation of who threatened her. She wants her nightmare to end. Zeman has moved on to other stories.
Says Barry Levin: "Anita Busch just washed her hands of the whole thing. She was so scared and so upset that she just wants nothing to do with this. She doesn't want to pursue the criminal charges either. She doesn't care. She just wants to be left alone."
I've never heard of any journalist, aside from Anita, "resigning" from a story. But that is what her superiors at the LA Times urged upon her. They funded her stay in various luxurious LA hotels from June to August. They had no choice but to stand behind her, because if they doubted the validity of her story, they would have to doubt the validity of her copy.
Many of those who have worked with Busch instinctively distrusted the validity of her claims because of their past experience of her paranoia. She's long said that mysterious forces were out to kill her. (Busch denies ever saying this.)
"Busch...spent the summer holed up in fancy hotels at Times expense, saying she feared for her life and couldn't live at home. Her actions earned snickers in Hollywood, where she is seen as something of a drama queen, and eye-rolls at the Times, where she became known as "the Tawana Brawley of the newsroom" -- at least until police made an arrest." (Washington Post, 11/30/02)
[Anita Busch emails Luke 12/4/02: "Remove inaccuracies written by Wash. Post. The paper had to do a correction on it." Luke went to the WP website and found this posted 12/3 under "Clarification" rather than under the header "Corrections": "Busch and her editor at the Times say she spent only one night at a hotel, and stayed at other locations afterward."]
The snitch hosted Proctor at his home. Using a digital recording device the FBI provided him, the snitch recorded the conversation, which revealed the following:
* Proctor said actor Steven Seagal hired the private detective firm of Anthony Pellicano to threaten the reporter preparing an article on Seagal.
* Proctor acknowledged that he'd been hired to set Busch's car on fire but instead put a bullet hole in the windshield and left a dead fish and a rose to make it look like a Mafia hit (so it wouldn't reflect on Seagal). (Smoking Gun)
Reporter Anita Busch Hiding?
Anita Busch greenlighted journalist John Connolly to give the following to Rush & Molloy for a 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 [on June 20, 2002], 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 [and a rose] 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."
David Poland writes 7/12/02: "Apparently, she turned over the wrong rock in her efforts to report on Steven Seagal’s former mob connections. Apparently, Anita has stopped, which, given her tenacious nature, had to be difficult for her. But a good death threat over a bunch of crappy movies will do it nine out of ten times. The tenth time is Mark Ebner [who wrote the definite article on the gay mafia for Spy magazine], who would eat the fish, write “Prensa” on his windshield and tell friends that he just got back from a trip to Central America with Ollie Stone, deliver his story and then disappear for eight months, except for appearances in AOL chat rooms under the member name FuckYou239.
"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."
Cynthia Cotts writes 8/14/02 for the Village Voice: According to two people who have worked with her, [Anita] Busch is willing to trash people she doesn't like—and she hates Ovitz. (Once, when Ovitz was still at CAA, she wrote something that pissed him off. Knowing that Busch is allergic to monosodium glutamate, Ovitz sent her a bottle of the stuff in response, with the one-word note: "Enjoy.")
Ovitz's latest beef with Busch is that she is friends with Universal head Ron Meyer and supposedly plays pool with him three nights a week. As the head of a studio that was in partnership with AMG, Meyer was in a position to at least know about the AMG audit, Ovitz claimed in VF, insinuating that Meyer leaked the story to Busch.
Snitch meets again with Proctor in a digitally recorded conversation. Proctor says Anthony Pellicano discussed with him a job smuggling an Israeli wanted for murder out of the US to Mexico and back to Israel. Proctor said Pellicano complained to him that the job Proctor had done "didn't really help. She's back at it again."
Rick Barrs writes in the New Times LA 8/29/02: The stuff [Busch] and [Paul] Lieberman were reporting was public record, part of a federal indictment and was also covered on June 5 by both the New York Daily News and the New York Times. The Busch-Lieberman team didn't break the story, nor any new ground.
...[T]his from a well-placed Times source: "Curiously, Paul Lieberman hasn't gotten any such threats, and he's in New York!"
Curiously, too, 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."
One current Times reporter whispered, "Talking about the Busch situation has kind of turned into a sport around here. She's a person who has a certain reputation in town, and the fact that this is going on has only added to her lore."
[Mob expert Jerry] Capeci: "It would seem that if she's gotten threats and they're real, that they've come from outside La Cosa Nostra. Mobsters do kill people, but there's a rule, and generally they adhere to it, against killing law enforcement or reporters. That is, as long as [cops or reporters] aren't in bed with them somehow. But, generally, the mob has a hands-off policy when it comes to the press as long as you're just doing your job. Not for any benevolent reasons, mind you, but just to avoid the heat."
[A]mong Busch's colleagues from the trades, terms like "high-strung" and "quick to anger" came up. More than one scribe who worked with Busch at the Reporter or Variety said she had a "take no prisoners" attitude when it came to enemies.
One of The Finger's Times sources said, "Look, I'm just suggesting that it could be some kind of elaborate prank. From what I know of her time at the trades, she made plenty of enemies."
In reply to his phone calls and emails to Anita, Rick Barrs got a fax from her attorney Paul Suzuki warning: "assertion of allegations against my client is defamatory and places my client in a false light. [These] allegations are not only false, but obviously done maliciously, recklessly, and in wanton disregard of the truth."
While Barrs has received many threatening letters from lawyers, this was the first one from a lawyer representing a journalist.
From DAVID GARCIA, Director/Media Relations, Los Angeles Times to Jim Romenesko: "I'd like to make one point regarding your posting of the Anita Busch story. Our reporter was threatened. After discussions with law enforcement, we took the measures recommended to ensure the safety of our reporter."
David Poland's Hot Button reports 9/3/02: "The idea that a reporter had been pulled off a story and sent into hiding by a paper on American soil because of a mob threat is a major story. And by refusing to cover it themselves, the L.A. Times has perpetuated the idea that whatever accusations of paranoia made against Ms. Busch must have some validity because otherwise, the paper would be busy chasing a Pulitzer by exposing the whole ugly business.
"Even more to the point, if the threat against Anita is real, exposure of that threat on the cover of the L.A. Times would do a lot more to assure her safety than hiding out in a variety of hotels. People tend not to attack people after they have been publicly accused of threatening those people."
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 [August 28] 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."
From PageSix.com 9/5/02: "TWO reporters covering the dispute between Steven Seagal and his former partner, Jules Nasso, have been threatened with death - and Nasso himself is said to be afraid to leave his house on Staten Island. Both Busch and Zeman are said to be terrified, and neither returned calls to PAGE SIX. Neither did Nasso, who filed a breach of contract suit against Seagal last March charging the star had reneged on a four-picture deal."
[I]n response to its item last week on former Hollywood Reporter editor and now L.A. Times Calendar section scribbler Anita Busch -- the high-and-mighty Times issued a terse press release to Jim Romenesko's Media News...
Heh, and there's nothing the L.A. Times hates worse than getting portrayed unflatteringly to the New York Times and the Washington Post. (Trust this protuberance, it's about penis envy!)
What happened is, The Finger pointed out that Busch, who has a controversial rep in the Hollywood media, may have been hoodwinked, or something, when she went into hiding after a rock was thrown through a window of her car on June 20 and a note saying "Stop" was put on her windshield. This after she had co-written a couple of stories about federal prosecutors charging Julius "Jules" Nasso, an associate of actor Steven Seagal's, and some Gambino crime-family captains with shaking down the movie star. Point is, Bush felt she'd been threatened by the Mafia, and her employer saw fit to put her up in hotels around town so that the goodfellas couldn't find her. She returned to her desk at the Times just last week (a source spotted Times top editor John Carroll giving Anita an avuncular shoulder-clasp on her first day back, as if to say, We're behind you, gal!)
But what apparently got to the Times was The Finger's reporting that it could find no other reporter who covered the Seagal story who'd been similarly threatened -- and the rest of them are in New York, where the Gambino goombahs actually live. Plus, New York crime writer Jerry Capeci, who's been covering the Mob for 30 years at places like the New York Daily News, said he'd never encountered a single threat. The Finger half-quipped that maybe top Times editors should be required to study Jerry's seminal book on organized crime -- The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia.
OK, here's what the release from Times flack David Garcia said: "I'd like to make one point regarding your posting of the Anita Busch story [published in New Times]. Our reporter was threatened. After discussions with law enforcement, we took the measures recommended to ensure the safety of our reporter."
First off, The Finger wants to thank Garcia and the Times for squealing like stuck pigs to Romenesko, since he ran their statement with another link to last week's column -- which, by the way, was topped with the headline, "Busch League." This gave every journalist in the nation who hadn't seen the column originally a chance to pore over it. (Read the original column yourself at NT's Web site.)
Of course, the Times' one-way conversation with Romenesko didn't clear much up. Clearly Busch thinks she was threatened. But -- inquiring minds want to know -- by whom?
This just in: LAPD spokesman John Pasquariello said last week that while the department's definitely been investigating the Busch incident, nobody there had advised her to go into hiding for a couple of months. But he told The Finger just before press time that Busch telephoned him to say he had misinformed this digit -- that somebody from the LAPD had indeed advised her to stay out of sight. He said, "I'm checking into this, and I'll get back to you."
Hollywood producer-manager Jeff Wald calls me 9/5/02.
Jeff: "You have a fucking death wish?"
Jeff: "Between me, Medavoy and Anita Busch, you are going to have a lot fucking problems because I am going to finance everybody's lawsuit against you. Let's see how much money you have to go fucking do depositions and the rest of the shit.
"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.
"Anita Busch is not too happy with you and neither is Mike Medavoy. 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?"
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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."
From The Finger on www.newtimesla.com 9/12/02: "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?"
Anita Busch was the prime topic of conversation among the circles I mixed with Thursday night at the Nacional, a bar/restaurant in Hollywood.
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.
An attractive, intelligent woman, it's revelative that she's never married. I figure she must have some deep psychological issues, particularly with powerful men.
Busch particularly suckered David Shaw, who in his February 2001 longwinded series in the LA Times on entertainment journalism, practically deified Anita Busch say David Poland.
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, including the New York Times, 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 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. 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.
The Vanify Fair article by Ned Zeman, I hear, is superb. It paints Steven Seagal as a scumbag.
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 message 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 behind the threats to Busch and Zeman? My common sense, and my gut, though I have no evidence to support this claim, points in the direction of Steven Seagal's camp.
Luke asked an entertainment journalist: "What did you think of Anita Busch and David Robb leaving the Hollywood Reporter in a dispute with Dowling over columnist George Christy?"
Journalist: "George Christy worked his ass off. He never purported to be anything other than a feel-good columnist. He didn't try to sell himself as Dan Rather or as an outstanding journalist. It was a personnel story. It wasn't a story about ethics. It was a fight between Bob Dowling and Anita Busch. George Christy was just the football that got kicked around.
"'I was in New York when the news broke. I heard: 'Party columnists in New York are hookers. That's why they're called party columnists. It isn't a man bites dog story. Don't you guys in Hollywood have anything to do than write about a party columnist?' I guess not because people are writing about it."
Luke: "Why did Anita Busch quit?"
Journalist: "You had two strong people - Busch and Dowling. For whatever reason, they got into it. Sides were taken. It was unfortunate because look at how many people lost their jobs because of it. I respect George Christy. I talked to him extensively throughout it. He knew he was the football getting kicked around. Now I couldn't sell a George Christy story but there was a period before 9/11 when if somebody cried in the newsroom, and somebody would put it in the New York Observer, and then it would go on the net, and get linked... News rooms are great little soap operas for gossip because of the internet. Ultimately it's a workplace issue. I don't know that the George Christy story would get as much play now. It was an internal issue.
"One problem the Hollywood Reporter had was the Dave Robb situation. He was the only one there who understood how to report a legal story. Everybody else threw their hands up on legal news and said, 'Talk to Dave Robb.' If he wasn't there to report legal issues, there could be trouble. Now he was personally involved in the story and they weren't sure how to handle it. Every lawyer I talked to said he had every right to investigate a fellow employee but a paper opens up all kinds of black holes running a story about an employee."
A West Los Angeles man was charged Wednesday with threatening a Los Angeles Times reporter working on a story about an alleged Mafia extortion plot against actor Steven Seagal.
Alexander Proctor, 58, was being held without bail in a downtown federal detention center after he was arrested outside his home. Proctor, authorities allege, broke the reporter's car window and left a package containing a dead fish with a long-stemmed rose in its mouth. A cardboard placard with the word "STOP" was affixed to her car, parked near her Los Angeles home, according to the indictment by a federal grand jury.
The threats, authorities allege, were meant to intimidate Anita M. Busch in an effort to stop her from reporting the story.
Prosecutors described Proctor [an unlicensed private detective] as an ex-convict with burglary and narcotics-related convictions.
Luke says: The article does not mention who might've hired Proctor. It does not mention the phone call Anita Busch received from those who had threatened her the day after the incident. It was the phone call that convinced her to go into hiding. The article does not mention if Proctor is also suspected of threatening the Vanity Fair journalist Ned Zeman.
Journalist Dave Robb, whose firing from the Hollywood Reporter by publisher Bob Dowling a couple of years ago prompted the resignation of editor Anita Busch, writes Luke: "Sir: You are a liar and an incompetent reporter. You should be ashamed of yourself. You obviously don't know anything about Anita Busch, whom you continue to libel and insult with your stupid little column. You should hope you never run into me at a party after I've had two beers."
Nikki Finke writes in the LA Weekly about her mirror image Anita Busch (the two reportedly hate each other):
For months, [Anita] Busch bombarded L.A. Times editors with e-mails about what she could do for entertainment coverage. Then, signed in June to a short-term contract, Busch, by all accounts, served mainly as a "tip" service since she's a far better reporter than writer.
[Busch's contract with the LA Times expired October 13.]
If Busch leaves print journalism (she's talked about starting a Web site), she'll join an ever-expanding school of show-biz reporters who've recently given up entertainment reporting. Many have floated into entertainment flackery, including Busch's best friend Beth Laski at Universal, Richard Natale at Sony, and Chris Petrikin at the William Morris Agency.
Jeffrey Wells writes 11/01/02: "With the dead-fish thing behind her and all of us getting used to L.A. Times reporter Anita Bush getting on with her gig and back in the groove, she's now quitting to pursue a business venture of some kind -- not entertainment-related, apparently -- in which she'll have an equity stake and be in a position to make some big dough. Entertainment news coverage will be less tempestuous in her absence."
U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Thom Mrozek explained Busch's vandalized car: "The cardboard sign (that read "STOP") was taped to the windshield; a(n) upside-down baking pan on windshield was shot with water cannon by LAPD bomb squad to render package safe. Baking pan was shot off windshield, along with fish and rose that had been underneath it. Because of all this, we cannot say with any certainty whether rose was in fish's mouth."
The Oct. 3 indictment of Alexander Proctor on a charge of interference with commerce by threats of violence, which FBI spokeswoman Laura Bosley said is "basically extortion," came after months of investigation by the FBI in Los Angeles as well as the Los Angeles Police Department's organized crime division.
"It is believed that he was trying to control what she was working on," Bosley said.
[Los Angeles Times Director of Media Affairs David] Garcia said Oct. 31 that Busch is continuing to work on stories for the Los Angeles Times but is "also exploring various options regarding her relationship with the newspaper."
From the New York Post: "A lawyer for a reputed mobster accused of extorting actor Steven Seagal claims the action-movie hero may be behind a pair of frightening threats made toward reporters covering the case. Defense attorney Barry Levin said Seagal is the subject of a criminal investigation in California for allegedly threatening two reporters covering a bitter dispute between the star and his former film producer, Julius Nasso."
Who Betrayed Anita Busch?
Someone burned Anita. She asked a question of someone close to Seagal and the next thing she knows, she's threatened.
One of Anita's key sources is Phil Goldfine, the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Steven Seagal's Steamroller Productions.
Phillip B. Goldfine, former senior VP at Tri-Mark television and feature film buyer for New Line Cinema and Fox Broadcasting Co., makes $175,000 a year (according to Nasso vs Seagal lawsuit) working for Steven Seagal setting up foreign sales deals. Phil knows a lot of stuff that he plays innocent on. He's a big Anita Busch source. Phil wanted to get out of Seagal's camp when Seagal changed from Nasso to Danny Provenzano.
Goldfine and Anita Busch are close. He may have parlayed the wrong information to the wrong person, though I have no evidence that Phil did. Anita says she was attacked out of the blue. I think she gave the wrong information to someone in Seagal's camp who then betrayed her and may have ordered the attack.
LA Times Catches Up To Scoop Luke
Matt Lait and Scott Glover write in the 11/22/02 LA Times:
A man charged with threatening a Los Angeles Times reporter who was researching the relationship between Steven Seagal and an alleged Mafia associate told an informant for the FBI that Seagal was behind the threat, according to court documents.
Alexander Proctor, a 59-year-old ex-convict charged with threatening reporter Anita Busch, allegedly told the informant during secretly recorded conversations that he had been hired to carry out the threat by Anthony Pellicano, known as the private detective to the stars. [I reported most of this 11/13. I know the name of the informant, a man with ties to the Russian mob.]
According to the FBI, Proctor told the informant that Seagal had hired Pellicano to threaten the reporter. "He wanted to make it look like the Italians were putting the hit on her so it wouldn't reflect on Seagal," Proctor told the informant, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by an FBI agent assigned to the case.
On Thursday, more than a dozen FBI agents searched Pellicano's West Hollywood office. An FBI spokesman, Matt McLaughlin, said Pellicano had been arrested in connection with what appeared to be explosive materials discovered in his office during the search. He is expected to appear before a federal magistrate today, McLaughlin said. [I named Pellicano a suspect 11/13 and wrote that he had close ties to Proctor.]
One federal law enforcement source close to the case said that "at this time, other than Proctor's uncorroborated statements, there is no independent evidence that Seagal was involved in the threat made to the reporter." The source added that investigators were still assessing Proctor's credibility and possible motives.
An attorney for Seagal said his client had no involvement in the June 20 threat against the reporter, who woke up that morning and found a dead fish, a rose and a note attached to her car windshield, which had been punctured. The note was a one-word message: "Stop."
Before he was handcuffed, Pellicano declined to comment. As a celebrity sleuth with a star-studded clientele, he has cultivated a tough-guy image: He hands out paperweights to reporters saying, "Sometimes ... you just have to play hardball."
Proctor, who was being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles without bail, has pleaded not guilty in the case. His attorney, Victor Cannon, could not be reached for comment.
According to court documents, Proctor told the informant that he owed Pellicano $14,000 and agreed to intimidate Busch for $10,000. But after the job was done, Proctor said, "they" were so pleased with his work that Pellicano agreed to wipe out his remaining debt.
Proctor allegedly told the informant that he was supposed to "blow up" Busch's car as a warning so she would stop reporting on the story about Seagal. But he said it would have been too difficult to set her car ablaze, because she lived near an apartment complex. He said Busch also had a neighbor who stayed up late at night, and he was apparently afraid he would be seen.
In the end, Proctor allegedly told the informant that he bought the fish and rose and placed them on Busch's car, putting a bullet hole in the windshield and taping the cardboard sign to it.
After Busch's car was vandalized, she told authorities she thought the incident was related to her investigative work on an article about Seagal and his former producing partner, Julius Nasso, who had a bitter business fallout with the film star.
According to federal authorities, Nasso is an associate of the Gambino crime family. He was indicted earlier this year, along with other reputed mob figures, in connection with a plot to extort money from Seagal. He has pleaded not guilty.
Seagal is scheduled to testify next year as a prosecution witness at the trials of several alleged mobsters and Nasso in Brooklyn. Last month, Nasso's attorney alleged in a court document that Seagal might have been involved in the threat against Busch, and that could reflect on the actor's credibility as a witness.
Proctor's taped statements to the informant are detailed in a 21-page application for a search warrant [to search Proctor's residence].
According to the FBI, the agency's informant was facing criminal charges of his own, including mail fraud, at the time he agreed to cooperate with the investigation of Proctor.
The day after Busch's car was vandalized, the informant called the reporter, saying he knew who was responsible. He said Proctor at that time told him he had vandalized the car and was working for guys "back East" who were ruthless and wanted Busch to back off her story.
The informant then agreed to wear a concealed recording device while trying to coax out more details about the plot from Proctor.
During a July 3 meeting with the informant, Proctor reportedly said he had actually carried out the threats against Busch on behalf of Seagal, not ruthless men from back East.
According to the court documents, Proctor talked to Pellicano on several occasions. There is no indication in the documents that he ever met with Seagal.
According to prosecutors, Proctor is an ex-convict with burglary and narcotics-related convictions. He is charged with interfering with commerce by threats of violence. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
David Poland writes on his site www.thehotbutton.com: "Just a few years ago, Anita Busch left The Hollywood Reporter for Daily Variety, leaving her Reporter pals pissed in the wake. At that point, she became the second highest paid entertainment reporter at the trades. (Variety's Michael Fleming was and still is the top dog.) But things didn't work out at Variety, and Busch's exit was followed up by a series of unkind words from those who worked with her. Anita next took a desk at Entertainment Weekly, where conflicts about "who's beat is it anyway" led to a quick departure. Still loaded to the gills with industry contacts, Busch freelanced at the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Time, Premiere and Advertising Age. And now, while former THR editor Alex Ben Block swings in the wind after his shockingly quick dismissal from Morgan Creek, the company he left the Reporter for (rumor has it that he was late for work and was summarily dismissed for that by the erratic Jim Robinson), Busch has taken the reins as editor of the smaller format industry trade. But will Ms. Busch be happy at last? Who knows? All we can know for sure is that sex-free incest is really Hollywood's favorite indoor activity."
From www.glaad.org: GLAAD [Gay & Lebian Alliance Against Defamation] presents Beyond the Birdcage, an interactive panel discussing the past, present, and future representations of gay and lesbian lives in film, in Los Angeles on June 11 and June 15 in New York. The event in Los Angeles will feature entertainment industry professionals including Anita Busch, writer (Daily Variety)...
Richard Natale writes for Los Angeles Magazine: "The latest skirmish between the two trades centers around Anita Busch, a bloodied veteran reporter who has fought on both sides of this dirty little war, first at the Reporter, then at Variety. In early January, Busch was named editor of the Reporter in an attempt by the publication to regain lost ground on the exclusives front. "Wow," says one reporter who knows both Busch and Variety editor Peter Bart. "This is going to be like watching sharks circling the water for blood."
"This makes the town a little more competitive," admits Terry Curtin, Disney's PR head. "Anita knows every piece of information, and part of what juices her is having a place to write it every day."
Not all assessments are so sanguine. "I don't look forward to picking up the phone and hearing, 'F--- you, you're lying to me,'" says one studio spokesperson with whom Busch has crossed swords. Busch has a rep for not always being graceful under pressure - think Nick Nolte in The Thin Red Line. And Busch's my-way-or-the-highway tenacity is often at odds with an industry that basically regards the trades as its own house organs.
But complaints about Busch's combative manner and lack of managerial experience aside, what troubles insiders is her intimate access to agents. Sometimes when a trade journalist is leaked information about a pending deal, the studios will throw them some other bone with the promise of an exclusive once the deal is finalized.
But with Busch now heading the perenial number-two paper, some think both trades may panic and jump the gun. And that plays right into the hands of the agents, says one studio insider.
Her former employer Peter Bart credits her with being a strong reporter but is taking a wait-and-see attitude about her ability to rally the troops, owing to her "disputatious" nature. (Busch walked out of Variety after too many confrontations with Bart and parted company with Entertainment Weekly after what she claims was a short, unhappy marriage). So far at the Reporter, "she's been very open and conciliatory," according to one staff member.
Busch: "I swam competitively, and I learned that if you just swim for the wall, you not only improve yourself but the team's score. Swimmers who look from side to side screw up the team."
David Poland writes on www.thehotbutton.com: On Friday, The Hollywood Reporter [story by Anita Busch] joined the gossip pack with reports about how premiere audiences reacted to the violence in Fight Club. They actually printed this bon mot: "One woman leaving the theater cried, 'It's the most horrible movie I've ever seen! Why aren't the pickets here? Where is Cardinal (John) O'Connor when we need him?'" That's exactly who the film is for ... people who would like to see the church protesting movies for violence. Another thoughtful comment: "'It's loathsome to use the medium this way,' lamented one producer." I think all these people, who can't see the art for the violence should head to New York and protest the art exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art immediately. It's okay not to love Fight Club. No doubt it is a hard sell and a tough topic. But not to understand it at all is pathetic. And keep in mind that all these offended folks probably didn't bat an eye at 17-year-old Thora Birch's breasts in American Beauty. After all, that film made a hero of a man who lost his way in life and (this may be a spoiler to you, but it is given away in the first frames of the film) dies for his effort. That's a happy ending, apparently. Fight Club dares to suggest that you have to fight to stay self-aware and even after you wake-up, you can screw it all up. A more truthful ending, but one that actually requires thought. Darn.
After his column criticing Busch and the Hollywood Reporter, and his KABC radio show, Poland "heard from Anita, who objected to the characterizations I had made of her actions and motivations in regard to the Friday piece, which she had co-written with an east coast correspondent. Specifically, she was concerned about factual issues regarding when she showed up for the Fight Club premiere screening and whether she had seen the entire movie herself before that piece ran, as indicated in my Monday column and on KABC. She tells me that she had seen the film before the premiere and that she even saw the whole thing that evening, catching it from the top at the overflow theater (the Bruin). I will happily bow to her word on that. As I said on Monday, it is a petty issue. She also felt that I misrepresented the type of story that it was and the amount of work that was put into developing it, another case of me assuming a negative motive. In our conversation, she also suggested that perhaps I had been spun by Fox.
"Well, the issue of what news is versus what gossip is and how they now intersect in the entertainment news business is a regular feature of this column. And here we are again. I wrote the weekend column around midnight on Thursday based exclusively on the portion of the Reporter story shown on the Reporter's Website. I had not spoken to anyone at Fox about it because everyone from Fox was at home, presumably asleep. I will concede this to her. I did not know that the article was under the column headline of THR E-mail because there is no such distinction on the Website. However, as with all things in this column, the proof is in the work itself. So even in reflection, the distinction that Editor Anita ran this attack on Fight Club in a column rather than as a simple news story carries little weight with me. Not because The Reporter doesn't have the right to editorialize, but because the article itself, in whatever context, reads like a news story."
David Poland writes: Well, minutes before my deadline for today's column, I got another call from Anita Busch. She was less cordial this time. Her anger continued to bubble over my reporting about her seeing Fight Club.
11/99 issue of Elle magazine
There's a big picture of Anita at the Academy Theatre in Beverly Hills, smiling at the camera while wearing a sleeveless long dress.
Anne Beatts writes: Going to a movie premiere may sound like fun, but for Hollywood Reporter editor Anita Busch the excitement can wear thin when you're rushing to the theater after a long day at the office. Not to mention when you're hunting for a parking space while simultaneously tweaking tomorrow's headlines via cell phone.
"The news should be on the front page," she says to whoever's on the other end. The paper sometimes doesn't get to bed until midnight. "We have a 5PM deadline, which everyone seems to ignore," she says. "Then 7:30 or 8PM is the real deadline."
En route to her seat, Busch presses the flesh with key MGM execs, all of them male.
"When I first came out here, in 1990," she says, 'I stuck my cat, Bailey, in the car and drove cross-country with my sister. And then my sister left, and I sat there in my apartment and I realized I didn't know a soul." Busch, now thirty-eight, knew her job was going to be a tough one when she took it on last January: "Going from freelancing to doing this job was like going from living in the country to being thrown naked into the heart of Times Square," she says. When the lights dim, Busch gets to take a break from the business of show business and watch the movie. Then it's off to the after-party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a poolside schmooze lit by tiki torches.
After a few circuits around the pool, Busch has touched base with stars Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, director John McTiernan, and more MGM brass, and is ready to leave. "Now I can go home and eat," Busch says. She'll make herself a sandwich and stay up for another hour or so, scouring the trades. It's 11:45PM when she gets in her car. In less than ten hours, Busch will return to the Beverly Hills Hotel for a breakfast meeting - and another workday will begin again.
David Poland writes: "When I heard that Anita Busch of The Hollywood Reporter was telling people that the MPAA people were pissed off at me over the ratings system ruckus at the Jack Valenti breakfast last week, I wasn't surprised. Nor was I surprised when she wrote a story about the argument and failed to mention me or any of the other three writers who were involved. Anita all but hissed at me every time we met at ShoWest. She is still clearly angry about a conflict we had over Fight Club that happened six-plus months ago. If she wants to stay angry over one story of hers that I disagreed with, albeit vehemently and very publicly, so be it. I don't need a shell to deal with her because her anger, however irrational, is honest."
David Poland writes: The new [Hollywood lie] is that Anita Busch took a brave stand when she attacked Fight Club in print... Anita came inches away from being fired on that story and was absolutely enraged by being called to task by me, in print and on the radio, for reaching beyond her appropriate place as a news editor. The reason it was such an issue was not the editorial that Anita wrote about the movie. By the time that ran, Fox's threatening stance had already passed. It was the supposed "news" story that suggested a level of unanimity of rage and anger about the picture on the evening of the premiere. There was certainly a large group of angry people, but there were a lot of supporters as well and they somehow never got quoted. Fox also stated at the time that Anita hadn't even seen the movie in its entirety, arriving late to the screening. To her credit, Anita told me that she went back and saw the picture again before writing her editorial... an editorial that was completely appropriate, however wrong-headed it might have been. I am a big John Horn fan, but what Anita got caught doing was not being fearless, but taking a cheap, personal shot inside what seemed to be a news story.
LATER THAT EVENING, POLAND GOT THIS:
Mr. David Poland - TNT Roughcut
Dear Mr. Poland: We are the attorneys for The Hollywood Reporter and Anita M. Busch, the editor of The Hollywood Reporter. We have received a copy of an article written by you on Thursday, 15 February 2001 and which is included on a TNT Roughcut web site – which in part states (respecting Anita Busch) "However, Anita came inches away from being fired on that story…". Your comments respecting Ms. Busch are false, defamatory and outrageous. They are totally reckless, unsubstantiated, irresponsible and uncorroborated. Your article egregiously violates the rights of our clients, and you and TNT Roughcut and its affiliated enterprises ("TNT") will be held strictly accountable and liable for any and all damages sustained by our clients.
As you are no doubt aware, your publication of false statements, which have not been substantiated or corroborated, and which consequently lack any credibility or truth, are clear evidence of actual malice on your part and on the part of TNT. Your malice is evidence of your failure to undertake a proper investigation, fabrication of information, and reliance upon persons who lack appropriate knowledge, among other factors.
We hereby demand that you and TNT forthwith cease and desist from any further use or publication of any reference whatsoever to Anita Busch or The Hollywood Reporter, and that any such references be forthwith redacted and removed from your article. Demand is furthermore made that you forthwith print on your web site in a conspicuous and prominent manner and position designed to reach the same readership as the offending article a retraction and apology acceptable to my clients with reference to this matter. Do not misunderstand the importance of this communication as it will not be one of a series of demand letters regarding this matter. Your reckless publication of the subject article has struck at the essence of our clients’ reputation, character and professional activities and business. We will not permit or tolerate the good names and reputation of The Hollywood Reporter and Anita Busch to be sullied by your reckless and wanton disregard for the truth.
This letter does not constitute a complete or exhaustive statement of all of our clients’ rights, claims, contentions or of the remedies of our clients, and does not constitute a waiver or relinquishment of any of our clients’ rights or remedies, legal or equitable, all of which are hereby expressly reserved. It is the intention of our clients to hold you and TNT responsible for your irresponsible behavior.
Yours truly, FREDERIC N. GAINES FNG/cm
David Poland knock down myths in David Shaw's series on entertainment journalism in the LA Times: "The new one is that Anita Busch took a brave stand when she attacked Fight Club in print. I do think that Anita has improved THR and I hold no animosity towards her. However, Anita came inches away from being fired on that story and was absolutely enraged by being called to task by me, in print and on the radio, for reaching beyond her appropriate place as a news editor. The reason it was such an issue was not the editorial that Anita wrote about the movie. By the time that ran, Fox's threatening stance had already passed. It was the supposed "news" story that suggested a level of unanimity of rage and anger about the picture on the evening of the premiere. There was certainly a large group of angry people, but there were a lot of supporters as well and they somehow never got quoted. Fox also stated at the time that Anita hadn't even seen the movie in its entirety, arriving late to the screening. To her credit, Anita told me that she went back and saw the picture again before writing her editorial... an editorial that was completely appropriate, however wrong-headed it might have been. I am a big John Horn fan, but what Anita got caught doing was not being fearless, but taking a cheap, personal shot inside what seemed to be a news story.
"Shaw completely misses a couple of issues regarding both Peter Bart and Anita. 1) Bart is well known to hate Inside.com, and the web in general, because so many of his reporters have been cherry picked by stock-option-waving dot-coms in the last two years. Two of his best, Andrew Hindes and Chris Petrikin, are now at Inside. This has a lot to do with his attitude about new media by the account of everyone who works for him. 2) Anita was, essentially, stolen by Variety at great expense and exited after various intense run-ins with Peter Bart. Then she was at Entertainment Weekly, which was not a good fit because of her hard-hitting style. And then, Bob Dowling took her back at THR after Alex Ben Block left for another job (before he started working for a now-deceased dot-com.) It seems that Anita has finally found the right job for her and her style."
David Poland writes: "Anita Busch made a much greater effort trying to get Jim Romanesko from linking to my comments on her than to stop me from writing them."
Busch tells LA Times journalist Ann O'Neal: "The Dave Robb story was a culmination of things I saw from the first week I arrived at the paper. Christy was allowed to do things that no other journalist was allowed to do."
New Times columnist Rick Barrs writes: "A former top editor at one of the trades marveled at The Finger's naïveté about the Hollywood Reporter. "It's a fucking trade paper, and a trade paper's a whorehouse. What did David Robb expect? He knew he was working for whores. "I like Anita Busch, and I think she wants to do the right thing, but the Hollywood Reporter ain't the goddamned New York Times. Whether she likes it or not, an industry ass-kisser like George Christy's more what the Reporter's about than David Robb. Hos are damn sure going to protect their own."" (New Times LA, 5/3/01)
Gale Holland writes in LA Weekly: One might ask why Dowling would sacrifice not only Robb but Busch, a consummate pro credited with restoring the Reporter’s luster — along with the equally respected executive editor/film editor Beth Laski, who also quit in the fracas — to save a male Hedda Hopper.
From Los Angeles magazine by Amy Wallace: "Bart, however, sees the Christy affair as an indictment not so much of a journalist allegedly on the take but of the editor and the reporter who fought to reveal it. Both [Dave] Robb and [Anita] Busch once worked at Variety. It's hard to tell whom he loathes more. "It's a fascinating implosion," Bart says gleefully. "It reminds me of when Robert Altman directed a picture--this was when he was drinking. At a certain point he would turn on his main characters and make them into hideous creatures. That's what Dave Robb and Anita Busch would have done here, too, but I wouldn't have it, and I fired them." Actually, he did no such thing. Variety's personnel department confirms Robb's and Busch's assertions that they both resigned."
Veritas Jones comments: "Oh, please. Wake up. Nobody's *fired* anymore. Anita M. Busch and David Robb were given the option to resign before they were axed, much like they did at the Reporter. And Bart couldn't be more correct on this one. Though it stands to reason that seeing that Army Archerd and his wife Selma are a pair of the worst kind of shnorrer (sic) in the industry, he wouldn't dare start agreeing with the embarassing debacle that took place at THR."
email@example.com writes lionshare.net: "Robb and Busch are neither ethical or good reporters. Both rely on deceit, prejudice and the misguided belief that just beause they are underpaid hacks in a town of millionaires, they are entitled to try and tear their more successful subjects down."
High School Memories Of Anita 'Hot Legs' Busch
I asked a guy who says he went to high school with Anita Busch what he remembered about her. He replies:
Anita's Friend writes Luke: "I know dave robb and anita bush and have talked to them both about your website. I called to tell them both that you were writing about them. there is no doubt that you have printed falsehoods on your site. dave robb has done numerous legal and labor stories and is considered an expert. if you knew anything about his stories you would know this. he has always fought the good fight. the thing about anita thinking window washers were spies for variety and her being an israeli operative. i mean, think about it. putting stuff up like that is just gullible and stupid. yet, you put it up as fact. You know these things about these people are not true, yet you post them to spread these things."
Luke says: "I know Dave Robb is an expert. I've always written that he is a respected journalist. I think Anita is often a good journalist too. As for her thinking the window washers were spies for Variety, I got that from someone who worked with Anita at the time."
Anita's Friend writes: "Anita does not believe in conspiracy theories. she is a midwesterner and one of the most grounded people I've ever met. You don't know her do you?"
Ross Johnson, the last of the truth tellers, writes:
1. Chameleon Group. The snitch that burned Alex Proctor on the Pellicano case initially tried to shake down Jules Nasso's lawyers by giving them the wrong lead about who whacked Anita Busch's car. The snitch was trying to work the feds, Nasso's lawyers, and possibly the LA Times for payment for the information. But the snitch had to sniff out the wanna see factor, so he told the Feds and the mob lawyers that it was a bunch of israeli muscle guys from a security agency that screwed with Busch's car. Nasso's lawyers narrowed the search to Chameleon, which may be a totally legit operation. (their cool web site is for those who want to know what ex-Mossad members do when they move to Hollywood) My sources inside the U.S. attorney's office (whose information I shuttled to you so that you could scoop everybody on the Pellicano story) checked out Chameleon, found out they were not to be messed with, and left it at that.
There was one reporter at Alex Proctor's arraignment: yours truly. I got a tip that Anthony Pellicano's attorney, Don Re, wanted to rep Proctor, and the feds told Re that it was a total conflict of interest. So in walks another mob lawyer, who is there to sniff out if Proctor has any money, like cash money, to get a defense going. Well, Pellicano didn't have a way to get cash to Proctor, so Proctor had to use a federal public defender. Still, Proctor didn't make a deal to rat out Pellicano on the Busch hit. Why? The whole Busch fish caper read great in the papers, but it was a vandalism beef, at the end of the day. Proctor is going to do a little time on a drug beef, and he'll never rat out Pellicano.
How did I know Pellicano was in on the Busch car hit? The mob lawyer gave me the 4-1-1 on Proctor. Proctor has worked for Pellicano for years in Pellicano's wire tapping business. Pellicano and Proctor go back almost twenty years.
Now let's talk about Pellicano's wire tapping business. The only two reporters at Pellicano's first bail hearing was moi and Gina I-forget-her-last-name from Reuters. Who did we see there? Two very well-known lawyers, one a pit bull that's been featured in your column and the other one of Hollywood's toughest divorce lawyers. They ain't there out of the goodness of their heart. The message to Pellicano was this: keep quiet and his extended family will be taken care of while Pellicano does his bit in the pen on the explosives rap resulting from the C-4 and hand grenades that were found in Pellicano's office.
The Hollywood lawyers at Pellicano's bail hearing knew that the feds had found the transcripts of Pellicano's wiretaps done on the behalf of the lawyer's clients.
Don't expect these transcripts to ever become part of the public record, because Pellicano will plead guilty to the illegal wiretapping. It's perfectly legal for lawyers to use information from a p.i. as long as the p.i. doesn't tell them he got the information illegally. The feds may be talking to Bert Fields et al, but nobody's gonna roll on Pellicano because these lawyers are all one step removed (wink-wink) from Pellicano's wiretapping.
But there is one rub. What the feds want is to get one of Pellicano's electronic operatives to roll. Pellicano never planted the bugs himself, he got an operative to do it. And these guys are like Proctor, they're ghosts. They live in the shadows, like Travis Bickle.
What's the story here? The big one is how dirty stars play when they go through a divorce. Man, it's ugly. The forensic accounting is nothing compared to the dirt digging. Do you think for one second Tom Cruise didn't have a full file on Nicole Kidman's every phone conversation when they were going through a divorce?
Another thing that Pellicano is great at is illegally wiretapping the women who sleep with stars and come back either pregnant or psychotic. Remember the woman who sued Steven Seagal for all sorts of stuff after she slept with him on location (you have her name, I forget.) Nobody knew this was the same woman who had faked her own death years earlier on an insurance fraud scam until Pellicano went to work. And why is it that after Pellicano goes to work, all the subjects of his investigations are suddenly under the gun for taking anti-depressants? Read any deposition of someone suing a star that Pellicano has worked for that star (through the star's attorney), and it's all about the poor plaintiff looking deranged because they're taking Xanax or Prozac. If you think Pellicano finds out about these people's perscription drug use by anything other than wiretapping, then you believe in the tooth fairy. Pellicano is not some great sleuth with tons of investigators going through public records. HE gets his information putting bugs on phones and paying off cops. That ain't shoe leather, amigo. The reality is so far from Phillip Marlowe it's a joke.
Why am I telling you this? You owe an apology to Anita Busch. I want you to say, "I'm sorry, Anita." How would you like to be a single woman who, by the nature of her profession, has to be paranoid? And then goes online at Lukeford.net to read how crazy she supposedly is? You crossed the line, Lukie Boy. I believe in the power of the Web to get to the truth, but you can't torture people like Anita. She was deeply hurt by what you wrote, and she's not even a public figure.
Luke says: "I apologize if anything I wrote ever gave the impression that Anita Busch was crazy. She's a good woman, a good reporter, and a patriotic American."
Anita's Friend writes: "What character. I'm talking about Mr. Johnson. I applaud Mr. Johnson for coming forward. He is right. You were wrong. I told you that you unfairly went after my friend. She is not crazy. She is not paranoid. She was a just a person doing her job. You not only owe her an apology, you owe her a second look (in that bio/life story thing you do). It takes a strong person to admit when they're wrong. Be strong, but most of all, be right."
Evidence Found Tying Pellicano To Busch Threat
Federal prosecutors said Thursday they had "corroborating evidence" linking Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano to a criminal threat made against a Los Angeles Times reporter who was researching a story about actor Steven Seagal's relationship with a reputed Mafia figure.
In documents filed in U.S. District Court, the prosecutors said a search of Pellicano's offices in November 2002 had turned up a file on reporter Anita Busch containing information about her physical description, home address and auto-license number.
Also seized, they said, was a separate file labeled "Stephen Seagal matter" and containing an earlier article Busch had co-authored about the actor, as well as a Vanity Fair article about Seagal by writer Ned Zeman.
The government documents also cited toll records allegedly showing 36 telephone calls between Pellicano and Alexander Proctor, an ex-convict arrested in connection with the threat to Busch. Proctor, who is in custody, faces prosecution in state court on a charge of making a criminal threat.
The Pellicano Brief
Vanity Fair reporter John Connolly and Howard Blum produce a gripping article on private detective Anthony Pellicano in the March issue.
Busch complained to FBI agent Stan Ornellas that her phone was bugged, something that Pellicano could be suspected of doing.
Connolly placed the first story in the New York Daily News about the threat on Anita Busch's car in June 2002. He continues his friendly relationship with Busch in this article, placing her in a good light, and in exchange getting details about her in that painful month.
The notion that the Pentagon censors movies by not cooperating with ones it deems unfriendly to its aims is ludicrous. That is not censorship. It is simply a refusal to cooperate.
A friend writes me:
Anita Busch writes:
Dave Robb's friend Dan Moldea writes:
Anita Busch Has Finished Her Novel
From reading her work, I've never thought of her as a good writer. That's not been her reputation. Maybe she will surprise us.
Aside from writing an unpublished novel, it seems that the only thing Anita has done in the past few years is sue people. What if she had shrugged off the bullet hole in her windshield and gone on with her life? She might've accomplished something.