Hollywood insiders expect the second round of indictments in celebrity private eye Anthony Pellicano’s case to be the criminal equivalent of the Oscars. But don’t expect to hear too much about it from CBS News. Sources say the network recently killed an in-depth investigative special on Pellicano, whose former client, Brad Grey, is chairman of CBS sister company Paramount.
We hear that CBS News show 48 Hours Mystery signed documentary filmmaker Sarah Teale in June 2004 to do an hour-long segment on Pellicano, who had been imprisoned after police discovered hand grenades, C-4 explosives, and over a million pages of wiretap transcripts—starring many of Tinseltown’s biggest names—in his West Hollywood office. The special was going to examine how Pellicano—Hollywood’s self-described “sin eater”—built his business digging dirt for such industry luminaries as Tom Cruise, Michael Ovitz, celebrity attorney Bert Fields, and Grey himself, who at the time was still running A-list management firm Brillstein-Grey. (Grey, who is also an executive producer of The Sopranos, was so impressed with Pellicano’s handywork he reportedly approached HBO with a series based on the P.I.’s life in 2001.)
Sources say Teale and CBS News producer Doug Longhini spent a week in L.A. in the summer of 2004 conducting preliminary interviews with at least a dozen sources, and then followed the story for over a year, staying in constant contact with the network and waiting for the next round of wiretapping indictments that insiders say are all but inevitable.
But three weeks ago, according to a source close to the deal, “CBS told Teale, out of nowhere, that they had sent a letter killing the deal over 15 months ago. Which is complete nonsense. They never sent a letter to anyone. They were all hyped about the story until Brad Grey was named head honcho at Paramount” in March. When asked to produce the letter, we hear CBS execs told Teale they “couldn’t find a copy.”
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Marcy Erhard, a spokeswoman for 48 Hours, denied that the documentary was killed, saying instead that they had decided to take a “wait-and-see approach.”
“We had a deadline for new indictments in July of 2004, and there weren’t any, so we did not move forward with the story. We are still keeping tabs on it,” Erhard said. The rep said she didn’t know the producer working on the segment and hadn’t heard of the letter incident. Asked whether 48 Hours would be willing to run a segment on Pellicano in the future if interesting new indictments come down, she repeated, “Like I said, we’re taking a wait-and-see approach to it.”
Grey, who has reportedly been questioned by investigators in the Pellicano case (he maintains he is only a “witness” in the proceedings) did not return calls to his office at Paramount. Teale, who is on assignment, could not be reached by press time.