Novelist Bret Easton Ellis is reporting via Twitter that reclusive, hyper-litigious mystery-blogger Nikki Finke called his agency ICM with a threat to to sue Ellis and to destroy the agency. Why? It's a long story. With Nikki, it always is.
For the record, I have no direct knowledge of what sparked Ellis to write this on Twitter earlier this morning that Finke had threatened to sue him. First he wrote, out of the blue, that anyone who fears Finke is a "fucking Hollywood loser":
Then he added that she had called ICM with the aforementioned threat:
Ellis hasn't returned my calls or emails, so I'm not privy to his thinking. But the outburst just happened to come hours after I had contacted Finke for comment about yet another of Ellis' Twitter posts, this one from last month.
You see, the precise address of Finke's domicile has tended to be something of a mystery among journalists who cover her. And it could potentially be of some value, seeing as there is an outstanding bounty of $1,000 for a contemporary photo of the noted shut-in. The Daily produced something that it claimed was a photo of Finke exiting her parking garage in February 2011, but Finke claimed it wasn't her (that photo was taken at a run-down apartment complex in Westwood that, I'm told, bore Finke's name on the buzzer).
My curiosity piqued, I found Ellis' West Hollywood address in a property records database, and checked on any recent purchases in the building. And although Finke doesn't own any units, her employer Penske Media Corporation does. (Penske Media, formerly known as Mail.com Media Corporation, is racing scion Jay Penske's attempt at building an online empire; he purchased Finke's site for far less than $15 million three years ago and has since lured stars of varying wattage like Bonnie Fuller and Micahel Ausiello to his stable of sites.)
Penske Media purchased the unit for $830,000 in November 2011, according to property records; it carries a $498,000 mortgage on the apartment. It's pretty nice, but seems "cozy" for someone of Finke's stature, as these photos from an old real estate listing show. It appears to be the only piece of property owned by Penske Media.
How curious! Now, maybe Ellis was mistaken in believing that Finke lived in his building—maybe Penske purchased it as a crash pad for visiting staffers from New York, or a place to entertain clients, or a workspace of some kind, or a pied-à-terre. Who knows? Or maybe Finke does live in the building, in a cushy rent-free deal she set up for herself, with her boss as her landlord. It wouldn't be unprecedented: Just two years ago, according to a lawsuit Penske Media filed against the Hollywood Reporter last year, the THR tried to hire her away with, among other things, the promise of "a $1 million Malibu home." An $830,000 West Hollywood apartment doesn't ring quite as glamourous, but the devil you know is better than the devil you don't, I guess. Of course, the very idea of a publishing entity helping out its star editors with real estate issues is decidedly pre-internet. Condé Nast, the gold standard when it came to lavishing its favored editors with interest-free mortgages and the like, has curtailed the practice notably. And with a recent round of layoffs and impending 10% budget cuts, it's unlikely to resurrect it anytime soon. How good of Penske to pick up the banner.
Anyway: I emailed Finke last night, and again today, pointing her to Ellis' post about her living in his building and explaining how I used it to find the Penske Media purchase. I asked whether the apartment was indeed hers and if she paid rent. And lo! Within hours Ellis was complaining about lawsuit threats on Twitter. Finke never wrote me back.
Update: As he pointed out in comments, the New York Observer's Foster Kamer has some details on an "epic" rant Finke allegedly delivered to the assistant for Amanda "Binky" Urban, Ellis' agent at ICM.
Ms. Finke rang Binky Urban's office, and not being able to reach the agent, gave her assistant what was characterized to us as an epic, otherworldly screaming-at, the likes of which the assistant had never previously experienced.