Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Bert Fields, Hollywood Lawyer Who Bulldozed Journalists, Enabled Pellicano, Dies at 93


I know it’s considered bad form to speak ill of the dead. But Bert Fields hated journalists, and bulldozed us if we had anything negative to write about his clients. He also enabled private detective Anthony Pellicano, who went to jail for spying on Field’s enemies (although Fields himself was not formally accused of anything). So forgive me if I’m not sobbing about Fields’s death at 93.

I’m sure Bert Field’s celebrity clients will miss him and leave tributes. Tom Cruise, especially, has thrived for decades with Fields at his side. You can read some of that here.

As for Pellicano, my late friend, journalist John Connolly, covered Pellicano and Fields to a farethewell. I was in court for a lot of the Pellicano machinations. There are endless stories about Fields manipulating and terrorizing just about everyone in Hollywood. He worked for everyone and no one was safe from him.

So RIP, I guess. He goes to his grave with a lot of secrets. But a lot of people still know some of them, too. Anyone with a good Fields story, drop me a line at showbiz411@gmail.com.

Here’s a column I wrote back in 2008:

Hollywood Heavies Walk On Pellicano?

Late on Friday, the government issued its trial memo in Hollywood’s Anthony Pellicano case, and it was pretty interesting.

Missing almost entirely from the government’s planned attack on Pellicano is the sexy stuff we were tantalized with, seemingly, for years.

Hollywood heavies may take a walk on Pellicano, as it turns out, at least for now.

Instead, the U.S. attorney, perhaps aware of the circus-like negative effect celebrities have on California cases (O.J., Jacko, Robert Blake, etc.), is concentrating on four non-stars to support their assertion of Pellicano’s wrongdoings in the U.S. vs. Anthony Pellicano and four other defendants.

The four key witnesses in this case (there will be a separate trial after this one, with defendant Terry Christensen, a famed Hollywood attorney, added) will be: Adam Sender, Sandra Will Carradine, Alec Gores and Susan Reddan Maguire. Their cases, the government feels, distill the case to its essence without distracting a jury by dragging in celebrities who would simply entertain and not enlighten.

So even though I shared with you an early list of potential witnesses last week, it’s unclear if 75 percent of them will be brought to the stand.

Barely mentioned in the memo are the Pellicano big fish: attorney Bert Fields, studio exec Brad Grey or any of the stars whose paths crossed Pellicano and Fields like Sylvester Stallone or Chris Rock.

Ricardo Cestero, the former Pellicano employee who went to law school so he could join Fields and work just on cases for Tom Cruise, is also not mentioned once.

The only truly juicy section of the 129-page memo is on page 96, where former super agent Michael Ovitz makes an appearance. There, the details get interesting. In 2002, the trial memo states, Ovitz paid Pellicano $25,000 to investigate sports promoter Arthur Bernier and sports agent James Casey. Ovitz was suing each of them.

The memo states:

“In addition to the specific matters for which PIA was retained, Pellicano and Ovitz discussed individuals within the entertainment community who were the source of bad press against Ovitz. During these conversations, Ovitz and Pellicano discussed Ovitz’s belief that New York Times writer Bernard Weinraub had been recycling negative stories about him and that, on occasion, he was assisted by Los Angeles Times writer Anita Busch.”

What followed, the government charges, was the illegal wiretapping of Busch’s phones and illegal investigations of her life. Pellicano’s interest in Busch is what eventually put him in prison for possession of illegal firearms.

Another name that comes up less than expected is that of Brad Grey, now the head of Paramount Pictures. His name appears just five times, all on page 88, and all in relation to a long-running lawsuit we’ve explored in this column between him and movie producer Bo Zenga over the 2000 film “Scary Movie.” Grey hired attorney Bert Fields to represent him, and Fields hired Pellicano.

From the memo: “During the course of the subsequent investigation, confidential information regarding multiple investigative targets was acquired through, among other means, protected law enforcement database inquiries and illegal wiretaps. For these services, Grey’s attorneys paid Pellicano $25,000, which cost was then passed on to Grey as part of the firm’s monthly bill for litigation costs. Again, Pellicano, at the outset of the investigation, tasked Arneson with obtaining criminal history information on the investigative targets.”

Look back to the middle of that paragraph. The government carefully does not identify “Grey’s attorneys.” But they are attorneys who work for — if not the man himself — Bert Fields. The omission is intentional.

And what of Bert Fields? His mentions in the trial memo are limited to two, both on page 91, as attorney for Adam Sender. Sender, a hedge fund manager, was suing Aaron Russo (now deceased, Bette Midler’s one-time infamous manager) over a movie company deal that didn’t pan out.

The trial memo states: “On Fields’ recommendation, Sender retained PIA in March of 2001. During the course of the subsequent investigation, confidential information regarding multiple investigative targets was acquired through, among other means, protected law enforcement database inquiries and illegal wiretaps. For these services, Sender paid PIA $500,000.”

Pellicano allegedly commenced the extensive illegal wiretapping of Russo and his family. The memo states: “… two PIA employees will testify about how this wiretap was used to serve legal process on Russo outside of the Giuseppe Franco Salon in Beverly Hills on April 21, 2001. After learning that Russo would be at this location from the wiretap, the employees traveled to the salon, where they subsequently chased Russo through several buildings before effecting service on him.”

There are two big questions that come out of this: Will the government tie Fields to the Pellicano investigation of the Russo’s? And will they want to?

More importantly, if the government’s case with just the four witnesses is very tight, will it force Pellicano to roll over on his famous friends in exchange for leniency?

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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