Magazine article The Spectator

Pelican Crossing

Magazine article The Spectator

Pelican Crossing

Article excerpt

New York

As they say, one couldn't make it up, not even in Hollywood, which is where this Chandleresque saga took place.

Ronald Burkle, the supermarket billionaire who has accused a minion at the New York Post of shaking him down, does not look like much, but then billionaires tend not to nowadays. Shakedowns seek out Burkle like groupies look for Jackson Scott. Back in 2002, Burkle went to the fuzz and told them a gentleman by the name of Anthony Pellicano, no relation to the Mykonian waterbird and symbol of the island, had demanded that Burkle pay him 250,000 greenbacks in exchange for the Pelican agreeing not to investigate him.

Pellicano is a private dick in El Lay, although any resemblance to Sam Spade is purely coincidental. According to Pellicano, the man who had hired him to do the dirty on Burkle was none other than my old friend Michael Ovitz, once Hollywood's most feared and powerful agent, now a fallen idol, licking his wounds somewhere out west.

So far, so bad. Pellicano has been cooling his heels in an El Lay pokey since 2002, charged with wiretapping, conspiracy and explosives, whatever that means. But not for shaking down Burkle. When the Pelican and Burkle met, and the former told him that Ovitz was looking into the billionaire's affairs, the two got along like a house on fire. So well, in fact, Burkle told Pellicano to switch à la Italiano, and do the dirty on Ovitz. No cash was exchanged, but Burkle offered the dick all sorts of favours -- again, whatever that means. Now comes the English connection. Burkle then turned to his friend Steve Bing, of Liz Hurley fame, who had used Pellicano to get the dirt on our Liz when she was pregnant with Bing's child. Bing gave the thumbs up to Pellicano, calling him a gentleman and a man one could trust, which in a way shows Liz Hurley to be a terrible judge of character.

In order not to confuse you any more than is necessary, here's what it all comes down to. Ovitz hires Pellicano to dig up filth on Burkle. Burkle and Ovitz had been partners in business ventures that had all gone south. Burkle claimed Ovitz owed him moolah, and Ovitz claimed the opposite was true. Instead of going to court, both decided to use the oldest Hollywood trick of them all. …

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