The federal wiretapping trial of Hollywood gumshoe Anthony Pellicano kicked off in anticlimactic fashion with jury selection March 5th, followed by three days of testimony from an often distraught former assistant.
But for entertainment value, the trial finally began to live up to its hype March 13th when Garry Shandling took the stand in the Los Angeles courtroom.
Prosecutors wasted little time getting Shandling to dish on such figures as Paramount studio chief and former manager Brad Grey, and entertainment attorney Bert Fields.
Not one to miss a detail, Deadline Hollywood Daily blogger and journalist Nikki Finke quoted a spectator remarking that Shandling "didn’t look like the neurotic noodge everybody knew from before."
The comedian testified he was "troubled" to find his name on an unauthorized background check of police databases in 1999.
The check, allegedly requested by Pellicano, is believed to be part of a broader, illegal scheme to dig up dirt on celebrities.
At about the same time, Shandling was embroiled in a suit he filed against Grey alleging breach of fiduciary duty and fraud over finances connected to the Grey-produced HBO series "The Larry Sanders Show," starring Shandling.
The comedian testified that as a result of inquiries into the show’s finances, "Brad Grey threatened me … one night … to make my life miserable," Finke reported.
But in happier times, Shandling was aware that Grey had retained Fields – which he took to mean that Pellicano’s private investigation services were part of the package.
"With Bert Fields, you get Anthony Pellicano," Shandling reportedly testified. He then explained that personal friend and security expert Gavin de Becker recommended the actor’s phones be swept for listening devices "because of Bert Fields’ reputation," Finke reported.
Pellicano, acting as his own attorney, cross-examined Shandling, who admitted that no bugs were found and only one reporter, Anita Busch (who also has a civil suit pending against Pellicano), warned him that a smear campaign against him was being shopped to the media.
However, Pellicano’s cross of Shandling also elicited some inflammatory claims against Grey – namely that contract signatures were forged, signed by Brillstein Grey employees and sometimes signed under misrepresentation, according to Finke.
Shandling also testified that he, not Grey, sold the initial 13-episode run of "The Larry Sanders Show" to then-HBO exec Michael Fuchs. "[Grey] didn’t say anything until I sold the show," Finke quoted Shandling as testifying. "And then he said, ‘I’ll take half.’"
Later in the day, Finke posted a statement on her Web site purported to be from Grey in response to Shandling’s testimony.
"I am extremely saddened by Garry’s recollection of events dating back more than a decade. His representation is very different than what I remember and what I know to be true," Grey wrote. "Garry and I had a long personal and professional relationship, which frankly ended when he hired David Boies, and sued me and Brillstein Grey for $100 million. His actions forced us to hire our own lawyer – Bert Fields – and our friendship was overtaken by a legal process that was directed by lawyers and which ended with an equitable settlement. Even though we haven’t spoken since that time, he remains one of the most talented people I have known and I wish him only the best."
The trial, despite being described by the Los Angeles Times as "yesterday’s news," still has a witness list of celebrity and non-celebrity Hollywood names of interest that have yet to be heard from.
Among those who may yet testify: former Madonna manager Freddy DeMann, Alec and Tom Gores (brothers of Paradigm owner Sam Gores), CAA partners Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd, Lisa Bonder Kerkorian (ex-wife of Kirk Kerkorian), director John McTiernan, Peter Morton, CAA founder Michael Ovitz, Chris Rock and Sylvester Stallone.
Also appearing on the witness list: Kenneth Starr, which can’t be good news for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – who is rumored to have availed herself of Pellicano’s services in the past and has a bit of history with the former Whitewater special prosecutor.