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Paramount Head Used P.I. as Terror Tactic

TEMECULA, Calif. – The phone rang in Linda Doucett’s desert ranch house here in the late spring of 1998. It was her ex-fiancé, the comedian Garry Shandling, calling. Again.

Mr. Shandling had called several times that year to talk about his lawsuit accusing Brad Grey, [pictured] his longtime manager and friend, of enriching himself at his expense. Now he was asking Ms. Doucett to testify for him.

Then, Ms. Doucett recalled in an interview, Mr. Shandling brought up something he had never told her before, about how Mr. Grey had responded to another suit, which Ms. Doucett had filed against Mr. Shandling and Mr. Grey’s company for sexual harassment and wrongful termination two years earlier.

“He was going to use Pellicano,” Mr. Shandling said.

“Who’s that?” she asked.

“He’s this guy Brad worked with,” Ms. Doucett recalled Mr. Shandling as saying.

She said he added that Mr. Grey “was going to hire this really bad guy to say bad things about you – but I didn’t want to do it.”

The guy in question is Anthony Pellicano, the celebrity private detective who is at the center of a mushrooming federal investigation that has consumed Hollywood for months, and who was indicted on wiretapping and conspiracy charges last month. And her recollection suggests that Mr. Grey, now the chairman of Paramount Pictures, had dealings with Mr. Pellicano as early as 1996 – at least three years earlier than has so far been detailed publicly.

Her account is backed by another person’s grand jury testimony, according to someone close to the investigation who insisted on anonymity for fear of angering prosecutors. The grand jury witness, this person said, gave an independent account that substantially agreed with Ms. Doucett’s.

Hiring a private investigator is common practice for wealthy people in contentious lawsuits, and Mr. Pellicano, a tough-talking transplant from Chicago who cultivated an image of menace, had many clients. Many of the rich and powerful in Hollywood who used him say they were unaware he was committing crimes. But prosecutors are skeptical, and they are trying to determine which of Mr. Pellicano’s clients knew about the acts that have led to his indictment.

In any event, no case, perhaps, better demonstrates how Hollywood movers and shakers appear to have used Mr. Pellicano in disputes with those who had less clout than the drawn-out saga of Mr. Shandling, Mr. Grey and Ms. Doucett.

Mr. Grey, one of the most influential players in television and talent management, rose to an even higher perch in Hollywood a year ago, when he was named to head Paramount. He has been interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and testified before the grand jury investigating Mr. Pellicano. His lawyer has said Mr. Grey has been repeatedly assured that he was not a subject or a target of the investigation.

Mr. Grey declined numerous requests to be interviewed for this article, or to have his lawyer be interviewed. On Sunday afternoon his spokeswoman, Janet Hill, issued a terse reply from Mr. Grey to five written questions submitted by The New York Times.

“As I’ve said in the past, I was casually acquainted with Anthony Pellicano,” Mr. Grey said in the statement. “I had no ‘relationship’ with Mr. Pellicano until my attorney, Bert Fields, hired him in the Garry Shandling lawsuit. The fact remains that I had no knowledge of any illegal activity he may have conducted.”

Mr. Fields, one of Hollywood’s most sought-after litigators, also has denied knowing of Mr. Pellicano’s illicit activities.

The Doucett-Shandling episode is only one of more than a dozen situations detailed in a federal indictment of Mr. Pellicano in which an influential insider, represented by a top entertainment lawyer who in turn hired Mr. Pellicano, sought to exert his or her will over a much weaker industry outsider. In each case, prosecutors say, Mr. Pellicano set out to maintain that imbalance of power through extralegal means.

When Mr. Pellicano was working on behalf of the former superagent Michael Ovitz, lawyers in the case say, his targets were Mr. Ovitz’s ex-underlings, minor industry players and bothersome reporters. When Mr. Pellicano worked on behalf of the billionaire MGM mogul Kirk Kerkorian, it was against a woman to whom Mr. Kerkorian was briefly married. When he worked on behalf of the Canadian media heiress and aspiring actress Taylor Thomson, it was against Ms. Thomson’s former nanny.

The Shandling-Grey case can be seen between the lines of the federal wiretapping and conspiracy indictment of Mr. Pellicano. Prosecutors charge that from January to March 1999 Mr. Pellicano had a police source do unauthorized background checks or otherwise illegally gain information about Mr. Shandling; Ms. Doucett; Mr. Shandling’s personal assistant, Mariana Grant; his business manager, Warren Grant; his friend and fellow client at Brillstein-Grey Entertainment the actor Kevin Nealon; Mr. Nealon’s wife; and his friend Gavin de Becker, a security consultant. The names of Ms. Doucett, Ms. Grant, Mr. de Becker and Mr. Grant were all on a witness list in Mr. Shandling’s lawsuit against Mr. Grey at the time, lawyers and people involved in the case have confirmed.

To Ms. Doucett, the federal investigation gets at the core of something that has long infected Hollywood. “This isn’t about $10 million going between this movie star and that movie star, and wiretapping,” she said in her first extensive interview on the subject. She refused to comment on matters she had agreed to keep confidential but was forthcoming on other aspects of her relationships with Mr. Shandling and Mr. Grey.

“It’s about little people being pushed around,” she said.

Linda Doucett was a 33-year-old former model and struggling actress when she met Garry Shandling at a friend’s birthday party in the spring of 1987. He soon came to see her act in an out-of-the-way play in Burbank, and before long the two were living together for all practical purposes. Mr. Shandling had a program on Showtime, and Ms. Doucett, a Hollywood unknown, soon found herself riding in limousines and socializing with Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Mr. Shandling’s longtime manager, Brad Grey.

By 1992, Mr. Shandling, who had been courted to be a late-night talk-show host, instead began a new spoof of the genre for HBO: “The Larry Sanders Show.” Mr. Grey was the show’s executive producer and agreed to split any profits 50-50 with Mr. Shandling. Ms. Doucett played Darlene, the accommodating assistant to Jeffrey Tambor’s Hank, the Sanders sidekick.

During the show’s second season, Ms. Doucett slipped on a freshly waxed soundstage floor, herniating three discs in her neck. Urged by a friend to sue the show to pay her surgical bills, Ms. Doucett refrained after Mr. Shandling told her that “Brad asked me to ask you not to do it,” she said later in a sworn statement.

But that, Ms. Doucett added under oath, was the beginning of “some kind of mistrust for everybody.”

In 1993, Ms. Doucett, then 39, began pressing Mr. Shandling, with whom she was building an estate in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, to marry her and start a family. The two set, and broke, at least two wedding dates that year, before moving into the Brentwood home in January 1994. A few months later, Ms. Doucett said in the interview, she concluded that Mr. Shandling would only agree to marry and have a baby if she threatened to leave him. But Mr. Shandling instead chose to break up and sent Ms. Doucett “a stack of papers” to sign, she said.

Under the terms of a secret Aug. 31, 1994, settlement, obtained by The Times, Ms. Doucett agreed not to sue Mr. Shandling or her employer, Brillstein-Grey; in return, Mr. Shandling, by now a cable television star, agreed to buy Ms. Doucett a $365,000 condominium. Asked why she had so readily signed away her rights, she said, “I just wanted to keep my job.”

But in January 1995, Ms. Doucett learned from her agent that she would not be invited back for the fourth season of “The Larry Sanders Show.” When she tried to call Mr. Shandling, she swore later, she learned he had changed his phone number. A year later, Ms. Doucett hired a lawyer and sued Mr. Shandling, Brillstein-Grey, and the Shandling-Grey partnership that owned the show.

Soon after, Mr. Grey asked her to come to his office, where, she said in the interview, he “beat me up emotionally.”

“He asked why I included him in the lawsuit,” Ms. Doucett testified under oath, and she replied it was because he was her employer. But she expressed regret to Mr. Grey, saying that “the whole situation is excruciatingly uncomfortable and painful.” In the interview, she added that she believed at the time that Mr. Grey “was trying to get me to admit to something” while she was in his office.

After months of legal wrangling, Mr. Shandling called Ms. Doucett to settle the case. She refused to discuss the terms, citing a nondisclosure agreement, but a copy of their Jan. 31, 1997, pact, obtained by The Times, shows that Ms. Doucett was paid $1 million – $675,000 up front to drop her lawsuit and state that she had never been sexually harassed, and $325,000 over the next three years.

By that August, a rift was opening between Mr. Shandling and Mr. Grey, who had become his manager in 1980, just out of college, and who by now was representing Hollywood A-listers like Brad Pitt, Courteney Cox and Adam Sandler. For the first time, Mr. Shandling got an outside review of his financial dealings with Mr. Grey, and he did not like what he was told: that Mr. Grey had been reaping millions of dollars behind his back.

Mr. Grey, who received a 10-percent manager’s fee on Mr. Shandling’s earnings and $45,000 per episode of “The Larry Sanders Show,” had also taken for himself the 50-percent share of the show’s eventual profits – “triple-dipping,” as Mr. Shandling’s lawyers would put it. While Mr. Shandling had agreed to these terms, Mr. Grey had discouraged him from getting independent advice beforehand, Mr. Shandling’s lawyers said.

Mr. Grey returned $1.2 million in excess commissions unearthed by the review, Mr. Shadling’s lawyers said, but Mr. Shandling contended he was owed substantially more. As the atmosphere grew more contentious, Mr. Grey dropped Mr. Shandling as a client in November 1997, and Mr. Shandling sued in January for $100 million in damages. The lawsuit questioned whether managers who are also producers have an inherent conflict of interest.

Mr. Grey and his allies fired back. First, Dan Klores, the publicist the two men shared, announced he was dropping Mr. Shandling and called him “illogical and irrational.” Then, in March 1998, Mr. Grey hit Mr. Shandling with a headline-grabbing countersuit, claiming he had “acted erratically, irrationally, and at times abusively,” all at great cost to the “Larry Sanders” partnership.

On the sidelines now was Ms. Doucett, who had just married another man and had become pregnant, but who, in light of her seven-year relationship with Mr. Shandling, could be of great value as a witness in the suit. Then her phone started ringing.

“All of a sudden, Brad and Garry love me,” Ms. Doucett said. “People I hadn’t spoken to in years.”

Mr. Grey, she testified later, called one day to let her know that she might be called as a witness. He then made an offer that seemed heavy-handed, she recalled in an interview: “He said, ‘Are you ready for your own series?’ ” Mr. Grey, who would go on to produce “The Sopranos” a year later, also assured Ms. Doucett, “You’re like family to me,” she recalled. Ms. Doucett’s recitation of this exchange was corroborated by the person close to the investigation who was informed of the conversation at the time.

But Ms. Doucett made clear where she would stand, telling Mr. Grey she remained “protective” of Mr. Shandling,” she later swore.

Ms. Doucett immediately informed Mr. Shandling of the call, she testified, and the two took a long walk on the set of his show. “He felt that he’d been wrongly represented and basically was nervous to talk about anything,” Ms. Doucett later recounted under oath. And Mr. Shandling said he would try not to involve her in the lawsuit.

In his written statement Sunday, Mr. Grey called “ridiculous” any suggestion that he “tried to influence any witness testimony” in his litigation with Mr. Shandling.

Not long afterward, Ms. Doucett appeared in the final episode of “The Larry Sanders Show,” shown May 31, 1998. A few weeks later, she said, she got another call from Mr. Shandling to discuss her future testimony. It was in this conversation, she said in the interview, that Mr. Shandling revealed his knowledge of Mr. Grey’s past association with Mr. Pellicano.

Throughout her pregnancy, she and Mr. Shandling continued to talk – often, according to both Ms. Doucett and the person close to the investigation, wondering aloud if their telephones were being tapped.

By the spring of 1999, the Shandling-Grey lawsuit was immersed in a contentious discovery battle, including the depositions of key witnesses, many of whom, prosecutors charge, were checked out by Mr. Pellicano. Mr. Grey, whose lawyer was Mr. Fields, endured four days of questioning by Mr. Shandling’s lawyers, led by the high-profile Washington trial lawyer David Boies.

Next to testify was Ms. Doucett. Over more than five hours, she bluntly rejected many of Mr. Grey’s assertions about Mr. Shandling: that he had routinely walked off the set, been late to work, caused HBO to miss air dates, shirked his promotional duties and unilaterally hired and fired writers.

“I thought Brad and Garry made the decisions on everything,” she testified.

Finally, Mr. Grey’s lawyers got to the heart of what Mr. Grey’s lawsuit had hinted broadly at: they asked her if she had ever seen Mr. Shandling take drugs. Under oath, she replied that she had not, but quickly corrected herself: she had seen Mr. Shandling take sleeping pills – after getting them from Mr. Grey.

Ms. Doucett described Mr. Shandling’s calling Mr. Grey to ask for the pills and then riding with him to Mr. Grey’s house to pick them up. “He took them out of the mailbox, and we drove away,” she testified.

Mr. Grey, asked in writing if he had ever provided sleeping pills to Mr. Shandling, said in his statement Sunday that “to suggest that I regularly or in any way inappropriately gave any kind of medication to Garry Shandling” was “ridiculous.”

Ms. Doucett, asked about her deposition, refused to discuss her testimony. But she recalled that before it began, Mr. Grey took her aside, out of hearing range of her lawyers, and whispered in her ear. “Can you help me out on this?” he said, according to Ms. Doucett. “Whatever you want. Me and you can work this out.”

After the deposition, Mr. Shandling thanked Ms. Doucett profusely. “I heard you were so great,” he told her, she recalled proudly.

Indeed, Mr. Boies, in an interview, said that Ms. Doucett’s testimony had been “very favorable” to Mr. Shandling. “After that deposition,” he said, Mr. Grey’s “counterclaim was effectively over.”

On July 2, 1999, on the eve of trial, and after a judge’s surprise ruling had greatly bolstered Mr. Shandling’s case, Mr. Boies and Mr. Fields reached a settlement in which Mr. Grey agreed to pay Mr. Shandling more than $10 million, according to Mr. Boies.

Ms. Doucett said she did not hear from Mr. Shandling again for years – not until he called her to say the F.B.I. was asking questions about Mr. Grey’s dealings with Mr. Pellicano.

It was the fall of 2003, she said, a year after Mr. Pellicano had been arrested, his office raided and a trove of computerized recordings and secret dossiers hauled off by F.B.I. agents.

After Mr. Shandling told her he had been interviewed by an F.B.I., Stan Ornellas, Ms. Doucett said she got a call from Mr. Ornellas as well.

According to Ms. Doucett, the agent told her, “When we went into Pellicano’s offices, your name came up,” and described unearthing a closetful of recordings and dossiers. Mr. Ornellas, the lead agent on the Pellicano investigation, did not return repeated phone calls for this article.

Mr. Shandling, who refused to be interviewed, told The Times in November 2003 that an F.B.I. agent had asked him about wiretapping. “The F.B.I. was interested in my lawsuit in regards to Brad Grey, and the circumstances of the press campaign mounted against me,” he said.

Less than a month after her meeting with the F.B.I. agent, Ms. Doucett said, she received a phone call from a man who did not identify himself, and whose voice she did not recognize. “Linda,” he said, “if you keep talking to your friend Stan, your child” – the man named Ms. Doucett’s young son – “won’t be going to” the private school where the boy was enrolled.

Ms. Doucett tried to brush off the threat as a joke.

“This is not a joke,” the man said.

The F.B.I.’s investigation of the threat led to a suspect but no prosecution, Ms. Doucett said. To this day, she said, she does not know who the man was or who put him up to calling her.


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