So tomorrow The New York Times‘ Pellicano probers focus on Universal Studios prez/COO Ron Meyer in their latest article. Not any wrongdoing by him, mind you, just his friendship and visits in prison with Anthony Pellicano. I’m not sure if the paper is trying to infer guilt by association, or to imply Meyer has something to hide, or to merely write something about the Pellicano case even if this angle hardly warrants a story worthy of the front page of the Business section. The only juicy stuff is about Ovitz, Pellicano and Meyer, but to be interested in that you’d have to know (and care) about the background of Meyer’s and Ovitz’s ruptured friendship. In any case, it’s an awfully long article for mostly old news (some of which was already reported by the Los Angeles Times. Yes, the LAT!). I’m told the NYT only did the piece after last week’s release of the Vanity Fair article and my posting here that Meyer was the unnamed “studio president” who donated to Pellicano’s kids when almost everyone else in Hollywood backed away from the fund-raising effort after allegations about the P.I.’s wiretapping hit the headlines. (“Studio Prez” Unnamed by VF/Pellicano Is Ron Meyer). I’ve learned Meyer was pissed that the paper was writing about him. That’s also clear from Ron’s angry quotes. “Meyer bridled at being asked by reporters about his relationship with Pellicano. ‘I’m offended that my friendship would be questioned,’ he said on Saturday.” Meyer also wouldn’t apologize. “Asked by reporters to explain his repeat visits to Pellicano behind bars, Meyer said: ‘I visited him because he’s my friend, and I don’t have anything to hide. And when he’s able to have visitors, I’ll go visit him again.”
So what’s old news and new news?
1. It’s old news that Meyer saw the P.I. in prison, once at the San Bernadino County Jail, and twice making the 120-mile trek from Malibu to the Taft, Ca., minimum-security federal prison where Pellicano was jailed on weapons charges. “When the FBI agents asked Meyer why ‘a man such as himself’ would drive so far to see Pellicano, Meyer said it was to keep a promise.” The NYT noted high up that, “Nowhere has Meyer’s name been associated with even a whiff of impropriety.” Yet the paper seems to slam Meyer for his loyalty. “The relationship between the detective and the studio chief holds a lesson about doing business in Hollywood, where loyalty holds an exalted value, and where an executive who expects to survive at the top must be able to open a window on the industry’s seamy underworld without tumbling through.” Huh? Does anyone else find that sentence, and its oblique Alice in Wonderland reference, incredibly confusing?
2. It’s old news that Meyer was called in to talk to the FBI and a grand jury about Pellicano and Ovitz, Meyer’s partner at CAA. But the NYT does have “evidence and interviews with agents” with new info showing that the feds were eavesdropping on a conversation Meyer had with the imprisoned Pellicano urging the P.I. to “drop a dime on” Ovitz. That’s certainly titillating to Hollywood insiders, considering the bitter breakup between Ovitz and Meyer, once lifelong pals and partners. “Meyer was asked about that remark before the grand jury, where a tape of the conversation was played. Meyer, the person said, testified that he told the detective that Ovitz would not have hesitated to turn on Pellicano if the roles were reversed.” But it’s old news that Pellicano asked Meyer’s permission to take on Ovitz as a client. Without naming Meyer, I reported a similar account in my LA Weekly March 15 column (Two Tonys Is One Too Many for Mogul). The NYT has Meyer’s account to the FBI. “Pellicano asked Meyer in early 2002 whether taking Ovitz as a client would affect his relationship with Meyer. Meyer said Pellicano was free to work for Ovitz, but assailed Ovitz’s integrity, saying that ‘Ovitz was capable of anything.'” In my story, Ovitz was a “scumbag.”
3. It’s old news that Meyer met Pellicano through his wife Kelly who briefly worked as a typist in the detective’s office in the late 1980s. It’s new that Meyer acknowledged to the FBI that he had once retained Pellicano to collect a $300,000 debt from a neighbor, and that Pellicano later asked Meyer for a personal loan of $100,000, which Ron gave him.
4. It’s old news now, as even the NYT admits, that in early 2003 Meyer was asked by Bert Fields to give money to a trust for Pellicano’s family. Meyer agreed to help, and “offered to call potential donors, with the idea of raising $100,000 to $120,000, he told the agents. Meyer told the FBI that he contacted several people suggested by Pellicano, but the effort — a version of which is reported in the June issue of Vanity Fair — collapsed when only one other man made a donation.” As I reported last week, that other donor was Madonna’s former manager, Freddie DeMann. About the only thing new added by the NYT is that Pellicano insisted that the money be returned.