MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka Dretzka@moviecitynews.com

Stop the madness! Enough on Pellicano, already … wake us in time for the movie

May 3, 2006
Like almost everyone else in Los Angeles, I’ve become so distraught by recent revelations in the Pellicano-gate scandal (there, I’ve said it) that I’ve had a hard time concentrating on the business at hand. By comparison, navigating around Monday’s immigration boycott was a walk down the Yellow Brick Road.
I still find it difficult to believe that any show-business executive – let alone, a former agent – would hire a Philip Marlowe wanna-be to spy on his enemies. These are honorable men, who are engaged in a high-stakes game in which integrity and fair play are taken for granted. And, if Ron Meyer visited the besmirched P.I. in prison … well, what would Jesus have done? Charity has to begin somewhere … it might as well be in the executive offices overlooking an amusement park.
Surely, the New York Times and Vanity Fair have something better to obsess over than a case of business-as-usual in Hollywood? If even half of the leaked rumors it’s repeated, concerning such outstanding corporate citizens as Michael Ovitz, Brad Grey, Chris Rock, mogul Ron Burkle, director John McTiernan and attorneys Bert Fields and Terry Christensen (generally referred to as “feared” or “aggressive,” not “reptilian” or “ruthless,” as some would have it) were accurate, the Hollywood honor code would demand they be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail. Not only wouldn’t they be able to eat lunch in this town ever again, but they also wouldn’t be allowed to operate a Hummer or Mercedes anywhere west of the 405.
Who would risk such ostracism?
OK, you got caught me there … the answer to that question, of course, is “everyone in the 312, 213 and 818 area codes.” Remember, in the business of show — as in college sports — if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. And, anyway, chewing the fat with hard-boiled guys like Pellicano is way cooler than staying home and watching DVDs of movies that have yet to be released. Too bad, if a few estranged wives and girlfriends, jealous business partners, uppity actors and nosy reporters don’t get the joke.
If the lawyers one retains aren’t fearsome and aggressive, what the hell good would they be? Everyone has a niece or nephew in law school that could walk the case through court for the price of a Mini-Cooper. Why waste the big bucks? Better to cop a plea, than risk a trial that might conflict with Cannes or Christmas on Maui.
And, that’s the part of this manufactured scandal the editors and journalistic assault teams of the New York Times and Vanity Fair don’t understand. Until the half-buried body of a divorce lawyer or plaintiff is discovered alongside the road to Palm Springs – those of dead homeless people don’t count – no one in those aforementioned area codes is going to give a good crap about eavesdropping and wiretapping. Reporting that this contretemps is “gripping” the town doesn’t make it so. A few homes in Malibu and Bel-Aire might be feeling tremors, but none north or east of Burbank and south of the 10.
Who knows when any one of us might need the services of an aggressive litigator? If they’re all in prison, where’s our justice gonna come from?
It all makes for a titillating read over bagels and macchiato on a slow morning at Starbuck’s. L’affaire Pellicano pales, however, by comparison to losing the services of a maid or gardener for a full day, just so they can march down Wilshire Avenue … instead of taking the bus, like normal servants do.
No, the full extent of the horror won’t be known until someone at HBO commissions a made-for-cable movie to explain it to us, just as it did in “Barbarians at the Gate” and “The Late Shift.” Right now, I’m seeing Dennis Franz as the wiseguy P.I. … G.D.

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“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook