My LA Weekly colleague Steven Mikulan emailed me this about Kirk Kerkorian’s 30-minute testimony today before a packed federal courtroom. Summary: Kerkorian testified that he had no knowledge of any wiretapping.
“The Las Vegas land baron and former MGM/UA owner (twice) put in a long-anticipated appearance this morning at the trial of former private investigator Anthony Pellicano and Kerkorian’s Century City entertainment attorney, Terry Christensen. The 91-year-old Kerkorian entered the courtroom in Los Angeles’ Roybal Federal Building dressed in a blue blazer, gray slacks and black loafers, and seemed to be holding his left hand, which he placed in a pocket during testimony. During his 26 minutes on the witness stand, the unsmiling billionaire admitted he was hard of hearing and not entirely sure of specific dates; at one point he checked himself while referring to the FBI as “the RAF.” (Kerkorian had flown for the Royal Air Force as a contractor during WWII.)
“Those in court expecting TV melodrama were predictably disappointed. Kerkorian had been called as a defense witness by Christensen’s attorneys to declare he had no knowledge of a plan to wiretap his former wife, and, seemingly, to confirm the implied irresponsibility of real estate heir and sometime-Hollywood player Steve Bing. In 2002, DNA obtained by Kerkorian’s security operatives, who had snatched some dental floss from Bing’s trash, established Bing as the father of Kerkorian’s daughter, Kira. At the time, Kira’s mother, ex-tennis pro Lisa Bonder, was engaged in a bitter court fight to force Kerkorian to increase his monthly child-support payments from $50,000 to $320,000.
“In measured, sepulchral tones, Kerkorian described one 2002 meeting, also attended by Christensen and Pellicano, in which Bing was asked if he would take a DNA test. Bing, according to Kerkorian, said he’d consider doing so but never did. When the meeting broke up Bing left the room and a brief, telling moment unfolded.
“Steve Bing was drinking out of a bottle of water,’ Kerkorian told Christensen’s defense attorney, Patty Glaser. ‘His lawyer saw me looking at that bottle and smiled at me. He took the bottle and walked out.’ “Bing would never voluntarily give a DNA sample and, Kerkorian said, has never contributed money for Kira’s support.
“Federal prosecutor Kevin Lally briefly tried to get Kerkorian to contradict Christensen’s statements, made during phone calls secretly recorded by Pellicano, that the lawyer was forwarding to Kerkorian summaries of wiretapped communications between Bonder and her own attorneys. Judge Dale Fischer, however, sustained all objections to Lally’s attempts. Soon Kerkorian was off the stand and giving jurors a tentative wave as he left the court. Moments later, in the small witness anteroom, one of Kerkorian’s lawyers assured him, ‘It was short and sweet.’ “
I beg to differ. Pellicano and Christensen, the managing partner of the giant showbiz law firm Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro, are charged with wiretapping and conspiracy. And, as Mikulan has observed, the courtroom proceeding “resembles one of those fish-out-of-water buddy movies from long ago, with a street-savvy gumshoe handcuffed to the cautious head of a white-shoe Century City law firm”. But that ignores the loathesomeness that permeates the statements and actions of the defendants on trial.
Everytime I read the playback of phone calls between Pellicano and Christensen — apparently recorded by Pellicano without the knowledge of the man who’d hired him — it makes my skin crawl. Worse, Christensen’s recorded appraisals of Bonder served to unmask his true self to Hollywood. How can anyone stand to be in the same room with him ever again?