In an unexpected collision of players from the Payola Six scandal and the Anthony Pellicano Wiretapping Trial of the Century (yes, we must: "Hey, you got your eavesdropping private dick in my extorted supermarket billionaire!" "No, you got your extorted supermarket billionaire in my eavesdropping private dick!"), today's NY Times reports that Hollywood PI Pellicano tried to shake down Ron Burkle (you know him as "the rich guy who bravely refused to pay protection money to Page Six freelancer Jared Paul Stern") to the tune of $100,000 to $250,000, claiming that erstwhile Most Powerful Man in Hollywood Michael Ovitz had hired the detective to dig up dirt on Burkle. Ovitz's lawyer was quick to poo-poo the Pellicano story, asking, "Who are ya gonna believe, the rat who listens in on phone calls, or my client, an upstanding member of the weasly former superagent community?" Reports the Times:
"Michael Ovitz never agreed to pay Anthony Pellicano to investigate Ron Burkle," Mr. Williams said. "However, it's not surprising that Mr. Pellicano would try to mislead Mr. Burkle in an effort to drum up business."
Indeed, the material reviewed by The Times shows Mr. Pellicano playing Mr. Burkle and Mr. Ovitz against each other, seeking to use his mission in behalf of Mr. Ovitz to gain a much bigger payday from Mr. Burkle. [...]
Mr. Pellicano warned Mr. Burkle that he had already obtained all of his telephone numbers, and "was prepared to use any and every means to" investigate Mr. Burkle, but first asked him to tell his version of his dispute with Mr. Ovitz, Mr. Burkle told the F.B.I.
When Mr. Burkle did so, asserting that Mr. Ovitz owed him money, he told the F.B.I., Mr. Pellicano reacted indignantly, using an expletive to refer to Mr. Ovitz and saying he did not work for "welshers" — an exchange that was partly reported in Vanity Fair in 2004. But in the next breath, Mr. Burkle told the F.B.I., Mr. Pellicano said he would be losing a lot of money by not working for Mr. Ovitz against Mr. Burkle and the men from C.A.A. A few days later, Mr. Burkle met again with Mr. Pellicano, this time in a poolside cabana at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Mr. Pellicano declared that his refusal to work for Mr. Ovitz against Mr. Burkle had cost him $100,000 to $250,000, and asked Mr. Burkle to reimburse him.
Mr. Burkle refused, saying that Mr. Pellicano had not actually done any work worthy of payment. Mr. Pellicano shot back that "he had been good to Burkle and that Burkle should return the favor," according to an F.B.I. summary.
Exhausted? Yeah, we are too. Splash some water on your face, stand up at your desk and stretch a little, and promptly return to not caring about the story until another director or studio head gets tangled up in this mess.
Related: Nikki Finke points out how one crisis-managing flack seems to be making a nice living off the Pellicano clusterfuck.