Twin Peaks: Breaking The Frame

As always, SPOILERS, darling.

(In the midst of other investigations and other projects, I return to this mystery. The thoughts below, what might be called a theory, seem startlingly obvious and were more most likely put forward elsewhere – I give them here anyway. Among those articles which I looked at which I found helpful were “‘Twin Peaks’ Finale Recap: A Mystifying, Entrancing Ending” by Sonia Saraiya; “The ‘Twin Peaks’ Crime Scene” by Adam Nayman; “David Lynch’s Haunted Finale of “Twin Peaks: The Return”” by Richard Brody; “Our 8 Biggest Questions About the Twin Peaks Finale” by Devon Ivie; “The Best Post-Finale Theories About Twin Peaks: The Return“; Twin Peaks: The Return Defied Nostalgia” by Jen Chaney; “In Twin Peaks: The Return, You Can’t Go Home Again” by Matt Zoller Seitz. I found David Auerbach’s “Twin Peaks Finale: A Theory of Cooper, Laura, Diane, and Judy” intriguing, but too unmoored from what I consider the crucial themes of the past episodes to be persuasive.)

So, let us cut to the chase: the Audrey Horne scenes are crucial for understanding the final episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return. There has been some speculation that the abrupt finish of her plotline means that she is in some kind of an asylum, a coma, or a White Lodge, and that this is a hanging thread in the series – neither point, I think, is true. The ending is very deliberate, and of crucial importance to the final episode, and she does not end up in any specific geography, whether on earth or the strange mystic universe of the series.

This plot, which goes through episodes #12, #13, #15, and #16, where it ends at the Roadhouse bar, takes place, as many have noted, somewhere seemingly apart from any place in Twin Peaks. Almost all of the other scenes in the series have an establishing exterior shot – the Audrey Horne storyline has none. Though the other major characters all have a last name, Audrey’s husband is listed as “Charlie” and nothing else. When you take a close look at Charlie’s desk, you repeat Dale Cooper’s last line of dialogue: “What year is this?” His desk is cluttered with paper, a sand clock within reach, but no computer, no laptop or even a bulky desktop, anywhere in sight. When he calls Tina, he uses a rotary phone – a device that most contemporary phone switching systems don’t even support, a phone that would be useless for most calls. Time has apparently slowed down to a crawl in this room, with this entire plotline taking place on a single night, while we see several days of action in the other plotlines, and several nights of acts in the Roadhouse.

Twin Peaks The Return - Charlie at his desk

Twin Peaks The Return - Charlie on the phone

Charlie and Audrey are seemingly trapped in amber, in some distant time, and yet their dialogue makes no reference to anything in Audrey Horne’s famous past – to Dale Cooper, to Laura Palmer, to her father, her son, anything. Their dialogue is fixed on the present, on characters that have nothing to do with anything we see on the show. Audrey is very worried about her lover, Billy, about whom she has had a dream – of him badly bleeding. A woman that Audrey hates, Tina, is the last person who may have seen Billy, and the person who has told her this is another man named Charlie, whose truck Billy may have stolen. The other Charlie, Audrey’s husband, calls Tina to find out what has taken place, but we never hear her end of the phone call, and Charlie never relays the details. All these details feel like a tiresome mess – what does this have to do with Cooper in the Black Lodge, how does all this relate to Audrey’s past?

The Audrey Horne plot is an expression of all the tensions of David Lynch, Mark Frost, and the cast of returning to Twin Peaks. They are not incidental to this storyline – the storyline, including its strange finale, is designed to convey them. Lynch, Frost, and the cast have been burdened with continuing the Twin Peaks story, yet also reprising it so that it delivers all the familiar rituals for audience relief. There is a demand for the show to be both alive and yet also in stasis, a variation on a past melody, as most sequels are. Twin Peaks: The Return brings back Dale Cooper, but makes him a void of a man, Dougie Jones, someone who eats pie and drinks coffee, the audience waiting expectantly for him to say his catch phrases – and he says nothing. Audrey Horne returns, but she seems so disconnected from events, both current and past, that we start to doubt whether this is even the same Audrey Horne – and she doubts her identity as well. From Episode #13:

AUDREY
I feel like I’m somewhere else. Have you ever had that feeling, Charlie?

CHARLIE
No.

AUDREY
Like I’m somewhere else, and–and like I’m somebody else. Have you ever felt that?

CHARLIE
No. I always feel like myself. And it may not always be the best feeling.

AUDREY
Well, I’m not sure who I am, but I’m not me.

CHARLIE
This is Existentialism one oh one.

AUDREY
Oh, fuck you!

Twin Peaks The Return Audrey subtitle one

Twin Peaks The Return Audrey subtitle two

Twin Peaks The Return Audrey subtitle three

It is after this that Charlie makes clear he is as powerful as The Fireman or any of the creatures in the Lodge – he can end Audrey’s story, any time he likes, just as he ended someone else’s story – whose story? Audrey says almost the same line that the Arm has in the last episode, in reference to the story of Laura Palmer: “Is this the story of the girl who lived down the lane? Is it?” Yes: Charlie can end Audrey’s story as easily as he can Laura Palmer’s.

AUDREY
Who am I supposed to trust except myself? And I don’t even know who I am! So what the fuck am I supposed to do?

CHARLIE
You’re supposed to go to the Roadhouse and see if Billy is there.

AUDREY
I guess. Is it far?

CHARLIE
Come on, Audrey. You know where it is. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were on drugs.

AUDREY
Just where is it!

CHARLIE
I’m going to take you there. Now, are you gonna stop playing games, or do I have to end your story, too?

AUDREY
What story is that, Charlie? Is that the story of the little girl who lived down the lane? Is it?

Twin Peaks The Return - Charlie stop playing games

Twin Peaks The Return - end your story too

Twin Peaks The Return - Audrey what story is that

Twin Peaks The Return - Audrey story of the girl

Twin Peaks The Return - who lived down the lane

Twin Peaks The Return - who lived down the lane

You can also note that Charlie gives something like guidance, as a director might give to actors. “You’re supposed to go to the Roadhouse and see if Billy is there,” says Charlie, as if Audrey had lost her sense of what she needed to do in this scene. Episode #13 ends with Horne as divided about going to the Roadhouse as Lynch, Frost, or the actors might have felt about returning to the series.

CHARLIE
You’re the one that wanted to go. Now you’re looking like you want to stay.

AUDREY
I want to stay and I want to go. I want to do both. Which will it be, Charlie? Hmmm? Which would you be?

What is also so alienating in these scenes is that Audrey and Charlie do not seem to have any romantic compatability at all. Charlie is being openly cheated on, yet he seems to be the dominant figure in the relationship, and undisturbed by his wife’s open affair. Physically, they seem entirely unlike, lacking any of the visual symmetry we expect of a couple. There is somebody who I think Charlie is very much supposed to resemble, and that’s Max Von Mayerling in Sunset Boulevard, played by legendary director Erich Von Stroheim.

Von Stroheim in Sunset Boulevard

Von Stroheim in Sunset Boulevard close-up

Twin Peaks The Return - Charlie

Sunset centers around Norma Desmond, a silent film actress who lives in a decaying mansion where time has seemingly stopped, just like at Miss Havisham’s. When screenwriter Joe Gillis stumbles onto her place while fleeing creditors, Desmond lets him to stay with the expectation he’ll be able to help her stage a comeback playing Salomé – a notion that Gillis is barely able to keep from ridiculing. The connection to Twin Peaks is obvious – this older woman expects to play the part of a teenage girl, a part whose inherent quality is one of sensual impulsive youth, and whose centerpiece is an erotic dance which beguiles Herod. Von Mayerling is Desmond’s butler, but also her ex-husband and (in a barely veiled reference to Von Stroheim’s own career) a once great director. He encourages Desmond’s illusions, even writing almost all the fan mail she now gets. Charlie has the dictatorial qualities of Von Maylerling and Von Stroheim, but does not encourage any of Audrey’s illusions – she has none, seemingly having no sense of self, no memories of the earlier existence we know so well.

Billy Wilder directed Sunset, Charles Brackett produced it, Wilder and Brackett wrote the script; the two men who center in the off-screen storyline of Audrey are Billy and Charlie. What prompts Cooper to revive himself by sticking a fork in an outlet is while watching Sunset and hearing a reference to “Gordon Cole”, the assistant to Cecil B. DeMille, the director Desmond wants for her Salomé film. The movie’s obsession with a distant past, burrowing into the past as the world hurtles on, haunts this series for obvious reasons.

Twin Peaks The Return - Gordon Cole in Sunset Boulevard

Twin Peaks The Return - Dale reacts to Sunset Boulevard

Who, eactly, is Charlie, that he has such extraordinary powers over the universe, that he can shut off a story like one snaps off a light? “Who is the dreamer?” Gordon Cole asks, and the answer is, Charlie is the dreamer. He is a rough substitute for the creators of this series, a man both creating this world and inside it. This is why he speaks to Audrey like a director, and why they are seemingly both of the world of Twin Peaks, and somehow in a place completely outside of it. He is in something like the position which the audience imagines Frost and Lynch to be, someone privy to all secrets and off-stage conversations, as he listens to a long phone call…and then reveals nothing of it to Audrey or the viewer. There are only two other rotary phones in this series, and they’re the ones Mr C. uses in the convenience store scene – the one on the abandonned desk, which subsequently teleports him to the ancient phone booth outside. The rotary phone here signifies worlds outside of time, a fiction of a device which covers the transcendent power of the convenience store or Charlie; they have something like the magic of quanta, able to reach whatever part of this universe they wish, any point, any time.

Twin Peaks The Return - rotary phone on desk

Twin Peaks The Return - rotary phone on desk

After much delay, Audrey and Charlie finally arrive at the Roadhouse. We are given certainty that Audrey Horne has remained in the same world by this familiar location, and we are certain (whatever her doubts) that she is Audrey Horne by her direct reprise of her old dance. This must have been the nightmare Lynch, Frost, and the actors envisioned of a series return, the very same moves, again, circus animals brought out to perform their old tricks. The ritual repeated, verbatim. What gave the original dance some of its power was its spontaneity, the character falling into it naturally, a felicitous graceful expression of restless youth. Now, it’s presented as a museum piece, a sacred relic of the past – even introduced by the announcer as “Audrey Horne’s Dance”, though this has significance only to the audience outside the show, and is one more element that renders it unreal, the intro making this something apart and isolated from all story or character, a dance that is like a song played because of fan request. Audrey loses herself in the dance, and yet there is nothing grotesque as there might be for Norma Desmond’s Salomé; this is not an older woman playing at being a much younger woman, but an older woman as herself. The contorted circumstances which might have been necessary to make Audrey dance again, and which would have rendered it grotesque in the realm of the real – are entirely absent. The scene takes place entirely due to forces outside the universe of the show – the introduction making specific reference to the dance, even the dance itself, with it now given emphasis by a haze of enrapturing purple, rather than a casual expression amongst the indifferent sunlight.

Twin Peaks The Return - Audrey dance

Audrey loses herself to the dance, and may lose herself to the past – but the present swoops in with a fight among two characters we don’t know, about a third, someone’s wife Monique, who also shows up nowhere else. Audrey is overwhelmed by the sudden tumult of these new, strange figures, and she rushes to Charlie, grabs his shoulders, and then – this, I think, is key – the camera switches for the first time to Charlie’s perspective, so Audrey is seemingly speaking directly to the audience. She says in desperation, “Get me out of here!” And with that, Charlie ends her story. Audrey is suddenly removed even further from Twin Peaks than before, her costume gone, a white void where time and space have disappeared.

Twin Peaks The Return - Audrey Horne get me out of here

Twin Peaks The Return - Audrey Horne in the void

The Audrey Horne plotline is crucial for understanding the last episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, because it’s a variation on what will happen to Cooper – for most of her time we are not certain she is the character we once knew, then she clearly reprises who she was for a brief time, and then her identity is annihilated. The entire series is a build-up to the return of Agent Cooper, and when he does come back, it’s as if nothing has taken place in the interim. Dale Cooper has the distinct qualities of E.M. Forster’s flat characters – and the adjective is crucial, and very different from flat writing or bad writing or writing without nuance. Almost all distinct TV characters, certainly of the era in which the original series was made, are flat types – they carry certain traits and they do not deviate from them. Cooper is decent, noble, brilliant. His moral alignment is so specific and unyielding that any deviation would make us suspect we were not seeing the real man – and a doppelganger is an easy conception, a criminal genius of unfathomable evil. The best flat types effectively convey their character visually – Cooper is almost always in a formal suit, slicked down hair, the visual equivalent of a federal agent’s clipped, precise sentences, but still with the best aspects of a small boy, an overwhelming curiosity of the wider world, a belief of the best in women and men, a man whose handsomeness is infected by an endearing strangeness. And Mr. C., his doppelganger, carries a similar, though opposite, shorthand. Though incredibly rich, he wears a simple dark outfit, a shabby leather coat, his hair seemingly always unwashed, his eyes cold worlds of calculation, his face closed tight around the cruelest certainties.

The flat type is incredibly effective in TV as the character is able to pass through years of action while always remaining compelling, yet also seemingly immutable and unchanged, whatever turmoil and tragedies befall him or her, or those around them. This immutability is there when Cooper returns from his exile – the Black Lodge, Dougie Jones, a brief coma – and resumes his character as if nothing has happened. The show then reckons with both the need for stasis, for Cooper to return as if a quarter century of life has not been lost, and the impossibility of such stasis. How could a sane man of conscience not feel overwhelming sadness at the twenty five years that have just fallen away, at the possible dreadful fates of Annie Blackburn, Audrey Horne, and the countless victims of his doppelganger? The show is blunt about this duality, with a scene featuring much of the cast lined up in the sheriff’s station as if for a kind of a happy reunion, while Cooper’s despairing face overlays them, an overlay where you keep waiting for it to disappear, for it to stop killing the party, but which stays, and stays, and stays – until finally it disappears when he kisses Diane. After they kiss, we see the clock nearly frozen in place, the minute hand unable to move forward – they are in stasis again, and Cooper’s despairing face returns, overlaying the scene until Cooper reaches the boiler room door. The plot moves Cooper back into action, to return to the Red Room. Just as Audrey is moved to dance in a way that seems external to character, this next mission seems to derive from the need for momentum itself – no character asks Cooper about his time in exile, he takes no time to rest, he is simply on the move again, just as the adventures of most heroes are seemingly without pause, reflection, or respite.

Twin Peaks The Return - the cast lined up

We are never given any explicit explanation of this new adventure. Cooper is given a point in a circle eight, a Möbius strip, to which he is to return, a crucial moment in the story of Laura Palmer. He goes back to the night she was murdered and pulls her from her fate, but there is a sense of something gone wrong – as he walks along with her through the forest, hand in hand, she suddenly leaves his grasp and vanishes. We are then in the Red Room again, with a few quick pieces of business; a tulpa of Dougie Jones is created and goes back to his family, and we briefly see the fate of Mr. C., held fast in a chair, to be scorched by fire for eternity. The Arm asks Cooper nearly the same question that Audrey asked: “Is this the story of the little girl who lived down the lane? Is it?” And this question is crucial, because if this story is the story of Twin Peaks, the story of the death and investigation of Laura Palmer, then this is the story Cooper has always inhabited, and by saving Laura from her murder, he has destroyed the heart of his existence.

Twin Peaks The Return - The Arm Is

Twin Peaks The Return - The Arm It

Twin Peaks The Return - The Arm the story

Twin Peaks The Return - The Arm Of the

Twin Peaks The Return - The Arm Little

Twin Peaks The Return - The Arm Girl

Twin Peaks The Return - The Arm Who lived

Twin Peaks The Return - The Arm Down the lane

Twin Peaks The Return - The Arm Is It

Twin Peaks The Return - Audrey story of the girl

Twin Peaks The Return - who lived down the lane

Twin Peaks The Return - who lived down the lane

In the opening of The Return, the only time we see Cooper with the Giant, he tells him that “It all cannot be…said aloud now”, the importance of the number 430, and the names Richard and Linda. “Two birds with one stone,” says the Giant. This refers, I think, to Cooper breaking the story, as if by a stone, and two birds, like the slang term for women, will be freed, Laura and Diane, with Laura Palmer returned to life and Diane to be with Cooper. Diane meets him in the woods outside of the fading portal of the Red Room, but we are never explicitly told why they have decided to meet or their next set of actions. Our only clues are his question, freighted with meaning, after they kiss at the sheriff’s station: “Do you remember everything?” and her answer, equally heavy with implication, “Yes.” Before he goes through the door, Cooper tells Diane, “See you at the curtain call.” And this is not just a reference to the red drapes that mark the portals of the Lodge, but to the ending of the story, the story of the little girl who lived down the lane. Cooper and Diane have planned to re-unite after he destroys the story, and escape together. They drive in a car until they have exactly four hundred and thirty miles on it, outside of some buzzing electricity silos. What they do next will be a tumultuous step, one that will transform them, and they kiss before they drive on, and something abruptly happens – before they were on the road at day, and now it is night. And here is what I think happens, a fateful and ultimately doomed decision, and which the scenes with Audrey Horne foreshadow – they have decided to live outside the plot of Twin Peaks entirely. And this is a mistake, because their existence as characters is intertwined with that of the story of Peaks, and absent the story, they continue to live, but they cease to exist. They become like Audrey Horne in her isolated space, with no certainty anymore of who she is, and we in the audience unsure whether she is even still Audrey Horne.

Twin Peaks The Return - The Giant cannot be said

Twin Peaks The Return - The Giant aloud now

Twin Peaks The Return - Dale is it really you

Twin Peaks The Return - Dale is it really you

Twin Peaks The Return - Dale is it really you

Though we have a very strong sense of Dale Cooper’s character, what we know of Diane is more indirect, more through inference. Throughout The Return, we have seen her as a forged note, a tulpa of the actual, and we are left to guess what is true and real. While we associate Cooper with black and white suits, Diane’s outfit is always full of color, her bracelets and individually colored fingernails perhaps sending out a subterranean signal only close intimates can interpret. In the original series, she is the woman closest to Cooper, the one he trusts most fully, who knows all his secrets, and though their relationship must be keenly felt, it is platonic, with Diane always a ghost inside his cassette box. We assume they complement each other, that they are equals, that she might tease his uprightness, but that she is as strong willed and able to match his deductive genius. She is less markedly affected by what follows because her character has been less defined by the story of Twin Peaks, and though she also becomes something of a blank, she does not lose the sharply defined character that Cooper has.

Twin Peaks The Return - Diane colorful outfit one

Twin Peaks The Return - Diane colorful outfit one

Twin Peaks The Return - Diane colorful outfit one

What brings them to the motel is the simplest of passions, with these characters who had to have a platonic relationship on the series, due to character and physical circumstance, now able to sleep with each other. Cooper’s nobility, his gallantry, necessary qualities in the Twin Peaks story have disappeared, and he is able to sleep with Diane without compunction. They have gradually ceased to be the characters they were before, no longer Cooper and Diane, they are now Richard and Linda. “My Prayer” played after the apocalypse in Episode #8, and it plays again in a kind of apocalypse here. For Diane, this intimacy, which she may have wanted for so long, is nightmarish. She is not having sex with the man closest to her in the world, but a stranger. She covers Cooper’s face, trying to block out the divide between the man she knows and the stranger inside her, but this is of no use. She has already left the next morning. In her note, Diane writes, “When you read this I will be gone. Do not try to find me. I don’t recognize you anymore. Whatever it was we had together is over.” Diane speaks of herself as Linda and Cooper as Richard, but the names are alien to him – he is losing his character without realizing it, still thinking of himself as Dale Cooper.

On the very good podcast devoted to the show, “The Lodgers” and this last episode, “Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think”, the unsettling alienation in this scene, the distance of the viewer from the two in bed, the coldness of Cooper to Diane, and Diane’s pushing the image of Cooper away from her, is discussed in the context of Diane having been raped by Cooper’s doppelganger, and this is her reliving the horrific experience. If I cannot agree with this, it’s because Diane’s reaction to Cooper from the very start of being re-united with this man, after the Naido mask falls off, should be that of revulsion; this is the face of the man who raped me. We are given the opposite, with Diane warmly embracing him with a long, deep kiss. Before they make the jump to this new universe, it is Diane who wants to kiss him before they might cease to exist, before they might be irrevocably changed. She loves this man, cherishes every aspect of this man – and this man is lost to her in the next world. Twin Peaks: The Return is about the falseness of trying to hold onto and sustain the evanescent and keep the past in amber, with our return continually foiled, a river where we are unable to step into again in the same place, and both of these characters play on this. Cooper is not Cooper for most of the series, and when he finally returns, the suffering and loss he must feel is seemingly unfelt – such suffering would affect him so much he could no longer be his reprised character. Diane became a mythic figure in the original series, and this off-stage figure is now brought on-stage, yet we are left with the question of what Diane’s essential qualities even are. Was the hair of the real Diane, the Diane before all of this – pink, gray, or something else? What should be a defining element in her life, what makes someone hate their attacker for being able to affect them, to define them, is absent. Either it was the tulpa Diane who was raped, the tulpa Diane lied about being raped, or this Diane now has no memory of it ever taking place. “Do you remember everything?” asks Cooper, and when Diane replies with absolute certainty, “Yes,” we’re not sure at all of the degree of truth or falseness.

Twin Peaks The Return - Diane with hands on Cooper's face

Twin Peaks The Return - Diane in agony

Twin Peaks The Return - note Diane left

After Cooper has taken Laura away, but before she slips from his grasp, we are given a scene of Sarah Palmer grabbing the high school portrait of Laura and violently smashing at the glass. This feels like a true moment, a mother who loves her daughter, but also hates her for the unending anguish she has suffered over her death – yet it’s also a prelude to what takes place after Diane leaves the story. This is the homecoming queen picture of Laura Palmer that appeared at the end of nearly every episode of the original Twin Peaks, and briefly flashes on at the opening of each episode of The Return. The iconic power of the photo lies in its youthful beauty ending in death, beauty in the stasis of youth, trapped forever under glass. It is not simply a photo of a beautiful young woman, but also a photo of a woman who will never grow old – death is an inextricable part of it, just as death is part of the alchemy which gives photos of Marilyn Monroe their power. When Sarah Palmer smashes this portrait, she foreshadows what is to come, as she is literally breaking the frame. First, Cooper and Diane escape the strictures of their characters, and then Coop finds a resurrected Laura Palmer, not a silent image of beauty on which we might impose our riddles, but an older woman, living a squalid, mundane life in Odessa, Texas.

Twin Peaks The Return - Sarah Palmer breaking the frame

Laura Palmer overwhelmed the plots of Twin Peaks, so that every story ended up being refracted through her, or intertwined with her tragedy, her death becoming a kind of Ice-9 which held fast all life. The returning characters of the original do not ricochet off of each other as do the characters of all soap operas, but rather, almost all remain isolated atoms, engaged in a kind of fuzzy wobbling, a compromise between a reprise of these characters as they were, which requires a stasis, and something more dynamic, which would go against their having remained exactly as they were for so long. The momentum of these characters is the momentum of the past, and that momentum is connected with the great tragedy of Laura Palmer. This is through the lens of the expected viewer, not the town itself, which appears to have entirely forgotten the murder of the beauty queen and the mysterious disappearance of the investigating FBI agent. Our focus remains on the same points where time stopped a quarter century ago, and this is not subjective, but exactly how the new episodes are structured.

We are given at the end of several episodes scenes in the Roadhouse featuring characters that might well have been part of the original series, or whose dramas might have dominated this one, if they had any link to the original constellation of people surrounding the death of Laura Palmer. There are the two girls in Episode #9, Ella and Chloe, who talk about “The Zebra” now being out of jail, a figure named “The Penguin” being around, while Ella scratches at a mysterious rash. There are the two girls in Episode #12, Abbie and Natalie, gossiping about Angela, who might be with Clark, who is also definitely hooking up with Mary. Episode #14 has Megan telling Sophie about the very event which Audrey dreamed about, Billy in her kitchen bleeding profusely, seemingly seized by a spell, and that Sophie’s mother is Tina, Audrey’s rival for Billy. Sophie warns Megan about getting high in the “nuthouse”, another slang for trap house, one assumes.

Twin Peaks The Return - Roadhouse Ella

Twin Peaks The Return - Roadhouse Chloe

Ella and Chloe.

Twin Peaks The Return - Abbie

Twin Peaks The Return - Abbie pt2

Twin Peaks The Return - Natalie

Abbie and Natalie.

Twin Peaks The Return - Megan

Twin Peaks The Return - Sophie

Megan and Sophie.

Twin Peaks The Return - James Hurley on stage

Twin Peaks The Return - James Hurley on stage

James Hurley and Renee.

None of these characters ever return, and the stories they tell simply drift off, plotlines that might have become dominant if they had taken place in the first Twin Peaks series, or moved to the forefront if they were intertwined with the mysteries of Laura Palmer and Dale Cooper. Ella’s rash arouses interest if it’s a manifestation of the Black Lodge creeping into life again – when it’s simply a troubled girl with a rash, it’s of no interest at all. When James Hurley plays “You and I”, the song carries the weight of the past, the song he played alongside Maddie Palmer and Donna Hayward, rivals for his love. The past, and these bygone characters, are more in focus than Renee, the much younger girlfriend of James, this woman of the present playing a marginal, almost anonymous role. The show is obsessed with the past, the viewers are obsessed with the past, Cooper is obsessed with the past – and Laura Palmer embodies this past. When Cooper seeks out Carrie Page, he does so for one reason, having nothing to do with the inherent qualities of Carrie, but because she embodies this past as well – somehow, she is the resurrection of Laura Palmer.

Cooper reaches her via a diner named Judy’s, and an electric pole marked with a “6”, like the one in Fire Walk With Me by the Fat Trout trailer park. Lynch has the extraordinary ability of investing the American mundane with magic, the most commonplace of items and mass market franchises suddenly buzzing with sinister omen or beautiful possibility. However, these signs are imbued with power only because of their association with the now extinct story of Laura Palmer, like words in a dead language now spoken only by Cooper. No music or sounds of crackling electricity start up when Cooper sees these signs, despite their obvious importance – that world of magic is now dead. He is confronted by three cowboys in Judy’s and his skills remain lightning fast and deadly – yet those skills were also still there when he was Dougie Jones. We already notice that something vital is missing – that some human warmth or empathy is gone. He drinks his coffee, and the identifier that we eagerly expect, and that we waited for while he was Dougie Jones – “Damn fine coffee!” – is gone, along with all markers of the personality he once had.

Twin Peaks The Return - Judy's

Twin Peaks The Return - Cooper sees six on the pole

Twin Peaks The Return - number six on the pole

When Cooper reaches Carrie Page, she is in the midst of what is either a tragedy or a crime, a man shot dead in her living room. Cooper is as indifferent to these extraordinary events as we are to Ellen’s rash or Billy’s hemorrhaging. His obsession remains only with Laura Palmer, and his focus on Carrie Page is only because of her link to this dead woman. The smallest sign of such a link, like a white horse figurine on a mantel, is invested with greater importance than a dead man in the living room. Cooper has broken the Laura Palmer story and now he plans to return it to a repaired state, with this Laura Palmer re-united with her mother. He takes Carrie Page with him on a long drive during which he is almost entirely silent. He is neither cruel nor sleazy, there is no hint that this is Mr. C – he is simply cold to the rest of the world. “I tried to keep a clean house, keep everything organized,” Carrie says, wanting to start a conversation, wanting to speak about her problems to someone, anyone, even this stranger. “In those days I was too young to know any better.” But Cooper says nothing. Laura Palmer has ceased to exist as an icon, and yet remains an icon inside Cooper. The real woman next to him is incidental. He has both escaped from the story of Twin Peaks and not escaped at all. The entire landscape is now alien to him, as it was to Audrey Horne, and the only thing still alive is the world of the past, trapped in his head.

Twin Peaks The Return - Laura Palmer as Carrie Page answers the door

Twin Peaks The Return - Dale observes the scene

Twin Peaks The Return - wreckage at Carrie's house

Twin Peaks The Return - white horse

A car passes them, then follows them, and though some might read something sinister in this, I do not. I think this may be the second Diane who we briefly see outside the motel – and I find it hard to read anything sinister in that figure either. Again, I consider Diane to be Cooper’s equal in many things, including his deductive powers and knowledge of the mystic aspects of the universe, and it may be that Diane has somehow re-entered this world without her personality disappearing. Perhaps this second Diane is a tulpa she created for emergency purposes, or some other mystical technique that did not show up in our excursions with Cooper. What is important is that I don’t think Diane sees Cooper’s mission here as anything other than his private doom. She may wish to avert it, to save someone she loves, but she cannot conceive how to do so without making things worse. She lets him go on with his foolish quest, and stops following him.

But: here is another possibility, one more attractive to me. That the supernatural life we associate with Twin Peaks is now entirely gone from this world. That the strange moment at the motel is simply a woman, Linda, suddenly seeing herself in her car, before she sleeps with this man at this motel. That she is briefly both inside and outside herself before this precipitous moment, and we are given this visually. She pictures herself, outside, looking at herself in this car, at this motel, about to sleep with this man – the kind of moment that we might well find in the short stories of John Cheever or Alice Munro about some furtive tryst. And Linda reacts in a way consistent to this, that the woman outside is not some transgressor, some intruder, some disturbing vision, but a trick of her mind. And the car behind is equally unconnected to any larger system. It’s like a story about Angela and Clark, or Ella’s rash; a small, unusual occurrence and nothing else, the kind that is a dull commonplace. “Something weird happened on the way to Jane’s…this car followed us for a full minute or so.” “And then what happened?” “Nothing. It just followed us…and then it passed us.” “That’s it?” “That’s all. Then we made it to Jane’s.” “That’s…an exciting story.”

Twin Peaks The Return - Diane sees her double

Twin Peaks The Return - Diane's double

Twin Peaks The Return - followed

The landscape Carrie and Dale drive through is unsettling, but not due to any malign force, but for the overwhelming sense of isolation and loneliness. You can suddenly become very aware of the coldness of the world when driving through America at night, the only warmth being that which you bring with you, and of which these two desperate souls in this car possess none. They reach the Palmers’ house, and Cooper discovers that in breaking the “story of the little girl who lived down the lane”, they have annihilated something far greater. There is now no record of the Palmers ever having lived in the house. The house is now owned by Alice Tremond, who bought it from the Chalfonts. The Tremonds, mother and son, appear in the original Twin Peaks and re-appear in Fire Walk With Me as the Chalfonts, denizens of the Black Lodge, who rented the trailer where Chet Desmond found the ring which caused him to disappear.

Twin Peaks The Return - Dale and Laura at the Tremond house

Twin Peaks The Return - Alice Tremond

There is the possibility that in taking Laura away from her story, Cooper has allowed the evil of the Black Lodge to take over the town, but I do not see this. The Chalfonts are disturbing figures, but they also deliberately help Laura as best they can. To speak of them as malign in the ways that BOB or others are malevolent is a lousy fit. There is no sense of Alice Tremond being anything other than what she appears to be, a woman without sinister or disturbing undertones, lacking in subterfuge or guile, only someone who is a little impatient and mildly upset at being disturbed late at night by strangers. The landscape Cooper has returned to is one with which he now has no familiarity. It has become a world absent everything he knew, even its magic. This Alice Tremond isn’t part of a sinister family, or the Black Lodge, but is just a bland, ordinary homeowner. Here, the Chalfonts are just the Chalfonts, the Tremonds are just the Tremonds, a car in the night is just a car in the night, a vision at a motel is just the brief pang of doubt before sleeping with someone. Cooper’s only home has been a story that has now disappeared. He has become lost in the most familiar place, his compass broken, his memories those of a now imaginary world. He has ended up in the isolated space of Audrey Horne, her character gone, and having lost all sense of time. “What year is this?” asks Cooper. Whatever pain causes Carrie Page to now scream out in terror is either from a past Cooper is entirely indifferent to, or connected to a place that now exists only as an absence, a vanished landscape that he is uncertain ever existed, far far away from where he has now been stranded, trapped in a world without grace or magic.

The paragraph on who Charlie is was added on September 13, 2017. On September 17, 2017, the paragraph on Diane and “The Lodgers” podcast was added.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

The Nevada State Party Democratic Convention: An Attempt At A History Part One

I worked on this.

An attempt to convey the events leading up to the turmoil of the 2016 Nevada State Party Democratic Convention. These events include the disorganization of the state caucuses as well as the suspension and possible arrest of the credentials chair before the Clark County convention. The events of the state convention will be covered in part two, which will only be finished in August, after the democratic national convention.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Catfishing With Rose Chiauzzi and Kari Ann Peniche Part One

I worked on this.

Re-uploading is for fixing glitches in volume and credits. Part two is happening…soon.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Transcript of June 13 1991 October Surprise Conference

The following transcript was initially posted on pastebin, “Transcript of June 13 1991 October Surprise Conference”. Only changes to the transcript arise through the conveniences of html, with appropriate italics and embedded links. Author of the pastebin document, including transcript, is this site’s manager. Document starts after the line break.


A transcript of a conference on June 13, 1991, sponsored by the Fund For New Priorities, on Youtube as “Christopher Hitchens on Trading Weapons for Iranian Hostages: October Surprise Conspiracy (1991)” and “Christopher Hitchens on the Iran Hostage Crisis and October Surprise (1991)”. This transcript should not imply an endorsement of the conspiracy theory, only an indication that I believe it to be of interest. The theory was often relayed to be as one fostered by lunatics, but those on-stage appear sane, sound, and cautious in their assessments. On the other hand, Barbara Honegger, who hogs the floor with a long statement in the second session, is now well-known for her theories involving UFOs and 9-11 conspiracies. Ari Ben-Menashe, a source frequently mentioned by Honegger and a few others is a mysterious con man, leaving one uncertain how connected he is and when he’s conning you or telling you of actual dealings he was part of.

A 2011 profile of Ben-Menashe can be found here: “The unbelievable life of Ari Ben-Menashe” by Brian Hutchinson.

In 2014, he would register as a lobbyist in the U.S. for the breakaway Libyan province of Cyrenaica: “Notorious Canadian lobbyist signs $2M contract to promote Libya militants aiming to divide country”.

The wikipedia entry for the “Brokers of Death” arms case, involving Cyrus Hashemi, Samuel Evans, and Avraham Bar-Am is here, where charges were brought against the men for selling weapons to Iran, and then dropped when prosecutors were unable to prove that they weren’t doing so under the orders from the U.S. government: “Brokers of Death arms case”.

Contemporary articles on this strange case include “The Katzenjammer Falcon” by James Traub (New York magazine on Google Books) and “Cyrus Hashemi’s Shadow Legecy” by Christopher Byron (also New York magazine on Google Books).

The report on the unsavoury activities of the Ronald Reagan campaign, the report published by the committee headed up by Senator Donald Albosta and referred to here as the “Albosta report”, I have been unable to find anywhere on-line. The Joint Report of the Task Force to Investigate Allegations Concerning the Holding of American Hostages by Iran in 1980 (“October Surprise Task Force”), the report produced by the investigation which this conference hoped to inspire, is available for reading on-line by all and download by those affiliated with participating universities at the Hathitrust site.

Part of why I believe there is the possibility of truth in such astonishing allegations, despite the presence of several frauds surrounding it, is because I know that another attempt to interfere in crucial American diplomacy for the purpose of winning an election did take place and was successful. This previous attempt took place in 1968 and was Richard Nixon’s sabotage of the Paris Peace Talks. An excellent resource on this astonishing event can be found by the tenacious, diligent, and superb reporter Robert Parry: “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason'”.

My own work on this interference by Nixon and his campaign, making vivid the surrounding timeline of this betrayal and its aftermath, accompanied by the relevant audio files of Lyndon Johnson discussing this treason with aides and Nixon himself can be found here: “The Treason of Richard Nixon: From Possibility to Certainty Part One” and “The Treason of Richard Nixon: From Possibility to Certainty Part Two”.

What follows is the conference transcript:

MAURICE PAPRIN
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is with great interest and excitement, that we now open the formal part of today’s congressional colloquy on “An Election Held Hostage and the October Surprise”. What really happened? This conference, the latest in a series of more than sixty five Capitol Hill conferences held over the past twenty two years, under the auspices of the Fund For New Priorities [in America], promises to rival many of our previous landmark events in its importance, by bringing to the attention of the members of Congress, important issues and dangers to our constitutional democracy. As always, this conference has been brought to you under the sponsorship of members of Congress of both houses. The final list of the sponsors who have responded to the “Dear Colleague” letter which has been circulated in both houses, the letter which was written by senators Adams, Cranston, Harkin, and Wellstone…will be published at the end of this colloquy, with an edited transcript, after the conclusion, obviously, of the proceedings.

The conference is reminiscent of a conference the fund sponsored on March 7 and 8, of nineteen hundred and seventy three. That conference was chaired by Senator Sam Ervin, and assisted by his assistant Rufus Edmondson. And the conference then was entitled, “Congress Versus the Executive”. And at that time, we had seventy five members of the Senate, out of a hundred, who sponsored the conference, and we had over two hundred members of the House, who sponsored that conference. The experience of today’s conference is somewhat different, and is worth some consideration and discussion. But in any event, that conference actually led to the structuring and establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Watergate. And one of the side bits that I’m told frequently, at that conference, was Roger Mudd sitting behind the scenes, alongside me, as Ronald Berger talked at that conference, about impeachment. “It’s in the constitution, gentlemen,” and read the section on impeachment, and Roger Mudd turned to me, and behind scenes whispered, and said, pointing to the senators, who were arrayed on the panel, and the other congressmen, and the words were, “Do you think this bunch of pussycats will ever impeach that S.O.B.?” I said, “Roger,” whispering back, “March 7th is a historic day. It may not seem plausible today, but it may be in the very near future.” It took fourteen or fifteen months after that conference, for actual impeachment proceedings to begin to take place in the House judiciary committee. We have a different situation today, and we hope that we will examine these questions with as much probity, with as much care, as is required.

To serve today as moderator, we are most fortunate to have with us Dr. William Green Miller, currently president of the American Committee on U.S.-Soviet Relations. Dr. Miller happens to be uniquely qualified for this role from his academic background, he has a B.A. from Williams College at Oxford, with a specialization in Middle East Studies, and a distinguished career in consulting on Capitol Hill. Where he has served as staff director of the Select Committee on Intelligence from May 1976 to September 1981, and as staff director of the Select Committee to Study Government Operations from February 1975 to May 1976. The Church Committee, and a stint in foreign service also, from 1959 to 1967. But his qualifications for today’s conference highlight his role in November 1979, when Dr. Miller served as President Carter’s Special Emissary to Iran, in an effort to obtain the release of the hostages then held in Iran.

This mission, actually led to the release of the first group of twelve hostages from Iran. Most Americans do not even remember that today. And on this note, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Dr. Miller, and to set the tone for today’s conference, I would like to quote from the part of this New Yorker magazine’s “Talk of the Town”: “Perhaps the most disquieting legacy of Iran-Contra, in which extremely serious political crimes were exposed, and then left largely unexorcised, is a kind of pervasive moral lassitude. In which charges that the president ial election of 1980 was compromised with the help of the Iranian government evoke an almost bored reaction. It now appears that the charges wll be left to linger unanswered and uninvestigated because no one with any power, sees it to be in his personal interest to confront them.” That’s the end of the quote. We, as American citizens, cannot let this be. Dr. Miller.

DR. WILLIAM GREEN MILLER
This first panel, is aimed at establishing the facts that are known, about these circumstances that have been set before you. The charges, as we all recognize, are very serious, and the charges are of such gravity, that they deserve careful investigation. The people here on this first panel have been engaged in investigation from the outside. Three are journalists, and Gary Sick, on my right, is uniquely qualified to examine this question, having served in the NSC, during the time that these events took place. And as a Middle East scholar, has looked carefully into these issues, since that time. The panelists will discuss the facts as they have been able to discover them, in the course of their work. I think it will become clear that there are many things that remain to be answered. And I hope that one outcome of this panel will be to distinguish between what is known and what deserves to be known through proper investigation and either through Congress or whatever authorities are appropriate. Gary Sick has made it clear that he has not yet come to any conclusions. And it seems to me in the spirit of fairness that people who are here, are here to see what the facts are, and what is not known.

And I would like to begin, first with Gary Sick, who will lay the fact base, and then we’ll turn to Christopher Hitchens, who’s the Washington editor of Harper’s magazine, and columnist for The Nation. And then, Martin Kilian, who is the Washington correspondent for Der Spiegel, and finally, to Joel Bleifuss, columnist for In These Times. Gary, why don’t you open the session?

GARY SICK
Well, let me just give a very brief background about how I got to where I am at this point, and sortof where I think we are, at least factually, if possible. I was perhaps one of the most reluctant people in this whole story. I was in the White House when the hostages were released. At that time, there immediately began to be rumors that something had happened, that there was some kind of a deal that was struck…I didn’t think that had happened, I didn’t believe you needed to explain the facts that way, that they could be adequately explained by Iranian internal politics and other events. And, later I wrote a book on the subject, and never even mentioned these rumors or charges. I was approached in the 1988 election when this subject began to emerge very strongly by a number of people asking me to comment on the thing, “Did I think these charges were true?” I recognized at the time that there were certainly some new allegations that were coming up, some new evidence that had to be taken account of, but basically I wasn’t prepared to say that I thought the charges were true. And, curiously enough, even after the 1988 election and all this information had come out, I submitted a book proposal to the Twentieth Century Fund, to write a book about the Reagan administration and Iran, and didn’t even mention this as a possibility to be covered in the book. However, as I started working on that book, I had felt I had to start at the beginning. And I felt that I had to resolve those issues in my own mind once and for all, because everything else that happened between the Reagan administration and Iran, was colored, if this did happen, it made a tremendous difference in the way you analyzed what came later. So, I began working on that as I was working on a number of other issues at the time.

As time went on, and certainly not just because of my own work, but certainly Marin Kilian was crucial in this…he had done far more work than I had and kept filling me in on new information as it went along, and in fact, is probably more than anyone else responsible for why I’m here. He may not like that, but that is a fact, nonetheless. But, gradually as I worked on the issue, I became more and more convinced that something happened. I was building up a detailed chronological base, and things kept falling into a pattern, that I simply couldn’t ignore. And then I began doing interviews myself, and gradually, moved from the side of those who dismissed the idea entirely to what, in my view now, and I say this in all seriousness, there really is no doubt at all in my mind, that there were meetings between the Republican campaign and the Iranians, in the course of the 1980 elections, to discuss the question of the hostages. That, to me, is no longer seriously in doubt. The question is, exactly how did it happen, and, can this fact ever be proved? And I’m not sure we’ll ever have full answers to either of those questions.

Let me outline for you, from my own perspective, based on my own research, what I think happened, and the logic of what happened, and then we can go on from there. I do believe that the people in the Reagan campaign, or the Republican campaign, really, because at the beginning of this thing, in early 1980, there were several Republican campaigns going on. You’ll recall that Mr. Bush was running against Mr. Reagan at that time, and they each had their own separate campaign staff, and I think both of them were in fact interested in this issue at the time. But there was a very deep abiding concern on the part of the Republican campaigns, that the hostage issue would be exploited by President Carter, at a key moment in the election, and upset their campaign plans. Everything else was going their way. The numbers were on their side, in terms of the economy, President Carter was viewed as badly wounded by not only the hostage issue, but a lot of other things that were going on, and I think the Republicans felt, with some justification, that it was their election. That this was going to be their time. And if you’re the campaign manager, you have to think, what do I have to worry about? What do I have to protect myself from? And I think they looked around, and one of the things that struck them, that they did need to protect themselves about, was the hostage issue. The fact that, perhaps the hostages would be released at the last second, or at a key moment, and there would be such a wave of emotional response from the American people, that it would overcome the view of Carter as not qualified, or as someone they weren’t going to vote for, and change their mind.

That, it seems to me, was the essential underlying concern that went on. From the information that I’ve been given, by sources who in fact said they were there when these things happened, Mr. Casey, who became the campaign manager for Mr. Reagan in February of 1980, within a month or two after that, probably within a month, approached some individuals, who were plugged into the Iranian circuit, and who were also, as it turns out, were providing information to the U.S. government. These were men who had been identified by the U.S. government as sources with good access into Iran, and they were providing information to us. Us, being the U.S. government at that time, about what was going on. Mr. Casey got in touch with them, and not to put too fine a point on it, they became double agents. They were working on one hand for the U.S. government, and on the other hand, they were providing information to the people in the Republican campaign. I have this from the fellow who did it. And he – his brother is dead – but he says, that’s his words, “We became double agents.” Working for both sides. That led to a major breakthrough in July of 1980. After the Republican convention, and after Mr. Reagan was nominated, Mr. Casey, I believe Mr. Casey went to Madrid, where he met, through the good offices of these gentlemen he had met earlier, he met with Mr. [Mehdi] Karroubi, who was, at that time, a member of the intimate inner circle of Khomeini, and at that meeting, they talked about the possibility of doing, some kind of an agreement, about the hostages.

Mr. Karroubi went back to Tehran, checked back with, presumably Khomeini, and about ten days later, came back, they had a second meeting, and agreed that in their view, the Iranians would hold the hostages, and make a gift of them, as Mr. Casey put it, according to this source, make a gift of the hostages, to the incoming Reagan administration. In return, for promises of political support, military equipment, unfreezing American assets, and arms. And the arms supply was to begin fairly soon, and to go on after they came into office. That was the nature of the deal, as I understand it, that was done at that time…and the, a number of things happened in the period immediately after that. One, the Iranians being good bargainers, instead of just taking the deal, came to the Carter administration and opened negotiations with us, I think, now, in retrospect, to see if we had something better to offer. Then what they’d been offered from the Republican side. We, of course, didn’t know another offer was already on the table. So, we were negotiating on the basis that we thought we were only negotiating with the Iranians, in fact there may have been a third party associated with the negotiations. We bargained rather hard, actually. And in retrospect, I must say, that it makes us look a little bit naive. We honestly didn’t want to get into a position of providing arms for hostages, as foolish as that may sound these days. We thought that was not the way it should be done, and so, we bargained very hard. They asked us for arms, we held back, we delayed, we tried to give them only partial information, we tried to get out of getting into a position of trading U.S. arms for Iranian hostages.

In the end, just before the election, President Carter agreed that we would return all of the military equipment that Iran had bought and paid for, that was in the United States, that we would return that. But that pledge was not made till very late in October; in the meantime we had been bargaining. If indeed they had had a somewhat different offer from the other side, our offer probably didn’t look very good. In any event, the negotiations went on with the Carter administration, there was at the same time a second rescue mission that was coming to fruition, that had been planned by the Carter administration, at that point there was no intention of using it, we were involved in negotiations with Iran, but the hostage rescue mission was there in case it was needed. I think the Republicans got very worried about that, and that the second rescue mission was going to be used, in late October, to reverse the situation if nothing else happened. There were a number of reasons why the Republicans had reason to begin to get nervous again, although the deal had been done. And my understanding is, that in mid-October, they had another meeting, in Paris, which was attended by Republicans, again Mr. Casey, an Iranian group and a group of Israelis, who were present, to review the deal as it stood at that time, and to make sure that things were as they were supposed to be as they came up to the final days of the election. This was about two weeks before the election.

Immediately after those meetings, which in my view took place about the 15th to the 20th of October, 1980…immediately after that, a whole series of things began to happen very suddenly. Some of the hostages were moved to different locations, as if they were suddenly afraid that a rescue mission was going to happen. There was a secret shipment of military equipment from Israel to Iran, which the Carter administration in fact learned about, and complained to Israel that they were shipping arms to Iran, and they promised not to do it again, but it came within forty eight hours after those meetings were concluded in Paris. There were a whole series of other things that happened. The Majlis, the Iranian parliament, that was charged with responsibility for dealing with the hostage issue, went into a complete stall at that point, and everything came to a halt. Suddenly, nothing could get done with regard to that, and there were a number of other things. Anyway, there was a very active period in those, really seventy two hours, after what I think were the completion of the meetings in Paris. The rest of the story you know quite well, the hostages were not released before the election, Ronald Reagan won the election, the hostages were held, detailed negotiations went on with the Carter administration that were getting no place until the fifteenth of January, 1981…at that point, the Iranians completely reversed themselves, in effect, suddenly after having bargained very, very hard with us, for months, from November to January, the Iranians suddenly reversed themselves totally, and for all practical purposes, paid us to take the hostages back. I mean, that isn’t putting too strong a point on it, that Iran suddenly agreed to bring current all of its loans, which was a terribly costly thing for Iran to do, to resolve the whole banking issue, and there were some technical aspects, but suffice it to say, Iran completely reversed itself and as you all know, on the 20th of January, we had completed all the negotiations for the release of the hostages at eight o’clock in the morning, and all of the information was in Iran’s hands, and they sat and waited until five minutes after Mr. Reagan had taken the oath of office, and at which point they announced that they had agreed to the terms that had been worked out as of eight o’clock that morning, and the hostages were released within half an hour of thereafter. As I say, this did arouse some suspicions at the time, but you could understand it as the Iranians sortof taking one last twist of the knife to Jimmy Carter, and they were quite capable of doing something like that on their own.

What we didn’t know at the time, and I haven’t learned till much later, is that there was a substantial flow of military equipment that began almost immeidately. And it’s probably not too much of an exaggeration to say that as the plane with the hostages took off from Tehran and headed to freedom, other planes were loaded and taking off from Israel going the other way with military equipment. The military equipment continued to flow for some years after that time, from Israel, and always with the knowledge of the U.S. government. This is not a supposition, this is something that high officials in the Israeli government have themselves said publicly, and the people in the U.S. government at the time, that have been interviewed on ths subject…never say that this didn’t happen. They simply say, It wasn’t me, who wasn’t responsible for the reports about these arms that were being sent from Israel to Iran. And that’s basically the structure of the story. What don’t we know about this? We don’t know a lot of things. And, my suspicion is that a lot of things are not going to be known. I regard this as a professional intelligence operation, a covert action, that was done certainly with the assitance and participation of professionals. They didn’t, I’m sure, go around leaving stray memos in their wake, I suspect there were no photographs taken of Mr. Casey sitting with Mr. Karroubi in a hotel room in the Ritz Hotel in Madrid. And so forth. I mean, so if you’re looking for a smoking gun, if that is what it takes, a transcript or a tape of the meeting, of Mr. Casey talking to Mr. Karroubi, you know, I suspect that we’re not going to find that smoking gun. There are many things, however, that we could learn that simply have not been available to individuals who have been working on this story, on their own, and with really very limited resources. Some of those things that we could learn, certainly there are…I would like very much, for instance, to simply look at the campaign records. Up until now, all of our efforts to look at the Republican campaign records have met a stone wall from Mr. Meese, who is responsible for the campaign records, and he has refused to let anybody have a peek at anything in those campaign records, which are out in California now. So that would be an interesting place to start.

I would like very much to look at Mr. Casey’s diaries, travel records and the like, I think we might learn a great deal. And obviously, if this isn’t true, if it’s…that’s where we’re going to find out it isn’t true. We need to have hard documentary evidence that says either Mr. Casey was missing on those days, or he did travel on those days, or he didn’t. And if he didn’t, let’s find out about it. I think that…but we have to look at the records. A simple denial – “I think he was around all that week” – is not really enough to take care of the issue. It’s more serious than that. There are flight records, we know the tail numbers of some of the aircraft that were involved in these operations. I would like very much to have access to FAA records that would identify those. I would like to have passports subpoenaed, of certain individuals to see what the stamps are on certain dates of travel. There are tapes that were made of Mr. Hashemi, Cyrus Hashemi, who was working as I say, in fact as a double agent, his office was bugged during a good part of that period. That is now known for sure, he was indicted later on the basis of those tapes. Where are the tapes? I would love to know what Mr. Hashemi was saying in his office and on his telephone during that period of October 1980. We’ve not been able to get our hands on those tapes. There are a number of places one could look. Is that going to solve all of our problems or answer all of our questions? Probably not.

But we’re never going to be able to answer even the basic questions until we look at the material that is presumably available and can only be gotten through a subpoena. So, I will end my lengthy opening statement.

MILLER
Thank you, Gary. [applause] Christopher Hitchens, as a journalist could you…add to the structure of the fact situation, and really address the question from the point of view of a journalist of what kinds of information you think to be important to know, for the public to know.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
There’s a terrible character in a Moliere play called Monsieur Jordan who’s appalled later to discover late in life that he’s been speaking prose his entire career. I find I’ve been writing about the October Surprise often without knowing it. Since 1984, when I got interested in the belated discovery that there had indeed been an attempt to destabilize President Carter’s re-election effort, and that one of the fruits of that destabilization was the presence in the Republican camp of his presidential papers. In other words, we learned in 1984 that in rehearsing for his debate for President Carter, Governor Reagan rehearsed in the same way as President Carter did. That’s to say by reading President Carter’s briefing book. In other words, there’s prima facie evidence for some skullduggery. The word used for the practice by David Stockman at the time was “filching”. Other, more evasive words were used by alternatively amnesiac Mssrs. Casey and Baker, who said they had got the book from the other one.

A very unsatisfactory inquiry was set up by Congress, without subpoena power, without public hearings. Speaker O’Neill was so anxious on behalf of the Democratic Party that the American electorate forget the name “Jimmy Carter”, that he helped to ensure that the inquiry went nowhere. But a professor at an American university here that I became friendly with at the time, John Bansoft, demanded that there be a Special Prosecutor, and took the matter to Judge Harold Green, of this jurisdiction. I decided to quote [for] you what Judge Green said, in replying to the hysterical campaign mounted against the proposal for an investigation of Debategate, by the then Attorney General. Judge Greene accused the Attorney General of utterly misunderstanding the Ethics in Government Act, and criticized the notion, established in prima facie evidence in the investigation of Debategate, and I quote from the judge, “that there had been an information gathering apparatus, employed by a presidential campaign which uses former agents of the FBI and the CIA.” That was the judge in upholding the subsequently defeated motion for a Special Prosecutor. Now, I just kept my files on the Debategate matter, which was successfully thwarted and derailed as an investigation, and then read them again once I was able to read the Iran-Contra testimony. In other words, I read the two of them against one another. It’s a course of action I recommend to people who are interested in this hypothesis, because it makes the following supposition thinkable: all the evidence found by the Albosta Committee, that investigated the theft of President Carter’s papers, showed that the Republicans were principally worried about the President’s diplomacy in relation to Iran. That they’d set up under the chairmanship of Ed Meese and Bill Casey, what they themselves termed an October Surprise Committee. That they’d hired some acting, some former, and some serving, agents of the Central Intelligence Agency and other military organizations, to monitor airports, airfields, other centers, to see what movement there might be in relation to Iran. And to report back. That they had established moles, somewhere, we still don’t know where, within President Carter’s national security apparatus.

Then…that’s all on the record from the first thwarted inquiry. From the second derailed inquiry, the Iran-Contra inquiry, we learned there was another unsolved matter which was, when did this Iran-Contra connection begin? In other words, when did the Iranian bit begin? In the hysterically deceitful press conference that he gave in November of 1986, Attorney General Meese sent everyone haring down the opposite road, the road that led towards Nicaragua, and towards the future. And blocked any attempt to ask the question, when did your covert military relationship with Iran begin? Because if that question was to be asked…if, for example, it was to be established that weapons were going to Iran in 1981, it couldn’t very well be argued that they were going to trade for hostages. Because there were no hostages in ’81, in Tehran, and in ’81, there weren’t any yet in Beirut. Nor, at that stage, was it even argued by the Republicans that there were any moderates to deal with in Tehran. In other words, the usual alibis wouldn’t do. So, this question, in other words, could not be asked. And it was intriguing and sometimes entertaining to see the lengths to which that question was avoided. As I say, put that question together with the evidence of funny business in the 1980 campaign, that was already on the record, and you had a working hypothesis. Which I first printed in 1987.

Now, when people want to change the subject in this country, especially if they want to discredit a witness, or a hypothesis, the easy recourse is to the words “conspiracy theory”, about which I want to say a little. Unless you want a total moral and intellectual relativist, who believes that all facts have the same weight, and convey the same values, life is impossible without theory. There must be, in other words, the mind must attempt to explain arrangements of fact. The usual convenience term used here is “hypothesis”. If my hypothesis was true, that there was a thread linking the Debategate inquiry to the Iran-Contra inquiry, and that it would have taken the form of a bargain, made covertly, between the Reagan campaign and the Ayatollah…if it were true, I’d need to find evidence in two places. There’s no such evidence at the time. But the two places I’d need to find it, would be in the fall of 1980, and in the spring of 1981. I’d have to find evidence that there had been meetings between Reagan campaign people and envoys of the Ayatollah, in the fall of 1980. And I’d have to find evidence that there’d been arms traffic between the United States and Iran in early ’81. Didn’t have any such evidence at the time, so I confined myself to saying that this was a hypothesis. It’s in precisely those two places that all the evidence has since surfaced. Very largely due to the efforts of Martin Kilian and Gary Sick. But many others too. And I think it warrants one in saying, not that there is insufficient evidence, but that there is appallingly too much evidence. That this sort of skullduggery took place. I myself am very impressed by the quantity and the quality of the evidence. Since I’m speaking in a personal capacity, I can drop the polite conditional tone that’s been adopted since our proceedings began this morning and say, I certainly have no doubt whatever, of what happened in that case, and I am impressed as Gary Sick is in another connection, by the way all evidence that turns up, all evidence always points in the same direction.

In other words, if there is a conspiracy, the evidence is taking part in it. The facts are conspiring. And I’m certainly impressed when facts conspire, as they do in this case. Now, I mustn’t overrun my time, but I thought one could summarize by saying what we knew, and what we speculated. Was there an attempt to destabilize the Democrat re-election campaign in 1980? Yes there was. That can be stated beyond doubt. Was it the Iran hostage crisis that provided the weak link for that destabilization? The answer to that is yes. Was that fact known consciously by the Republican campaign operatives? Yes, it was. Whatever might have been the outcome of the 1980 election, we know from their internal discussions that they believed that only a hostage release could save President Carter from defeat. In other words, the state of mind, the Mens Rea, is important. Was there undisclosed contact between Reagan envoys and Iranian envoys in that period, the answer is undoubtedly yes. Did both sides after 1981 behave as if they had made a secret understanding of arms for hostages, except in reverse? Yes. The answer is that they did so behave as if they’d come to a secret understanding. Now, was there sabotage of the hostage rescue mission or missions? I would say, we are not certain. Did Reagan know? A question people can’t even bring themselves to ask. Did the president know? You notice people think, “Oh, let’s not go into that.” My answer is, of course it’s impossible to prove cognition with Reagan, that’s already been demonstrated. I have the feeling that it probably was done without his knowledge or consent, and I also have the feeling that the later theory, that untruthfully stated, that he had not been told and did not know, and which he had been and did, of the Iran-Contra diversion, was probably evolved as the cover story in case they were caught in 1980. I think there are elements of that cover story were used for a later scandal with only partial success.

Was the current president of the United States and leader of the free world in any way directly or personally involved? We can’t be clear about that, we can be clear that some of his subordinates in the world in which he was best qualified, that is to say, the world of secret intelligence and covert operations were closely concerned, and we do have an unbroken record of lying by the president when he is asked about the meetings he has attended where either arms or hostages are discussed. If you look up Theodore Draper’s history of Iran-Contra, I forget the exact page numbers, but there are three pages which handily summarize and condense the number of occasions on which the president has lied flat out about his participation in meetings where an unconstitutional arms for hostage trafficking was discussed. In other words, a presidential denial of the sort that we recently had from George Bush carries for this purpose, for the purpose of any intellectually serious investigation, no weight at all. As Gary Sick says, and I’ll close on this point and hand it over to Martin, all the fresh evidence does have the uncanny faculty of fitting the hypothesis that I and some others have been advancing since 1987 and if it were true, it would explain why it is that this Republic occasionally, rather more often than is comfortable, needs to convene its Congress into special sessions in order to find out sometimes what the government is doing, and sometimes who the government is. If we are to be relieved of this distressing necessity in the future, it would be as well that we acted with more respect to the recent past. Thank you. [applause]

MILLER
Martin Kilian.

MARTIN KILIAN
I want to keep my remarks very short, so you people have enough time for questioning. And I think what I might do, is just give a short rundown on how this started, and where it is, and the promises and the problems of it, because there certainly are problems with it. I started working this two and a half years ago, and after a while it appeared to me probably the problem of getting this story home in the U.S. were almost overwhelming. So, we decided, by we I mean the magazine [Der Spiegel], because I have the backing of my editors for that, we decided to go around in Europe a little bit. And in the fall of 1988, early December ’88, I was about to throw the towel in. Because I felt that the information we had at the time, people like Richard Brenneke and others, there might be something to it, but it wasn’t good enough. There were also glaring contradictions, there were people who obviously lied to us, and so it didn’t amount to much. And I think at this point I probably would have given up if it hadn’t been several trips to Europe…lo and behold, in Europe we found several people who gave us rather detailed descriptions of what had happened in the fall of 1980. The problem with them was, that they were not willing to go on the record. One of them, as a matter of fact, was severely threatened, and at least as he told us, and he refused to talk with us anymore.

But, talking to an intelligence official, a former intelligence official in France, talking to a German arms dealer who was very, very intimately connected to the Iranian leadership, I came to the conclusion that either something indeed had happened in the fall of 1980, or it was a conspiracy of lying. Some kind of disinformation campaign to besmirch or smear American officials who had been in the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980. Now, even after two and a half years, I can’t rule out that a lot of what people have been telling me and a lot of other people is not true, but if you take all what we have, I think you have to be really, really paranoid to believe that there are witnesses and informants on three continents popping up over two and a half years, that all of them are supposed to be lying or all of them are disinforming.

Let’s get into the hard facts. The facts we have, and I want to expand on one thing which neither Gary nor Chris have mentioned, we do know about the meeting on October 2nd, 1980, between Mr. Allen and Mr. [Lawrence] Silberman and Mr. McFarlane. I believe Richard Allen, that he wasn’t going there to do any monkey play, but: I think it would be very important to know why Mr. McFarlane importuned Mr. Allen to come to this meeting; I would like to know why a then Senate Arms Committee staffer brought an Iranian to a meeting of two high ranking Reagan campaign officials and I would like to know what they really talked about. Perhaps Mr. McFarlane could clear this up. And it’s up to him perhaps to answer that.

The second hard fact we have is that yes, there was an intelligence operation against Jimmy Carter. There’s no doubt about it, we have the Albosta Committee report. The third hard fact are the weapons. And I think it’s not just weapons from Israel. I do think you see a pattern of private or semi-private arms dealers in Europe, in 1981 and following, shipping arms to Iran. It is very possible that even those operations were connected to something which might have happened in the fall of 1980. The other thing is, we went to a former high ranking German official, who told us that starting in 1981, stuff out of NATO’s stores was shipped out of area. The Germans had to be notified of this; as treaties require, but they did not want to know what happened to the stuff. We were talking big numbers of material. And have a pick: it was either shipped to Angola, Afghanistan, or Iran, or all three of them. The fourth fact, and that is the most interesting one, and nobody has talked about that…in late July, 1980, Richard Nixon was in London. And the London Sunday Telegraph reported that Mr. Nixon at that time tried to get British ex-commandos to help him free the hostages in Tehran. Now, when the Sunday Telegraph, in a very nice story, approached the Nixon people about this, Nixon’s spokesperson first said, “We neither confirm nor deny it.” Later, they denied it. I think they’re not telling us the truth. I think Mr. Nixon was there; I think he talked about the hostages with British officials, and I think it should be asked by the Congressional panel if it ever comes to pass, what the ex-president was doing there.

One more point, about George Bush. I never really thought George Bush was in Europe. I think it’s a non-starter. I might be wrong. But: the question is not whether the President was in 1980 in Paris. The question is whether people in the Reagan-Bush campaign met in Paris, Madrid, Zurich, Rowley, Frankfurt, with Iranians. And I hope that we will have more in the next six to eight months. I think we have to be very patient. And I am prepared, I am still prepared at this late date, that the whole thing is nothing but a huge disinformation campaign, but it would be hard, I would be very hard pressed to believe that. Thank you.

MILLER
Joel Bleifuss, please.

BLEIFUSS
In 1980, private citizens connected with the Reagan Bush campaign made a deal with representatives of the Ayatollah Khomeini to delay the release of fifty two American hostages held in Iran until after the election, in order to insure that Carter would not win the election with a last minute release of the hostages. In return, the campaign guaranteed the delivery of weapons and spare parts that Iran desperately needed for its war against Iraq. For four years I’ve been writing about this, using the adjective “alleged” to preface the word “deal”. But let’s not kid ourselves, I firmly believe it happened. Read through the nine hundred and eighty six page collection of documents and news clippings that David Marx has compiled you that is at the front door. Or read the two thousand four hundred and thirteen Albosta report on the theft of President Carter’s briefing books prepared by the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service. Those two thousand four hundred and thirteen pages provide some details of an intelligence operation that entailed, in addition to the theft of President Carter’s briefing books, the creation of two October Surprise groups within the campaign. One of those groups, headed by William Casey, included Richard Wirthlin, Pete Daley, and Ed McGarrick. The other, which was headed by Richard Allen, included Fred Eckel, John Layman, and Admiral Thomas Moorer. On page fifty seven of the report, the Committee describes how it was informed that, I quote, “highly placed member of the U.S. intelligence committee [community], with links to the Reagan-Bush committee, leaked to the press about a deal being negotiated in October 1980, between Carter and Iranian president, Bani-Sadr, that would have traded hostages for spare parts.” At least in part. The report goes on to say, that the committee looked into this allegation, but decided not to publish the results of that inquiry because it could not discover the identity of this highly placed member of the U.S. intelligence committee.

In light of the current charges, perhaps staff reports from the Albosta investigation should be resurrected. And on a speculative note, perhaps the relevant congressional committees should now probe the actions during 1980 of two highly placed members in the U.S. intelligence committee who worked in the Carter White House, and went on to see their careers prosper in the Reagan and then Bush administrations. Robert Gates, who in 1980 was the top aide to CIA director Stansfield Turner, and Donald Gregg, who is the CIA liaison to the National Security Council. The affidavits in volume two of the Albosta report are also of interest. There you will find an outbreak of collective memory loss similar to that which plagued those who brought this country Watergate and Iran-Contra, from Richard Allen to Margaret Tutwiler, to George Will, who you will remember prepped Reagan for his October 28th debate with Carter, no one has been able to recall how the Carter debriefing books found their way out of the White House, and into the hands of public citizen Ronald Reagan. The question now before Congress, is whether in addition to stealing Carter’s briefing notebooks, this cabal of would-be presidents and their friends stole the 1980 election.

A good number of people claim knowledge of a series of October meetings in Paris, where details of the deal were worked out. Among those who are alleged to have been at that meeting are William Casey, George Bush, and Donald Gregg, at the time, a U.S. official, a man who would later express interest in re-supplying the copters. These meetings are alleged to have taken place two weeks before what was a very close election. So, one would expect the campaign records would be able to explain where campaign manager Casey and vice presidential candidate George Bush’s days in question. The Bush Administration tried to explain just that last year when the Justice Department charged Portland arms dealer Richard Brenneke with making false declarations in court. In the fall of 1988, Brenneke had testified before a federal judge that he was present at a Paris meeting where details of the deal were being hammered out. The U.S. attorney prosecuting Brenneke last year sought to prove Brenneke was lying, providing alibis for Casey, Gregg, and Bush. But the government failed to come up with satisfactory alibis for all three and in the end, the jury unanimously found Brenneke not guilty. Gregg, in fact, left his ambassador’s residence in Seoul, South Korea, and went to Portland as a government witness. Gregg told the court that he was on Bethany Beach, Delaware, and offered as proof photos of him and his family basking in the sun. The problem for Gregg is that according to U.S. Weather Service satellite photos, it was cloudy that weekend.

As for Bush’s alibi, you can take your pick. The Paris meetings are said to have taken place on October 18th and 19th, 1980, perhaps October 20th. During that weekend, two weeks before what was a very close election, candidate Bush disappeared from public view for twenty hours. Enough time to jet to Paris, attend a meeting, and jet back. Just hypothetically, where was George? Bush administration has been working overtime to provide an alibi, but these overeager efforts apparently have not been co-ordinated. In the fall of 1988, Republican presidential campaign workers explained that Bush spent these unaccounted hours at the Chevy Chase country club on private business. That story was supported by a heavily redacted Secret Service report that said that Bush was at the club with unknown parties. In May, 1990, at the Brenneke trial, where this report again surfaced, the Justice Department offered two Secret Service agents as witnesses to explain Bush’s whereabouts, with unconvincing lackluster testimony, the two had trouble making their case. On October 22nd, 1991, a few days after Gary Sick’s piece appeared in the New York Times, and Robert Parry’s Frontline documentary aired on PBS, Vice President Quayle was asked on Detroit’s ABC affiliate where Bush was that weekend in October. Quayle said he didn’t know, but that he promised to get back to the station with an answer. The next day, the Vice President’s office faxed a Bush itinerary which stated that on Sunday October 19th, Bush spent all day at home at Washington without a Secret Service escort. On May 8, the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Kovitz provided a third Bush itinerary for his lost weekend. Kovitz wrote, “Sunday, Washington D.C. Lunch with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and Mrs. Stewart. This alibi originates with the Secret Service which several months ago provided that information to the Government Accounting Office. Apparently, brunching with the Supreme Court Justice looks more presidential than an overnight visit to a Washington country club with private parties unknown.

Further, the brunch with the Stewarts cannot be confirmed; the Judge is dead and his wife suffers chronic memory loss. Also, on May 8, Jerry Sepper weighed in with a fourth alibi: he reported Bush was at home with the Secret Service escort, unlike the previous Quayle alibi which said the Secret Service wasn’t present. Pepper wrote, quote: “The Secret Service says he awoke at about six thirty Sunday, had lunch at his Washington home, and spent the day there preparing a speech for the Zionist Organization of America in Washington.” The three other brief points to be considered that have been brought up before: something happened between October 11 and October 22 which caused Iran in its on-going negotiations with the Carter administration to drop the demand that would have linked the release of hostages to the guarantee that the U.S. would supply Iran with spare parts that it desperately needed for its war with Iraq. The hostages, as it has been said, were released moments after Reagan was sworn in. And U.S. arms started flowing into Iran immediately thereafter.

Did this deal take place? The allegations should at least be investigated with the same thoroughness and, I would say, more that was given the Reagan-Bush campaign’s theft of the Carter briefing books. I believe these allegations raise a number of serious questions, and I’ll mention two. There is a question as to how this 1980 arms for hostages deal is affecting the Middle East peace process. It is alleged that Israel was the middleman in the arms deal. Is Israel using its knowledge now of this affair to influence the Bush administration’s negotiations? Intelligence Newsletter of Paris reports that when Israeli Prime Minister Shamir was in Washington last year, he presented Bush with two files, one of which contained information on what George [Bush] knew and when he knew it. But that concern is perhaps a political one. There is a second, and I think, broader philosophical question about what- and that involves what is the job of Congress? To borrow half a metaphor from Virginia Woolf, does the U.S. Capitol represent the cranium of a constitutional democracy? Or, merely an exalted lid that is keeping some pretty nasty stuff from spilling into the public view? [applause]

MILLER
We have about twenty minutes for questions from the floor. And I’m sure the panelists would be happy to address any issues here.

PAPRIN
Before you do that, we’re joined by Senator Wellstone, one of the initiating sponsors. Senator Wellstone has an interest in this as one of the initiating sponsors, he’s been here for a few minutes, do you have anything you wanted to say to our assembled gathering before you have to leave, Senator Wellstone?

PAUL WELLSTONE
I think I’ll just let the discussion go on, I’ve just been very interested in what’s been said, and I do find myself in very strong agreement with the sentiment that’s been expressed here, which is there should indeed be hearings and a real investigation. It’s such an important question. You don’t need to pre-judge the answer, but it’s an important question, that goes to the very heart of the kind of questions that should be researched. So, I’m here as a supporter of this gathering today. [applause]

MILLER
Would you identify yourselves when you ask questions.

QUESTIONER
…staff of the Foreign Relations Committee. I wonder if Gary Sick would be willing to describe the perspective from inside the White House…in, I guess it was September or October of 1980, when it appeared that there was going to be a release of the hostages. President Carter delivered an early morning press statement and then apparently it happened thereafter.

SICK
The date I think…the question as I understand it is, an event that took place in the White House at a point when President Carter made an early morning announcement, that certain things were going to happen, and then they didn’t happen. You said September, in fact, I believe the date you’re referring to is April 1st, 1980, that was before the rescue mission…but it was during the primaries. In fact, it was the morning of the Wisconsin primary, and this event has lived on in the mythology of the time. In fact, William Casey cited that, the events as he understood them of April 1st, 1980, as one of the reasons why he was convinced Carter would misuse the hostage issue to his own benefit. And what happened on that morning, is that President Carter had given the Iranians a deadline. He said that they were supposed to move the hostages into the care of the government, away from the hostage takers, away from the students, by the end of March. That date ran out. And Carter was prepared on the end, the day before, to make a statement. He was prevailed upon, and I was in that meeting, especially by Secretary Vance, to please hold off, because we had information that Boni-Sadr was going to make a speech the next day in which he would in fact announce that the government was going to take custody of the hostages. Carter hesitated, because he had put things off many other times, and he was always being accused of wishy-washy behavior, and he finally said, “Alright. I’ll see you here in the morning at five o’clock. At the Oval Office, and we’ll see.” What he had to say. Five o’clock in the morning is what, uh, noon or thereabouts in Tehran. Noon to one o’clock. We all re-assembled at five o’clock in the morning in the Oval Office, on the morning of April 1st…Bani-Sadr’s speech was, in fact, coming in, in bits and pieces, from the FBIS that was transmitting, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, that was translating the speech, and in that, Bani-Sadr, in fact, did say the words that he said he was going to say, that is, that if the United States fulfilled certain responsibilities, the hostages would, in fact, be moved to the custody of the government.

Carter then, according to the rules of the game, was supposed to reply in some form to say, “OK, we’ve got a deal.” Carter put out a statement that morning, which was carefully worded, which said that he saw this as a positive sign, a move forward, and certainly welcomed the idea of the hostages being moved into the care of the government and away from the others, and that the United States would take positive note of this…something to that effect. That was, of course, on the morning of the Wisconsin primary. And, Carter won the Wisconsin primary handily. And, part of, as I say, what I consider as someone who was at the meeting, part of the mythology is, that this whole thing was cooked up by Carter to use the hostages to win the Wisconsin primary. That this was all done on that basis. That was not my impression, looking at it from the White House point of view, but in many cases, your impression from the inside was less important than the impression from the outside, and certainly the media, I think 100%, felt that this was manipulation of the hostage issue for political benefit and that has lived on, in the time. But that’s my recollection of what it looked like from the inside.

SAME QUESTIONER
…there’s a relationship between that, what transpired subsequent, which was they were not transferred to the government, and the other negotiations that were going on with the Republican campaign.

SICK
I don’t think so. My impression is that Khomeini, in effect, vetoed subsequently the speech that Bani-Sadr had made. Bani-Sadr had made this promise, within a few days Khomeini publicly vetoed that, said that was not what was going to happen, and the hostages were not turned over in fact to the care of the government, and that led to Carter’s decision to launch the rescue mission. And that decision was taken within a week after that April 1st announcement, which was then vetoed, turned around, and that’s when Carter decided to go with the rescue mission. Which took place on the 24th. I don’t think it had anything to do with what was going on in the Republican campaign at that time. Except, as I say, it shaped attitudes for Mr. Casey, certainly. And he’s on record as saying that this was a deciding moment for him, in seeing how Carter would abuse the system and manipulate the system for his own political benefit.

MILLER
Question here.

QUESTIONER #2
Given the rivalry, the continued rivalry between radicals and pragmatists in Tehran, why, in your opinion, have we not heard more from the Iranian side of this? Other than Mr. Karroubi.

SICK
The question is, in view of the competition between rival factions in Tehran, why haven’t we heard more about it from the Iranian side. I can’t go into elaborate detail in this case, but I do believe, in fact, that the reason we’re hearing about Madrid, which after all was something we didn’t know about…eight months ago, none of us really knew about any meetings in Madrid. We had some inklings that there had been meetings elsewhere, but it was very fuzzy and very vague. And from my point of view, the new information about those meetings, which put a beginning on the story in effect, and a sort of structure for the thing, wasn’t a last second business that was cobbled together in October just before the elections, but in fact, there was a beginning to this story, and there was a certain logic and structure to it, was one of the things that made me change my mind about this whole issue, that I finally reluctantly said, you know, this…the reason why that information suddenly became available, in my view, is because of rivalries in Tehran. Where people who had been told to keep their mouth shut, previously, were suddenly let to be known that they could talk about this issue to some degree. And I really genuinely believe that that’s why we got the information on the Madrid meeting. So in that sense, they have. Otherwise, there has been dead silence. They have not published the story, in the Iranian papers…you gotta remember, this is dynamite in Iran also. Because it indicates that certain factions who may be at each other’s throats now, but who were united at that time, were colluding with the United States and Israel, at a time of high ideological fervor. And while the hostages were being held. That is something they have to be very very careful about. Talking about publicly in Iran. I think what we’ve seen is, the Iranians have allowed other people to speak on their behalf. And that that’s what we’re getting in terms of these sources.

MILLER
Question here.

QUESTIONER #3
…for The Independent. Two questions for Gary Sick. In your famous op-ed piece, you said that you hadn’t made your mind up about whether President Bush was there. I wondered if your mind had changed in either direction. And secondly, as to the overall October Surprise theory, what piece of evidence would, do you think now needs to come out in public, which would either prove or disprove, and how would that happen? Who’d be in a position to release that?

SICK
Let me be very brief. I have not changed my mind, I’m exactly where I was before, and I think Joel Bleifuss did an excellent job of laying out, it’s not so much that I believe George Bush was in Paris, I mean I would be prepared to believe in a moment he wasn’t, it doesn’t make any sense. It would be a stupid thing for him to do, it would be extremely risky. What keeps me from coming to that conclusion is the fact that Bush’s story keeps changing all the time. This should be the easiest thing in the world to prove. All you have to do is pull out the Secret Service records and say, here’s where he was, that’s it, let the people on the team be interviewed, that’s the end of the game. That’s the end of the story. They’ve never done that. And I simply can’t understand why. If they really want to lay this to rest, they haven’t done it. Where are the documents, where are the facts? This is nothing secret. Secondly, what is it that needs to be known? Well…I’ve been working on this, as has, other people have, certainly Martin has, for the last two years or more. Putting together little bits and pieces of information. I do not operate on the basis that there is going to be a sudden revelation from heaven, the skies will open, everything will become clear. That is not the way this story works. It’s put together in little bits and pieces, like a large mosaic, and we’ve got quite a little bit of the landscape identifiable in that mosaic right now. But there are large gaping holes. I don’t think they’re going to be filled in by one single piece of information.

MILLER
Yes, the lady here.

BARBARA HONEGGER
Yes, Barbara Honegger, the author of October Surprise. I would like to know, Gary, what specific dates if we have them, these Madrid meetings happened on, because as you know, this is really the one significant new piece of information that was not already published in my book in 1989.

SICK
The dates for the meetings in Madrid…unfortunately, there’s some other people doing research on this, and I can’t steal their material, at this point. Let me be somewhat more general than I would like to be, but it really is someone else’s information, and I simply have to respect that at this point. I would say, from the 25th to the 29th of July, and from the, let’s say the tenth to the fifteenth of August. And that in those time periods, there were in each case, probably two different meetings. So they would have a meeting one day adjourn, and have a meeting the next day, and then they would go home. And then come back later, and have another set of, a dual set of meetings. That’s my understanding at the moment…

HONEGGER
Can you identify any individuals, as you have already, besides Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Casey?

SICK
There are allegations…I have…my basic rule of thumb on identifying individuals who are involved, is that I want to have at least two, and I would prefer to have three different sources, before I make any public statements. And I don’t have that as yet.

HONEGGER
May I re-phrase it then? Without giving the names, how many individuals in addition to Mr. Casey, from the Republican camp, or Republican sympathizers and also on the Iranian side in addition to Mr. Karroubi numbers?

SICK
In the meetings themselves, for which I have an eyewitness, Mr. Casey was accompanied by two individuals.

QUESTIONER #3
…you say somebody else’s information, is that somebody from Congress, Congress side who’s investigating-

SICK
No, it’s not.

QUESTIONER #3
-or is it some media?

SICK
It’s media.

MILLER
Question here.

QUESTIONER #4
Was Mr. Karroubi accompanied by anyone?

SICK
Yes. Mr. Karroubi was accompanied by his brother Hassan, who shows up in the Iran-Contra affair later on, and he was also accompanied by a couple of revolutionary guards.

MILLER
Question here.

HARVEY WASSERMAN
Harvey Wasserman, from the Columbus Free Press. A lot of the speculation has centered on whether or not George Bush actually went to Paris, and I think it’s been demonstrably, or well-stated, that that may ultimately be a red herring. It seems inconceivable that such negotiations could have gone on, between the Reagan-Bush campaign, and the Iranians, without George Bush knowing about it. Whether or not he went to Paris, but I have a question and a quick follow-up. Isn’t it possible that the Iranians, who many people believe, that they believe the real power in the U.S. did lie with the CIA, and therefore would have rested with George Bush, who was its former head, isn’t it possible that in order to seal this arrangement, they would have demanded George Bush’s personal presence, if not in Paris, then perhaps meeting with Mr. [Mohammed Ali] Rajai in New York, or some other personal contact with George Bush at some point along in the negotiations? And I have a quick follow-up.

HITCHENS
I mean, I think one might as well take that as your statement. I mean, yeah, that seems…there’s reason to that, I’d only add to it, it ought to be born in mind that American democracy wasn’t the only loser in this affair. That by dealing directly with the hostage takers and with the people around Khomeini, in effect a great blow was dealt at the one chance of representative government in Iran as well. Bani Sadr government was badly undercut by this process of negotiation. So it adds to the rather large mountain of debt that we owe the Iranian people for past and present interventions in their internal affairs.

BLEIFUSS
…people who’ve said that they were at these meetings, that Bush’s presence was required, because, you know, he would sortof lend weight to the negotiations and they wanted a commitment from somebody who would be in power.

WASSERMAN
The follow-up is, of course the Carter administration did make a failed attempt to rescue the hostages and did discuss a second one, this would be for Mr. Sick. My understanding is that both Oliver North and Richard Secord were involved in one or both of those operations. Could you discuss that please?

SICK
To the best of my knowledge, Richard Secord was not involved in the first, he was the Deputy Commander of the second, and was the man who was primarily responsible for putting it together. Oliver North, if he was involved at all, he was a very young officer at the time, I’ve been told by people, and I simply cannot verify this, I’ve not personally verified the information, that he was in a unit that in fact was deployed to Turkey during the first rescue mission in case it was needed. I’ve been told that, I have absolutely no hard evidence of it, and I make no claims of it. If so, he was very much on the fringes of the operation. As far as I know, neither Secord nor North were involved in the direct planning or execution of the first rescue mission.

HONEGGER
May I comment on that?

HITCHENS
No, she’s had- You’ve had far too many-

MILLER
There’s another questioner beside you.

HONEGGER
Alright.

DANIEL SHEEHAN
I’d like to state more briefly the question that ended the original press conference, there is this, this ominous undertone to this, about there being sortof two governments here in the United States, there are two alternative explanations of that, one is that all you had was the Reagan-Bush campaign group that was getting ready to be the government anyhow, but there’s this other group of covert operation experts that were inside the Central Intelligence Agency, that had been removed from government, that President Carter has referred to in his Village Voice interview. What do you understand, Mr. Sick and any of the other panelists, to be the relationship, if any, between that group of disgruntled CIA covert operations specialists and this entire operation, that took on the tone of a covert operation?

SICK
Well, let me say this, from my understanding, and again, I’m speaking only on the basis of fragmentary evidence that when Mr. Casey became director of CIA, that in many cases he felt that to run a proper intelligence organization, you shouldn’t just use the people inside the organization who can be identified under light cover in embassies and things of the sort, but that you should have them under deep cover, in other words, they should not be directly affiliated with the agency, and some of those people as I understand it correctly, did in fact end up in rather interesting jobs, places, later on, where, presumably they could act outside the realm, again of, not only of possible penetration by the enemy, but also, penetration by Congress. So, if these people were not actually working for you, you don’t have to account for them, and they don’t have to be subject to Congressional oversight. Now, I’ve heard convincing evidence that that happened in certain cases, I can’t name a list of twenty people, we do know that some of those people showed up again in “The Enterprise” [the name of the group involved in getting money for the Contras by selling weapons to Iran], in the Iran-Contra affair, and they did. So I, to me, it’s not difficult at all to believe that some of those people who were removed from the CIA, ended up coming back, working for the campaign, perhaps working off the books for Mr. Casey, and showing up again in covert operations here and there. That was their profession, they were good at it, and they probably wanted to get back in the game again. So, that doesn’t surprise me. I do, as I say, and I’ve said before, I do part company with you, in the sense that these people constitute a second government that is somehow making policy for the United States.

HONEGGER
I’d just like to make a comment on your comment about Richard Secord, if I may. And that is that I have with me published sources that I will give you after the meeting, that Mr. Secord was in fact involved with the logistical arrangements for the [unintelligible] Egypt site. In the Desert One operation.

MILLER
Question here.

QUESTIONER #5
…Zeitung. Did any body of you during the long investigations, come across any piece of information that might be, in one way or the other, important to the assessment of Robert Gates?

BLEIFUSS
I’ve talked to former Israeli intelligence official, named Ari Ben-Menashe, and he has talked about Gates in connection with 1980. And being involved in this deal. And that’s the only source I have on the record for this. And I think it’s sortof published speculation at this point. But I think it’s something that could be investigated. And it’s also…it is apparent, I think, that there was somebody in the Carter White House who was passing information on to the Republican Party. And it would seem that Gates would be one person that could be looked into.

HERBERT QUINDE
Mr. Sick, what about the tapes? You mentioned the tapes, and you haven’t elaborated on that, could you please?

HITCHENS
Could you identify yourself?

QUINDE
Yeah, my name is Herbert Quinde with the Executive Intelligence Review. The publication associated with Lyndon Larouche.

SICK
Basically, what I said about the tapes is what I know about the tapes. That is that I do know that Cyrus Hashemi’s office was bugged, starting as early as October, 1980, that he did business out of there, with his brother and, certainly with the U.S. government, and also presumably with other people, during that period of time, that he was subsequently indicted by Rudolph Giuliani, in 1984…for illegal arms sales, based on evidence dating back to 1980 and 81 and those tapes. And the tapes, to the best of my knowledge, have never been seen since that time. So I…that’s basically what I know.

KILIAN
I think the FBI at one point had said the tapes had been lost, because at one point we were trying to get access to them.

BLEIFUSS
Portions of the tape are in the court record, from the case…the Hashemi case. From that sting operation in ’86.

HITCHENS
Identify yourself, please.

QUESTIONER #6
…Center for Responsive Law. Gary, you mentioned that arms were practically leaving as the hostages were coming back. Do we have any hard evidence that any arms were going in, before the Turkish plane was downed in July of ’81?

SICK
Only the word of people. I have no manifests, I do have some contract data, which looks…real. Involving an Iranian that I know independently to have been a real name of an individual involved in procurement that was signed with an Israeli arms dealer in July of 1981. There, however, is a lot of testimony from individuals about, and many of these senior Israelis, who will not go on the record unfortunately, with this. That the arms shipment started much earlier than that. There is, in fact, an allegation that will remain to be seen, that in fact, there were some arms shipments, in addition to the one airplane shipment that we know of in October, of 1980, from Israel, which looked very much like a sortof gesture of goodwill. That this is sortof sealing the deal that was done in October 15th to the 20th. That in addition to that, there may have been other deliveries even earlier, before the inauguration, as further evidence of that. But that again, remains very speculative, it’s on the basis of a single source and I feel very uncomfortable talking about it, because my rule of thumb has been, throughout this, that since these people are talking to us, are many cases themselves, dubious, unreliable people, that you simply don’t go with a single source. I like to have two or three, before I’m prepared to make an allegation, and in this case, I have only one source.

QUESTIONER #6
You say that’s between the election and the inauguration?

SICK
That’s right.

MILLER
We have time for one more question. Here?

DAVID MCMICHAEL
David McMichael. With reference to Mr. Ben-Menashe, Joel, if I recall my conversation with him correctly, he said up through, at least, September of 1980 at the various meetings, there had been the working assumption both of the Israelis and the Iranian representatives, that the objective was somehow to deliver the hostages into the custody of the Republican campaign representatives. And, in fact, arrangements had been made, to deliver them in Karachi, by sometime early in October. And that they were very surprised to learn that the decision had been made by Mr. Casey that they were in no case to be delivered. But it also raises the further question of, except perhaps for pettiness, of why the delay after the election, when no further electoral purpose could be served by holding the hostages…is anyone prepared to comment on that?

KILIAN
Yeah. I think it [unintelligible] the point, how complicated the story altogether is. It’s true, not just Mr. Ben-Menashe, also others have said that the Republicans’ first goal was to get these hostages out. Using Karachi as a point of departure. Now, I think one of the problems that people who investigate this story have had to deal with in the last two years, is that it is a terribly complicated thing. It’s not like a very straight line and I think there were setbacks, there were changes of mind, I think there were reverses, and I even wouldn’t rule out, that you had competing factions within the election campaign, within the Reagan-Bush campaign team. And I think what Mr. Ben-Menashe said about the Karachi connection, would make a lot of sense. Except for one point: how would they have explained to the American public in July of 1980, that all of a sudden, they got the hostages out, while the president, Jimmy Carter, did not get them out? There were very grave political questions associated with this. And, if he’s right, if Mr. Ben-Menashe is right, about the Karachi thing, it would be very interesting to know why it never came to pass.

MILLER
I want to thank our panelists for coming here today, and laying out the facts as we know them, and what is not known. We’ll proceed now to the next panel on-

PAPRIN
We’re going to have a quick change of scene, if we may. Morton Halperin, Marcus Raskin, please come forward. [applause]

MILLER
This second panel will look at the issues that have been raised, from separate perspectives. Mort Halperin will begin with a constitutional view, Professor Beisner from American University will present the view of a historian. Mark Raskin will look at it from the point of view of a long time policy practitioner and student of American policy, and ethics / morality. And Tom Blanton will look at the issue from the point of view of the record. As a active member of the National Security Archive, he’s in a position to give an evaluation of the data that’s available and to address the question of what Congress, if it involved itself, would be likely to find. So, if Mort Halperin would begin.

MORTON HALPERIN
Thank you, I’m pleased to be here. I also need to say that, as I’ve explained to the organizer of the conference, I had a prior commitment which could not be changed, so I will have to speak and then leave, and I mean no disrespect to my fellow panelists, whose views I would certainly like to stay and hear, and join in the conversation about, so I regret that. I think it is worth noting, that this conference is being held on the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the publication of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Times. An event which began to educate the American public to a fact which also underlines this meeting. And that fact is, that we have permitted in this country something which should not be permitted in a democratic society, and which our constitution is designed to prevent. Namely, we have permitted a secret government. A government that both functions in secret and then is allowed to keep its history secret.

The startling thing about the Pentagon Papers is that it revealed that what we had been told about the war was not what had happened. To remind you just of one of the most, and for me, the most startling revelation…namely, that the South Vietnamese government in 1965 did not ask the American government to intervene militarily. In fact, it was bitterly opposed to the American military intervention. But we had told the South Vietnamese government that unless they allowed American troops to come into Vietnam, we would cease all our support. And that in fact, not only did they have to allow the troops to come in, but they had to pretend to ask for them. So, the American public was told that there was this urgent request from the South Vietnamese government which we were responding to, to help a free people, as we always call our allies. As we now call the Kuwaitis. To help a free people, and that we had to do it. We learned from the Pentagon Papers, that this was simply a lie. That they did not want us in, that we had insisted upon coming in, and there were many other fundamental falsehoods that we learned about only from the Pentagon Papers. I think we need to insist, certainly now that the Cold War is ending, and that the primary justification for the secret agencies, for the secret government, and for the secret history, the primary justification for that, the Cold War, has come to an end abroad. We need to start insisting that the legacy of the Cold War at home…be lifted. And that the United States be restored to the democracy that our founders meant it to be, that we celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the Bill of Rights, we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, that we celebrate the end of the Cold War abroad, by restoring democracy at home. And that means ending secret agencies. It means that the Congress must insist that the intelligence agencies of the government, the NRO, the National Reconnaissance Office, whose very existence is still supposed to be secret, the CIA’s functions, the National Security Agency’s functions, that these be made public. And that their budgets be made public. But that also that the history become public. That we not be dependent on a Daniel Ellsberg to give us the Pentagon Papers, that we not be dependent on a Gary Sick to dig and dig, until he begins to come up with evidence of a possible October surprise. But that the government be required to make the history of what’s happened to us public in a much more timely fashion then is now going on.

Now, as we sit here, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is marking up a very, very modest proposal. It is a proposal that for the first time, statutorily sets out the standards for the publication of the diplomatic history of the United States. Which is released thirty years after the event. And as we know, the entire advisory committee to the State Department resigned. Because the State Department was putting out a volume of what took place thirty years ago, which left out all the key documents, and which gave no indication that it had left out all the key documents, and therefore, they resigned in protest. Congress is now seeking to change things. The Senate last year unanimously voted a set of rules, they are now before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and we have a letter from the State Department, announcing that any procedures that Congress will impose on the release of these documents is unconstitutional, and violates the president’s prerogatives in foreign affairs. And the president is, as he now seems to do with any bill that shows any life in the Congress of the United States, is threatening a veto of this legislation, on the grounds that the president’s legal adviser has told him that this will jeopardize the constitutional prerogatives of the president.

Now, you all remember the famous story of the crowds in Philadelphia who were gathering outside the hall where the constitution was being written in secret. And the great fear was, that they were in fact creating a monarchy. And the crowds in Philadelphia were fearful as the constitutional convention went on in secret, longer and longer, that what they were going to be confronted with, was the creation of a new monarchy. And as the constitutional convention finally ended, the great hero of the convention, as far as the people were concerned, Benjamin Franklin, came out. And the people gathered around him, and they shouted “What is it? What is it?” meaning, was it a monarchy? And Franklin looked at them and said, “It’s a republic, if you can keep it.” And I think that message needs to be directed to two places. First of all, we need to try to find a way to persuade George Bush, if not Boyden Gray, that it is a republic, and that we intend to keep it. They seem to think that in fact it is a monarchy, in which the president, and not the congress, decides what information we will have about how our government functions. And second of all, we need to direct that message to the Congress. Because the Congress has been unwilling to take on the president on the issues of government secrecy.

Let me just suggest a few simple steps I think the Congress ought to take, so that we do not need to meet five years from now, and ten years from now, and twenty years from now, to wonder again what has been done in the name of the United States in secrecy by our secret government. Congress ought to enact this very simple and very modest proposal about the diplomatic history of the United States. It ought to make the budget of the intelligence community and the functions of those agencies public, and ought to legislate the rules and procedures on which they operate. It ought to amend the Freedom of Information Act, so that it can become an even more effective tool than it is, for the release of information relating to national security. And Congress needs to make it clear in its oversight functions that it will not permit a secret government to operate in the name of the United States without our knowing about it. This is a republic, it is a constitutional democracy, it was built on a series of checks and balances, and it was built on the fundamental principle that the people have a right to know what their government is doing, to judge what the elected officials are doing, at the ballot box and in communications with the president and the executive branch, and we need to say, that as the Cold War ends abroad, that we will free ourselves to restore our democracy at home, in which we have a right to know what is done and a right to judge the officials of the government by knowing fully what they did in our name. And those are the principles I suggest should inform us as we look at the facts of this particular case. Thank you. [applause]

MILLER
I’d like to turn to Marcus Raskin, Distinguished Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.

MARCUS RASKIN
Thank you very much. I have several points which really are a follow-up to what Mort Halperin has said. And that really goes to, I think, the case, finally, but then using the case as a way of re-thinking or re-structuring our own federal government. One way of reading American history is to take the Constitution and say, well, the Bill of Rights to the Constitution and the Preamble, are the democratic sections. And with the constitutional body, that is, internal workings of the constitution really represent the “how a government is to operate”. With the constitutional struggle which has existed in the United States since its inception, was between a republic and a democracy. In the 18th century, a democracy was not quite that popular. Indeed, it was viewed as something very dangerous by a number of people within the United States and in different parts of the world. And the republic, on the other hand, reflected the idea that the well-born and the propertied and the whites, males, should in fact govern. And that the whole struggle then, of the American constitution and the whole struggle in relation to that constitution, and to the character of the society is going to be, whether or not we could indeed be a democracy. And so, every step of the way, the Bill of Rights was used as an instrument. In the preamble, it was used as an instrument to develop inclusivity. To change the nature of what the governing structure was going to be. To include people, rather than exclude them. To include women. To include minorities. Et cetera. And that all of those reflected the historic struggle within the United States, for at least a hundred seventy five year period.

Now, simultaneous to this, by the end of the Second World War, something else began to happen. That was, that the United States found itself having an empire. And of trying to figure out how to run that empire. And so it began the process of re-organizing government itself. Re-organizing government came indeed to become what I term the national security state. The national security state meant, that there would be neither war nor peace, that there would be loyalty, in fact, not to the people as a whole, but to organization. To the organizational structure, that there would be secrecy, in which secrecy would dominate the character of what the basic system of government would be. And that those who became witting to that system would in fact be the ones who’d run the action.

So, in effect we had over the course of a period of time, from 1947-48 on, was the slow erosion of a democratic process in the following way: not that democracy ceased, or not that the republic ceased, but each became more and more a fig leaf for the actual ways that the government operated. That the way the government operated, was basically through and with the national security apparatus. And that apparatus included the Central Intelligence Agency, it included the National Security Agency, the CIA, significant aspects of the Department of Defense. And that each of those, in fact, had no legitimacy from Congress. That is to say, there were no public hearings in many cases. That the budgets, for example, of the CIA and the National Security Agency, were voted in secret, without any sort of understanding of the bulk of Congress where those monies were to go and how they would in fact be used. So this was the framework going into the 1980 election. The election was that this country was involved in neither war nor peace, that we were involved in constant conflict. That the government itself, that is the national security state itself, was involved in numerous covert operations over a forty year period. That coming in, therefore to the election, it was assumed this was indeed the way business was to be done. That the United States itself found that it would operate to suborn elections in different places in the world if it didn’t like the way the character of that election was going.

So finally what began happening is that this method was turned onto ourselves. And in 1980, what we began seeing was, as that national security state system began to come apart, a little bit, as a result of the end of the Vietnam war, as a result of Watergate, as a result of the Carter election, it meant that new notions of the possibility of governing in a new way, came to the fore, but also it meant that those people who were disturbed about the transformation of the national security state and greater control over operations, were indeed very very concerned, and very upset, about that direction.

Casey played an important role in this regard, as I would argue did several members, or two members of the National Security Council staff. Indeed, what we’re talking about here, is really in terms of what several people have spoken, several of the people here have been members of the National Security Council staff. So, at least to that extent, we know whereof we speak. The direction then, which occurred in 1980, for that election, meant two things, one is the re-assertion of the national security state. Pushing forward greater defense budgets and also, having a new system which before was only used sparingly in my view. It was used, but only sparingly. And that was contract officers who were assets of the CIA, who in effect would receive contracts to be in business by themselves, for the purpose of carrying out activities of the American government. In the 1980 election, it was critical to win that election on the part, both of the Republicans and Democrats obviously…Reagan was behind, it was said, by two percent in the polls of that time. And so that election became critical, and what here was important: was to find that way of winning the election, and so here what was used was those groupings within the national security state establishment who had served at one time, as people who could make all sorts of contacts, in order to upset the usual direction of that election possibly. This had been done earlier, in 1968, as well. Where the Republicans attempted to undercut President Johnson, and indeed, also that election, by making contact with South Vietnamese representatives in order to get the South Vietnamese to stop the possibility of the United States not bombing during that period.

So, here we are. We know pretty much what the facts are. Can this be made public in such a way as to change the direction of the country? And to begin the process of dismantling the national security state? This case can begin to do it. For it goes to a fundamental element of democracy, which is election. The election by the people. And if it is shown that this election was indeed polluted, indeed it will open the possibilities of a glasnost within the United States. It will open up the possibility of saying what indeed does the CIA do? Where are its records, what does the National Security Agency do? Are its records to be made, and should they be made public? And so forth and so on. And in that process, we will then be able to begin to talk through what the character of a modern democracy should be. And the character, in my view, of a modern democracy, has to be predicated on openness and on fairness, and non-pollution of elections. Either our own, or of other nations as well. So that means that the rules of the game which we want to apply to ourselves, we will have to accept in application to other nations as well. Thank you very much. [applause]

MILLER
I’d like to turn to Professor Beisner, historian from American University.

ROBERT BEISNER
I’d like to speak briefly about some things that seem to me, in this story that are both commonplace on the one hand and rare, on the other. And then briefly suggest significance of some of the events historically. What I see as commonplace in this story, or a part of the story that is commonplace, is the close connection between foreign policy and politics. There’s absolutely nothing new in that, in our history at all. And it’s become increasingly commonplace, since about the 1940s. Since the World War Two era, I think. And I think largely for two reasons, one of which is very encouraging. The first reason is simply the growing importance of international affairs in the United States, that is the growing participation of the United States in world affairs, and so the issues come up much more. Whereas you can have campaigns nearly a century ago, or more than a century ago, in which it simply would not be an issue. The encouraging part is, it seems to me, that compared to a century ago, or seventy five years ago, and to some degree on some issues, even yet today…a century or so ago, the public at large had very little interest in foreign affairs, very little knowledge about foreign affairs, and the U.S. government was able to make policy most of the time in a kindof public opinion and political vacuum.

Now there are qualifications to that at certain times of course. But from the 1940s onward, presidents, their administrations, members of Congress and so forth, have become increasingly aware that there is a public out there that cares about diplomatic and military issues, and they need to be concerned with. And as that concern has grown, the temptation to play politically with diplomatic events has grown, I think. But the normal situation, what again has been fairly commonplace in a lot of elections, it seems to me, has been cases of the incumbent manipulating events to his advantage. So that we have, we could get arguments about all of these, but let me just briefly mention some…we have Truman in 1948, for example, in the quick recognition of Israel, and on another kind of issue, pre-empting the right with a very hard line against the Soviet Union, helping him get elected in 1948. We have Johnson in 1964 withholding far more belligerent plans in Vietnam so that he could picture Richard [sic] Goldwater as the crazy man. We have Johnson, excuse me, the Johnson administration then at the very end of the 1968 campaign trying to produce negotiations on the Vietnam war in order to help get Humphrey elected. We have Nixon in ’72, along with Kissinger also playing all kinds of games with respect to Vietnam negotiations in order to affect the ’72 elections.

So this is very commonplace. And I have not heard anything today indicating that Carter would have passed up such an opportunity in 1980, either. And apparently there were some potential October surprises in the decisions to allow arms already purchased by Iran to be delivered to Iran. As Mark has indicated, another common, or fairly common phenomenon in the last fifty years, has been U.S. action affecting the elections of other states. And a reverse example of that, which I might want to mention, since I’ve been brought here as a historian, I think it’s my duty to mention something at least two hundred years old. Or nearly two hundred years old. An extreme rarity in American history, was the effort by the government of France, in 1796, to elect a president. Making every attempt it could, to get Jefferson elected in the expectation, an inaccurate one, that a Jefferson administration would be far friendlier to a revolutionary France, than an Adams administration would be. And they failed in that attempt, but not for lack of trying. What we have heard described today, and what we’ve all read about, over the last few years, that may have happened in 1980…if it did happen, is a rarity. In this case, I cannot play the normal historian’s role of declaring everything commonplace and something we’ve always seen.

The kind of, if this indeed occurred, if this indeed occurred…and we have an opposition party affecting foreign policy in an extremely important area, in order to affect the election, if this occurred the way it did…the only precedent that I can think of at the moment that is similar to that, has also just been mentioned by Mark, and that was the effort of the Republican party in 1968 to torpedo any last minute Vietnam settlement, by contacting the Vietnamese, South Vietnamese government, and encouraging that government, successfully, to hold back from the Paris negotiations that were just opening at that time. I don’t for a moment believe that that action prevented a peace settlement in Vietnam in 1968. I think that was unlikely to happen any time soon. But it was a crucial intrusion into diplomacy by private parties and in secret.

The meaning, the significance of all of this, it seems to me, it is probably too early to tell. Somewhat narrowly, again I’m skeptical despite some of the figures that have been mentioned, that the Reagan campaign intrusion into the Iran situation in 1980 decided an election. I doubt, it would take some extraordinary analysis to even make the case that that made a difference in Reagan’s election. It’s quite clear that the Republican campaign group, however, thought that it would. There are some other interesting, fairly narrow, if significant, historical issues, however, that become more understandable now, as we hear the story of 1980. One is the story of the behavior of the Reagan National Security Council. Which seems to be continuous with the behavior of the Republican campaign organization in 1980. As others have mentioned, and I won’t belabor the point here, the whole Iran-Contra issue looks different now, given the perspective that the situation gives us.

There’s some broader issues as well. I’ve recently been doing some reading in the history of U.S. relations with Iran in the Truman administration. And I have just, in fact, the last few days been reading in that volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States series that has been so excised. It’s a fascinating volume, it covers the U.S. relations with Iran and other states in the near East, from 1952 to 1954. There’s some crucial documents in it, but absolutely no reference whatsoever to the fact that the CIA played a fairly important role in Iran in 1953. But I bring it up here also as a way of indicating how I think what we’ve heard today suggests that this country has never understood with whom it’s dealing, in Iran. I think the Carter administration efforts demonstrate that. The Reagan campaign people probably demonstrated that. And as far as I can see, Harry Truman and Dean Acheson did not understand Iran either, although they…Acheson seems to have understood Iran better than the British did. But Acheson’s concern in the 1952, ’53, ’54 volume, has very little to do with Iran, it has very little to do with Islam, it all has to do with the Soviet Union. It’s that we have to act in such a way in Iran in order to prevent it falling into the hands of quote the commies end quote, which is actually state department telegramese, and not quite as pejorative as it sounds. But the language you use.

I think we also have further evidence today, which is pretty obvious, that presidents concerned about re-election will always worry about how a diplomatic or military situation might affect their re-election. Whether it’s in a campaign year, or one or two or three years away from the campaign year. I simply regard that as a given, and I’m not sure that there’s absolutely anything that can be done about it.

Somewhat facetiously, but not entirely, I’d like to say also that listening, reading much of what’s come out over the last year or so, reading the packet that you’ve received today and I got a copy of yesterday, and listening to the investigative journalists who spoke earlier, seems to me in part, today, we’ve been treated to sortof a legacy to Izzy Stone. I mean, I felt a number of times that Izzy Stone should be here, but there are people carrying on the role, obviously. Finally, I’d like to say one other thing. One of the things that I’ve been convinced of over their years, studying diplomatic history…and not without ambivalence…I stand before you as an ardent middle roader. And so, ambivalence comes naturally to me. And one of the things that I’ve become convinced of over the years, is that, in a constitutional democracy, foreign policy is bound to be carried out in such a way that’s messy. And that’s the word that’s often used when this issue is commented on. Now, what I’ve felt ambivalent about over the years, very often is, is that really what we want? And those of you who’ve read and listened to George Kennan, for example, over the years, know how deeply in the souls of people like Kennan, lie the wish to get rid of the public and to get rid of some of the difficulties involved, in the messiness involved in practicing foreign policy. In a republic.

But the last ten years…and this issue along with Iran-Contra, especially, have convinced me that we can hardly have messier attempts at conducting foreign policy, then we have received when people make an effort to conduct that policy outside the channels of constitutional democracy. So the issue is probably not a nice, neat, clear-cut foreign policy conducted undemocratically versus a messy democratic foreign policy. I’m not quite sure that the conclusion is that foreign policy is always messy, but it’s clear that an attempt to get around the bounds set by the American constitution and law, is likely to make the situation even worse. Thank you. [applause]

MILLER
Thank you, professor Beisner. The last panelist is Tom Blanton, who is Deputy Director of the National Security Archives.

TOM BLANTON
I was asked onto this panel today to discuss essentially whether and how a congressional investigation should take place. As to these issues around the hostages in 1980 and the election campaign. But mine is a very small voice, actually, when compared to distinguished panelists that we’ve heard from today, and as compared to Representative Derrick and his seventy five colleagues who signed a letter requesting a congressional investigation and, I guess, especially compared to the voices of the former hostages who’ve requested such an investigation. So I’d like to limit my remarks really to three basic points. One of which is the historical context for the calls for a congressional investigation. Second, is the specific ideas as to where Congress might go and what it might find. And third is to comment generally on what may or may not be achieved by a congressional investigation. First, just on the historical context. As I’ve gone over the past couple weeks through the, literally hundreds of press clippings, through the mailings that Barbara Honegger has kindly sent me over the years, through the various books by Bani-Sadr, Gary Sick’s book, the books by the negotiators who ultimately did get the hostages out, I was struck that I came across a call for a congressional investigation which, to my knowledge is the very first call for a congressional investigation of the release of the hostages…it was actually made by a prominent American while the hostages were still being held. And I’d like to read it to you today, because I think, in many respects, it could become the epigraph for our on-going efforts to see an investigation occur. And let me quote:

“I think it is time for us to have a complete investigation as to the diplomatic efforts that were made in the beginning. Why they have been there so long. And when they come home, what do we have to do in order to bring that about. What arrangements were made? And I would suggest that Congress should hold such an investigation.” Quote unquote. That was Ronald Reagan. On October 28, in the presidential debate with Jimmy Carter. I think he was right. I agree with this distinguished American. There should be an investigation.

Let me just suggest a few points about what Congress could look for. And might find. And in this regard I must admit I’ve been scooped somewhat, and I recommend to everyone that they visit their local newsstand and get a copy of this week’s issue of The Nation magazine. David Corn has written an excellent article summarizing much of these leads and issues under the title, “Leads Congress Should Pursue”. And I recommend it to everyone considering an investigation, or continuing an investigation. But let me just go down a few of the key records that different speakers have already alluded to, that may help resolve this issue one way or another. First of course, the campaign records from the Reagan-Bush campaign of the fall of 1980 which are apparently in the custody of the Reagan Library Project in California, and Edwin Meese, the former attorney general has the say over whether anyone can gain access to those. I think obviously from what Gary Sick said on the first panel, it’s going to require something on the order of a subpoena to get into those. But in those papers should be things like appointment books and phone logs and a variety of records that may or may not show, were there actual meetings, were people in the office, were Republican members of that campaign talking to Iranians and so forth. And that’s certainly an imperative, and it’s clear from the efforts of journalists and so forth, that the fact that they haven’t been able to get access to those materials is in itself a recommendation for a congressional investigation. Second, of course, would be William Casey’s personal papers. As far as I know, only one researcher has been allowed access to Casey’s personal papers dating from the 1980 period, that was Joseph Persico, for his biography of Casey. I recommend it to you not for what it says about the October surprise, because it doesn’t say very much, it discusses it very briefly, and I think less than a page, but for the context of Casey’s life and Casey’s operations, I think very essential for any informed judgement on this matter.

Apparently, Persico went through the personal papers, about twenty to thirty boxes worth, at Casey’s house, here in Washington, with the permission of Casey’s widow, while writing his biography of Casey. He found no appointment books and no phone logs, and he could not conclude from the evidence available to him whether or not those still existed or whether those had already been shipped off to the Hoover institution, which is, as I understand it, the ultimate repository of the Casey materials. Again, I suspect because these are under the control of the family, it will require a subpoena to gain any further access to those materials.

Further, we now have the new evidence of the last several months, is really in the form of a series of interviews, many of them on videotape , many of them on audiotape, many of them in notes, by some very credible researchers. The crew who put together the PBS Frontline piece, Robert Parry and others, Gary Sick and others…again, those are very useful as tips for investigators, but to have them become a real core public record of this story, they need to be under oath, and they need to be taken in some official proceeding. Again, an argument for an official congressional investigation.

Further, Gary Sick this morning recommended a couple of other “record sets”, if you will, that should be gone after. Things like the flight records, because they do have tail numbers from a variety of these witnesses that they have interviewed. Passport records, customs and immigration and so forth. And the tapes from the sting operation that Cyrus Hashemi was part of, the celebrated [Samuel] Evans-[Avraham] Bar-Am case, that ultimately was dropped in New York. That, by the way, did pick up [Manucher] Ghorbanifar in its wide net, at the time, in ’86. Again, this material may need to be subpoenaed because there’s almost no other way to avoid the privacy considerations and so forth, that might prevent it from being obtained. I think the most sensitive area of all, of records that haven’t been discussed yet today, which may be the most illuminating, or the least illuminating, depending on what you come up with, are the communications intelligence. The regular intercepts, monitoring of worldwide electronic communications by the National Security Agency. Clearly, in 1980, that monitoring had to have been a major focus of the entire U.S. intelligence community. This was the primary issue of the day, clearly they would have been monitoring as best they could any communications to or from the Iranian foreign ministry in Tehran. Clearly they would be attempting to monitor any communications to or from various embassies, particularly in places like Paris, where there was a significant Iranian exile community, and where Khomeini himself had spent some time, while in exile. Clearly they would have been attempting to monitor the Iranians with whom they were negotiating. For instance, [Mirza Sayyed Mohammad] Tabatabai [one of the leaders of the Iranian revolution], what is it, the brother of the wife of Khomeini’s son, who was ultimately one of the key mediators with the Algerians in the ultimate Carter negotiations. Clearly they would have been attempting to track people like [Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani, maybe Karroubi, who was after all a member of the parliament, and apparently the leader of a hardline faction which they were clearly worried about, which preached time after time against any negotiations with the great Satan. And they would clearly, I believe, have been attempting to monitor at least any dealings of the various arms dealers, ex-patriots, and others, who were attempting to make contacts between the U.S. government and the Iranians. Various reporters have said to me over time, that they know of as many as a hundred such contacts by would-be dealers, most of which never came to anything, but they did exist, and the records of those contacts, the electronic intercepts of phone calls, of cables, of radio transmissions, and so forth, would have clearly been a major focus of U.S. investment and monitoring and clearly, I think this is the major area which recommends a congressional investigation, because there is effectively no way, for journalists, for historical researchers, and even in many respects, for attorneys in court cases, because the court cases would be forced to be dropped. The government has a power under the Classified Information Procedures Act to force the dropping of various prosecutions, on the basis of state secrets.

Clearly a congressional investigation is, in effect, the only practical method for getting at those super secret, above top secret communications intercepts, which are so sensitive that, I think in the 1980s, only on a couple of key occasions, particularly in the downing of the KAL 007, has the U.S. government officially released any of these intercepts. Clearly, it can be done when it serves certain purposes of the administration, but in this case, it would require not only a subpoena, but congressional investigators with code word clearances and so forth. But obviously, it should be a major area to focus. And then I’ll refer you to David Corn’s article for other general discussion of these record systems, now let me move on to point three, which is, what are we likely to find out? What may or may not be achieved?

What we may find out from, if we actually get a hold of these records, is whether or not the meetings actually took place. The communications intercepts may show whether there was a deal or not, in the sense that you presumably have conversations, dialogues, back and forths, reportings, and so forth, that may convey some of the substance of those discussions. But from the personal records, the appointment books, the phone logs, the credit card records and so forth and so on, you can only conclude whether the meetings actually took place. That may be enough, in itself, that would be a scandal. And I would just remind people of that, while you’re chasing George Bush and other folks, just the mere fact of top campaign officials meeting with representatives of foreign governments, and discussing something as sensitive as the hostages, is in itself a highly questionable activity. And Gary Sick and others have proved this to their satisfaction. So, just in closing, it’s unclear how far even a congressional investigation with subpoenas to go towards resolving the issue of whether there was a deal or not. They may only be able to resolve whether there were meetings or not. But there has to be a major attempt to create a public record. Because without that public record, we’re all going to continue to be dependent on the kinds of anonymous sources, unsourced information, hearsay information, that is very troubling, to any investigator, certainly a total documents fiend like myself and the National Security Archives staff, who’ve been very strongly agnostic on this whole question, simply because of the almost complete lack of that kind of hard documentation and its dependence on interviews and sources. We’re not reporters, if we were reporters, those sources, as Gary Sick and Robert Parry and others have demonstrated, are plenty good enough to go and get it in a newspaper. The point now, I think, is that congress, internally at least, is debating whether to hold…right now, they’re in the course of an informal staff proceeding. What congressman Derrick referred to as the equivalent of a grand jury type investigation, prior to bringing an indictment. To see whether or not the evidence warrants the bringing of an indictment, the mounting of an official investigation.

That’s all well and good, and I was especially encouraged that congressman Derrick said that they would come to a decision on whether to proceed, he estimated in the next two weeks. I would be greatly surprised if that occurred, but the point, I think, fundamentally, is that if proceedings are kept informal, if proceedings are held in secret, say in the various intelligence committees, of the House and the Senate, then you’re guaranteed to have no resolution of this story one way or another. A caution: even if you do have a formal investigation, with subpoena power, you’re not guaranteed to know whether or not it actually occurred. But if you don’t have an investigation, you’re guaranteed never to know. So, in conclusion, I just want to echo what Moorhead Kennedy said earlier, which is just simply, as a citizen, for the health of the democracy, for the public’s right to know, there should be a formal official investigation with subpoena power, to pull all of this evidence together for all of our sakes. Thank you. [applause]

MILLER
We have time for questions, comments. Yes, please, would you-

SARAH MCCLENDON
Sarah McClendon, McClendon Independent News Service. I’d like to know why you’re so naive to think we’d get anywhere with Congress, if they did have an investigation, when they don’t answer subpoenas, like Gonzales is trying to get the Federal Reserve Board to come forward with the records on banks and can’t get it, time after time, and when they also stopped the Iran-Contra hearings and told them not to go back beyond a certain period because the FBI, because if they did, they’d have to take out a president.

BLANTON
You’re absolutely right. I have no confidence that they’re going to get to the bottom of this thing, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. I mean, I think if you’re in your business, or if you’re in my business, you’re a hopeless optimist. Why do you keep going out there writing stories every day and try to tell the people what’s going on in the government, if you don’t believe that it has…you gotta do it, even just for it’s own sake. Even if it doesn’t result in the truth ever essentially emerging.

MCCLENDON
Well, I’ve got four or five scandals that the Congress committees “are looking into” and they keep on looking into them, and they don’t do a damn thing about it.

BLANTON
Well, you’ve got your finger on a major point, which is, one of the key reasons why Congress is so reluctant to investigate this story, is that to investigate it and to find out the truth will uncover the fact that a number of committees and subcommittees of Congress have been derelict in their duty in terms of tracking exactly this set of issues. I think you have some high level members, for instance, of the Iran-Contra committees who are not interested in going back over the ground, part of which was covered by them, because it will show their own failures in that investigation. So I think that’s part of the picture. Another part of the picture is, of course, partisanship, that the Republicans are not interested in opening this can of worms. But, fundamentally, it comes down to a matter of will. And what you write, and the documents I come up with, and what everyone else here talks about and writes and puts out in the public domain, either will help generate enough momentum to have an official investigation, or it won’t.

MILLER
Question here.

QUESTIONER #7
…[unintelligible], Action Information Bulletin. Given the track record of the national security apparatus, and with great professionalism, in destroying and disappearing documents and other materials, that relate to its operations…if you remember, of course, Richard Nixon’s own secretary, with her foot, disappeared three minutes of critical tape. If you remember the fact that during the Iran-Contra hearings, Tom Polgar, longtime CIA officer, acknowledged that massive numbers of documents were not released, or provided to the committee. My point here is to suggest, is it not in order to, as we speak here today, to go to court, to consider going to court, to get a court injunction that would lay down the basis that the government cannot disappear or destroy the relevant documents that have been listed here today as being needed.

RASKIN
I think it’s a very good idea.

PAPRIN
I might also add, if I may, on behalf of The Fund for New Priorities, holding sessions such as this one today, is part of the democratic process, and the people’s right to know. We’ve done this for twenty two years, not as well as we’d like. But your participation, the press’s participation, the American citizenry, concern about this issue, is the way in which Congress will respond. Without that kind of national pressure, and we’re a very small group even in this hearing room today, but we have the responsibility, and we have the democratic right to know. And more organizations, more individuals clambering for democracy, for knowledge, for the kind of recommendations that Mort Halperin made on this panel, will provide the grist, if you will, the ability to put some spine in some of our congressmen, and put the responsibility where it belongs. Absent that kind of pressure, if we didn’t do even the thing we did in March of ’73, I don’t know whether the Senate Select Committee on Watergate would have ever come to be. The thing we didn’t do, by the way, in Iran-Contra, was to have an adequate public hearing, and an adequate demand and pressure from our own group, and to that extent we plead guilty that we didn’t do enough, and the press didn’t do enough, and the people didn’t do enough. I’ve a letter from Arthur Liman, who was supposed to be on the panel, because I’d criticized Arthur Liman’s handling of his role in Iran-Contra. And he says in the letter that I have, excusing himself from coming to this, because he had to go to a bar association meeting on minorities, we wanted to present the questions we had to Arthur Liman today. But it’s an aroused and concerned citizenry, it’s an aroused press if you will. The media has been on this only in a limited way. And Sarah McClendon and everyone else should be on this. We had people talking, why isn’t it covered more adequately, and Hitchens has been working on it, and Kilian has been working on it, and they’ve been marginalized, and Barbara Honegger has been working on it, and the Christic Institute has been working on it, and it’s all, well, that left-wing or fringe group or that other group. And they’re just rattling around again. But the American people, if they know what’s going on, if they hear what’s going on, and they call their congressman and say, as Butler Derrick just said, we have a concern. And then you will see more than seventy five. We don’t have the atmosphere that we had in 1973 and the concern that we had.

WASSERMAN
I’m Harvey Wasserman, author of a history book called Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States, along those lines, a group of us will be meeting at two o’clock at 122 Maryland Avenue to make sure that this story continues. I want to take strong issue with Mr. Beisner as a fellow historian. I thin it’s very clear that had the hostages been released, when President Carter thought they were going to be released, and had his deal gone through, that Carter would have won the election. I don’t believe it was just Republican paranoia. The polls showed it, and their polls, Richard Wirthlin’s polls, showed a shift of ten percent, in the public opinion, which was more than enough to give this election to Jimmy Carter. The election was much closer in 1980 than people remember in terms of the popular vote. I think it’s also very important, when we discuss this event, to keep it in historical perspective. This is one of the major shaping events of the twentieth century. There are very few events you can point to, that very clearly turn the course of American politics. The assassination of John Kennedy, the manipulation in 1968 of the Vietnamese thing, and really beyond that, you almost have to go all the way back to the sinking of the Lusitania, which brought the United States into World War I.

And I bring that up for a very specific point. When Woodrow Wilson was president in 1915, a vast majority of the United States opposed getting into World War I, and the Germans sank the luxury liner, the Lusitania, charging that it was carrying British arms, from New York to London. The British strongly denied it, and Woodrow Wilson went along with them. Seventy years later, deep sea divers went down to the Lusitania, and in fact, found many tons of weapons that were going from the United States to Great Britain. So it may very well be that the United States got into World War I on the basis of a lie. And World War I was a major shaping event in American history. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. We now have a situation in 1980, where the American public had a choice between a moderate liberal Democrat and an extreme right wing Republican. We all know what happened in the 1980s, and we all, I think, can go back and take strong questioning about what the 1980s might have looked like, had Jimmy Carter been re-elected, as opposed to Ronald Reagan. The world would have been very different, not only in the 1980s, but probably for an entire generation to come. So I think it’s very important that people keep in perspective the enormity of the impact of what we’re talking about here. This was not a small event. And I think Ms. McClendon’s point is very well taken. We, in no way shape or form, can trust a congressional investigation. A congressional investigation cannot be an end to this situation. It cannot be a major victory if Congress decides to investigate this deal in 1980. Because aside from the historical impact, there is, as I think you’ll agree, no precedent for a strong case to be made against a sitting president for having committed treason. And essentially we are talking about treason here. The idea of an opposition campaign, negotiating sub rosa, with a foreign government to delay the release of hostages, if that isn’t treason, I don’t know what is. And we’re talking about the current and the former president of the United States involved here, there really is nothing of that magnitude in the history of this country. And I hope people will keep that in mind as we proceed, because it really dwarfs anything that this congress or any future congress, in many ways any past congress, is probably willing to deal with. And I think Mr. Paperin is exactly right, that people, as a whole, are going to have to deal with this issue. [applause]

SHEEHAN
Yes, I’d like Marcus Raskin to expound a bit more on the point that you were making. It seems that the point that you’re making is fundamentally more profound, than that which is being acknowledged by most of the speakers and the questioners. That whereas most of the people are talking about some element in the Republican party establishing negotiations, somehow with a foreign power to win a particular election, your point, at least if I heard it correctly, is fundamentally different. That this was, in fact, a counterstrike, against the entire concept of democratic government in the United States by elements of a national security state. That had been formulated since 1947, with the passage of the National Security Act. Now, if that is the constitutional reality that we’re dealing with, it seems to me that we have to define it properly, in order to define the nature of what the congressional investigation has to be here. Could you, in fact, clarify your point? And am I right in hearing what you’re saying?

RASKIN
Alright, I think there are two elements to it. The first element, is that starting with the end – and here Professor Beisner will know far more than I – but starting with the end of the Second World War, it was taken for granted that the United States could intervene in other people’s elections. Now, we had of course done that consistently in South America and in Latin America. But what we needed at that point in the early and late 1940s, was a new apparatus. And that apparatus was one which assumed that we were running a worldwide empire. You can call it the free world, you can call it what you want, but the assumption was that there were things we could do, which were so-called “legitimated” because we had power. But there was no real internal legitimation in the country for those things. The legitimation really didn’t come from Congress, except in the most broad way. For example, there is no place in the laws which says that covert operations should be conducted by a part of the American government. Yet it’s the case that covert operations go on. And the meaning of covert operations, in fact, is that you’re breaking the law of another country. That’s why you do it covertly. You’re trying to get their secrets, you’re doing all sorts of things, whether blackmail or secrets, or whatever it is, that’s why you’re conducting a covert operation on that level. And also you’re conducting it because you don’t want to go through congress because it would be publicly debated within the United States, and indeed in that sense, an elitist notion is, that a small grouping of people know better than others, that this is the way things should go on. This is the way politics should be conducted, in an international sense.

Now that has come to be known as the legitimate way of doing business in American society over the forty year period. And I would argue that that’s illegitimate. That that in itself, that national security state apparatus has to be dismantled. Now, in the context of that illegitimate system, came another illegitimate system. And that illegitimate system was, it came at various stages. Groupings of people who went out on their own to do various sorts of enterprises, which you know very well about. Other groupings of people organizing businesses, proprietaries for the CIA, to be used as fronts for other activities of the CIA, as if they were individual businessmen, not responsible to the CIA. But beyond that, came to be something that occurred in 1980 which is so profound. And that is the return of the possible fixing of an American election. Now, subjectively, from the point of view of Casey, his view is, look, Carter is an interloper. He tried to get rid, and indeed was successful at getting rid of part of the CIA. Stansfield Turner is an interloper, although god knows he isn’t, but indeed that is the perspective that Casey was taking, and indeed Casey was a man who’d been involved with secret operations since the second world war, and since the OSS, since OSS days. So, his perspective is, look, these people have indeed disturbed the orderly way of doing business by the United States, over this period of time. They were indeed, in the 1980s, if Carter had his way, who knows what might emerge with regard to the CIA. There was indeed, under Carter, much heavier controls over covert operations. As you know, as soon as Casey came in, with Reagan, they removed the controls over the covert operations. There had been a committee established, an oversight committee established in the White House, which no longer had that particular oversight responsibility over covert operations. So, a very great deal changed at that point.

Now, what does this mean? It means, in effect, you have a governing structure which is illegitimate, which it uses either the Republic or the Democracy, the rhetoric of Democracy or Republic, but operates on its own. And it operates in a framework of controlled legitimacy. That is, self-enforced legitimacy, indeed various people here have been part of it. Halperin had been part of it, I had been part of it, Sick had been part of it, and it operates in the context of rules and regulations which are self-imposed. But they’re not responsive to Congress per se, or to the public, per se. That system has, in my view, to be dismantled. Secondarily, came out of that system…a criminal system. And the criminal system is the one that we’re talking about here. Which now goes to the point, can you not only fix other people’s elections, but can you fix the elections at home? And in that sense, Wasserman’s comments are very important. I’m not here to talk about traitorous activity of the president, nor do I know enough to even begin to make such a charge. But it is clear that elections over the course of a forty year period have been fixed by the United States abroad. And that those people who undertake to do that abroad, have no problems doing that home. [applause]

QUESTIONER #8
A couple of points with regard to the press. Ms. Katherine Graham, owner of the Washington Post company, made her post Iran-Contra pilgrimage to Langley in November of 1988, and stated in a speech there, that democracy flourishes when government can keep its secrets. Point two, the Frontline program referred to, Mr. Angelo Codevilla, who is the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staff member referred to anonymously, previously…declared there on, and was identified as an informal consultant to the Republican campaign Committee, and in fact did deliver from his privileged position, information to that committee. That’s a heavy duty felony. To which he has openly admitted. Has any prosecution gone forward? Has any charge been made against him? Point three, and my last one…with regard to secrecy…there is currently a private lawsuit under way in federal court in Baltimore. Maxwell versus First National Bank of Maryland. This case involves, I will not go into the details, some charges relating to a CIA front company, which was a client at that bank. The plaintiff, Mr. Maxwell, in his private suit, for damages against the bank for wrongful discharge…was in charge of that account. In late December, the Justice Department, that oxymoron, presented an affidavit signed by the director of Central Intelligence, Mr. William Webster, in support of its motion, that Mr. Maxwell, a private citizen, who had never entered into an official relationship with the United States, never signed any secrecy agreement, by reason of the doctrine of absolute state secrecy, is to be prevented at any time in this proceeding, from referring to Associated Traders Corporation, to the Justice Department, to the FBI, or to the CIA, for fear of grave danger to the national security of the United States. These three points, I submit to you, illustrate where we are, on a very direct, important, and human level. Thank you. [applause]

MILLER
Question.

QUESTIONER #9
I had a question for Tom Blanton, I think it would be best…on the congressional investigation. And that is, what evidence is there beyond the assurances that Butler Derrick gave this morning, and the seventy five signers of this letter, that this quasi grand jury proceeding is really taking place, that something serious is happening on the part of the democratic leadership. I mean, who is the staff in charge, how many staff people are working on this, what are they doing, what letters have been written, what requests have been made…to the administration, and to Meese in California, to the other types of records you’ve talked about. Do you see or hear any of that being done on any sort of timetable…and I guess a related question, on the Senate side, is there any indication at this point, that the intelligence community and the work up to the Gates nomination hearings plan to pursue any of these issues in that forum?

BLANTON
To answer your first question, I really can’t answer it. You have to ask congressman Derrick. I’m not privy to those discussions, I’ve not attended any of those meetings, I couldn’t even name all the, you know, what committees have contributed staff to this operation, but you should check with the house leadership, and I’m sure you have much better sources on the hill than I do. On the-

QUESTIONER #9
My concern is, in checking with the leadership, the answers to those sorts of questions are quite vague, and they’re not, they’re not reassuring to a reporter, that something is happening. And I think perhaps Butler Derrick may have conveyed a different impression when he talked about a grand jury proceeding, that something is really going on here.

BLANTON
Yeah, he certainly conveyed a different impression I hadn’t heard before, which is why I remarked on it, and I would recommend that you talk to him, the notion that in two weeks they would decide is, I think, news. On the second question, I have no indications about what the Senate intelligence committee is or is not looking into, just some references in the media that four or five staff members are working full-time, compiling a briefing book on Gates. We’ve compiled one at the National Security Archives, and everyone’s welcome to come get a copy of. We’ll charge you for it, but that’s to cover our costs. But I have no notion other than that, about what they’re looking into.

MILLER
Yes?

HONEGGER
Barbara Honegger, the author of October Surprise. What I’d like to add here is some very specific data, some facts, people ask me, where are the smoking guns. And we’ve, Tom Blanton has listed a number of the documents that need to be subpoenaed, and the kinds of documents, and the kinds of sources that need subpoenas, once we get subpoena power, whether it’s in a class action suit, which is my hope, frankly, on the part of the fifty two hostages or some good subset of them, or whether there’s a congressional hearing or investigation with subpoena power and under oath testimony. Just a couple of the highlights, and I’m on the record, going to say, here, that while I’m in Washington over the next two days, I am going to compile from my own five year research, and being the author of the only book on this subject, which I have available here, for those who would like to see it…published in 1989, and I should add that the day my book was published, May 12, 1989, the Bush Justice Department chose to sue one of the key witnesses, self-proclaimed eye witnesses, Richard Brenneke, on that precise date. That is not a coincidence. My book is important. And you should read it.

Now, in the book, there are references to a number of smoking guns and in the three years since I have written the book, I have on a daily basis continued this research, full-time. Just some tips of the iceberg, of some of these smoking guns. Half of which are contained in the book, and half of which are not. I pledge here that I will make a list of all thirty seven of them. There are audiotapes. We know where they are, they have to be subpoenaed. And I will make that list available to the individuals in the Congress that I happen to personally know, including Spencer Oliver, the chief counsel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including Mr. Robert Torricelli, and his assistant, Rick Frost, including Mr. Butler Derrick and his assistant, Michael Harrison, who is there today. And a whole list of the individuals I have been assured have been working on this quote grand jury unquote, they will have this list of smoking guns before I leave Washington on Saturday. And this list of smoking guns, I will make available to the press, in whatever way I can, if and only if, the decision is made by this so-called staff level investigation in the House of Representatives, not to go forward with subpoena power, and I will make the full list available to the press. You will see in a moment the problem with the dilemma and the trade-off of making the full list available to the press now, is that people have a way of dying very quickly, if they know something. The epilogue to my book, which I call “A Kinder, Gentler Nation”, is a list of some thirty individuals who have either been assassinated, assassination attempts on their life, and I add in that list, Mr. Brenneke himself, also Houshang Lavi, now deceased, who is the self-acknowledged individual, an Iranian arms dealer who has said that, on videotape, in an interview I arranged for him…that he personally at the October 2nd meeting, that Richard Allen, Lawrence Silberman, the judge who has now let Oliver North off the hook, not coincidentally, and also Mr. Robert McFarlane. Not coincidentally, later at the center of Iran-Contra. These three men have acknowledged publicly, having been at the October 2nd 1980 meeting in the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, with, they say, an Iranian, maybe an Egyptian, well, that man has come forward, his name is Houshang Lavi. There were two attempts on his life. He is now deceased from a heart attack. I presume that was of natural causes. But: just some examples of the highlights, smoking guns, that are going to be on the list of thirty seven that I will give to these members of the staff level investigation. The surprising one that has not yet been mentioned here today, was actually mentioned on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, on November 7th, 1986, by none other than Richard Allen himself, one of the participants of the meeting with Mr. Houshang Lavi on October 2nd, 1980. That October 2nd, 1980 meeting is one of the hard data points that we have. And Misters Allen, Silberman, and McFarlane want you to believe that nothing happened there.

I have a tape recorded interview with Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe, whom we know, was a former Israeli intelligence agent, who was in a position to know at the time, later a top assistant to Mr. Shamir himself. He is right now, as I am speaking to you, in Australia writing a book on October Surprise for release in five languages, this November 1991. So, it will not be long before his entire story is out in his own words. However, in a tape recorded interview with him, I have the transcript in my possession with me here today, he has stated that to his personal knowledge, as part of what he called the “Ora Group” in Israel, six members were critical in that group; there was a total of approximately ninety two billion dollars in U.S. and other Western arms that were brokered by the Israelis to Iran, over the period of the Iran-Iraq war. We are talking twice the entire estimated forty billion dollars that it costs the United States and all of our allies to fight the recent Persian Gulf war. Now, this Ari Ben-Menashe is very important. He is also, in a tape recorded interview with me, personally present at this – hard fact – October 2nd 1980 meeting with Allen, Silberman, and McFarlane, and he has stated in a taped interview with me, that Mr. Houshang Lavi, now deceased, two assassination attempts against his life, was working for Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe and Israeli intelligence at the time. Mr. Houshang Lavi happened to be Jewish and Iranian. Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe happens to be Jewish and born in Iran. And you will see in the revised edition of my book that this is a very important connection, the Jewish-Iranian connection.

In any case, the tip of the iceberg, in terms of a hard data point we need to subpoena, is that this very man, Richard Allen, who we know was at this meeting…and Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe has also now identified the two Iranians at the meeting, that Houshang Lavi would not name for me, except to say one of them was a doctor. I had asked him, “Was it Dr. Cyrus Hasehmi?”, he said, “No, I guarantee you it is not.” Now Mr. Lavi is deceased. But Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe is now stated on tape that the individual, the doctor at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel meeting, with Allen, Silberman, McFarlane, and according to Ben-Menashe, Ben-Menashe himself and Lavi, was a Dr. Om Ghomshei, who I’ve checked with Bani Sadr, he is the former president of Iran, he has checked that, he came back to me through his translator, his english translator, one week ago in writing, and he said Mr. Ghomshei, Dr. Ghomshei, is a very important figure who is close to Mr. Mehdi Kashani. Well, Mr. Kashani in my tape recorded interview with Ari Ben-Menashe, as having been Mr. Ari Ben-Menashe’s number one core contact in Iran, for the arms for hostages deals. So, this is a critical meeting, it’s not what Richard Allen said, I happen to disagree with Martin Kilian, that he agrees with Richard Allen, I do not believe Richard Allen. I think that it was a very important, substantive meeting, I do not believe that it just happened in the lobby, there were at least five or six individuals that we can identify already, as acknowledging having been present. And as a result of that meeting, there were certain understandings that were made. Richard Allen, a participant in this hard fact October 2nd 1980 meeting, with Lavi and presumably also Ben-Menashe, and Dr. Ghomshei of Iran, and Ghomshei’s aide, who is still not identified by name, this same Richard Allen, on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, on November 7th 1986, stated to a nationwide television audience, that he Richard Allen, then the first national security advisor to President Reagan, on Reagan’s first full day in office, that was January 21st, 1981, that he, Allen, turned to Reagan, presumably in the Oval Office or somewhere close there, in the White House certainly, said Mr. Reagan, “There’s a fifty-third hostage…” Or a fifty-fourth hostage. “..who is still being held in Iran. Her name is Cynthia Dwyer, and she happens to be the wife of one of my former college buddies.” Well, Mr. Allen put out on MacNeil-Lehrer that the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, turned to him on January 21st 1981 and said, “You call or let us call the Iranians, call Iran and tell them that the deal is off, unless she is also released.” Well, there is a tape recording in the White House Situation Room basement made of all calls to foreign officials, especially heads of state…

MILLER
Can I ask you, you’ve got very important thing to say, and they’re people who want to talk with you about it…we have a few minutes, and there are a few more questions. With your indulgence. Question here. Thank you.

ROBERT BOEHM
My name is Robert Boehm, from The Fund for New Priorities and also the Center for Constitutional Rights. The point I wish to make is that, to emphasize the important constitutional aspects discussed by Morton Halperin, and to add a further point: and that is that the operations of the CIA, as they have existed almost from the beginning, are themselves really unconstitutional, because the constitution requires that all appropriations made of funds for the government must be appropriated by Congress and by nobody else. And must be revealed in the budget. Well, actually the CIA operation is not separate at all, is not voted on separately by the Congress, but is, consists of monies given to the CIA by various other agencies. So there is no real way in which the Congress can even know how much the CIA has been getting. As a matter of fact, at one time, Senator Kennedy ventured a guess that it ran perhaps five billion dollars. Actually, the funds expended for the CIA and other intelligence agencies now have been publicly admitted to be approximately thirty billion dollars. Now, this continuing violation of the constitution is something that invites, I think, the attention of legal scholars. Actually, it was presented in court, in a very well-known case, Harrington against the government. Congressman Michael Harrington raised this issue, and brought it to the attention of the courts. Unfortunately, the circuit court of appeals in, I believe, Massachusetts, ruled that he did not have standing to sue. It’s really hard to justify the decision of that time, because it would seem to me that a Congressman has every important interest in knowing how the funds that Congress votes are expended. But the court held against him on it, and other constitutional lawyers were afraid to bring the matter to the Supreme Court because they were afraid it would also give a bad decision. However, I think the issue is still very much alive and I think it’s something that should be investigated and that it should play a role in the deliberations of people who want to bring out, prevent secrecy in government.

MILLER
Time for one more question. Alright. Well, I think that brings us to an end. I want to thank our panelists who have spoken here today. In very different ways they have made a plea for a formal investigation to be made by an appropriate committee of Congress. Particularly concerning charges made in connection with the so-called October Surprise. The panelists have outlined what they know, what they don’t know, and what needs to be known. They’ve also given us some sense of the constitutional issues, the historical context, and some sense of the practical politics involved. And from what we’ve heard today, it seems to me that the charges and allegations by any reasonable standard are very serious. They affect the reputation and integrity of some of our leaders of both parties, our government, and its process. And I am sure that most Americans want to believe in the integrity and openness of its leaders, its government, and its processes. I certainly do. But these allegations are so serious that they deserve to be examined. The truth or falsity of them determined, and the necessary judgements made in a fair, just, and thorough and authoritative way, and the Congress is an appropriate way to do that.

PAPRIN
Thank you. I’d also like to close with a vote of gratitude to the staff who works so hard in preparing this. We have our west coast director David Marks, we have Washington staff in the form of Robert Van Devere, and Bill Anderson, and all the other members of the Fund, I want to thank the panelists, I want to thank Moorhead Kennedy and Barry Rosen and the other hostages, for the role that they’ve continued to play in a very important democratic process. As I said before, we will have a follow-up in the form of videotapes available. This is the commercial part, the Fund for New Priorities is a tax exempt educational organization, we raise money from the people. And we need help to distribute the materials to hold these conferences. Any contributions should be sent to The Fund at 171 Madison Avenue, New York, 106. Our office in Washington is 202675239. I would also like to add a correction or an apology to Barbara Cohen, who called, somewhat furious, with a statement I made earlier, a statement that attempted clarification of my remarks…is that she was not able, or she did not feel comfortable with moderating this panel today. And I said I would make such a statement as a clarification of the remarks that I made earlier in the day.

AUDIENCE MEMBER
Did she say why she wouldn’t feel comfortable?

PAPRIN
You’ll have to call her with regard to that. I got this by telephone message, I’m making the apology public, she said she’d come down here, and, what was the statement Eleanor? I can’t recall. “Make a condemnatory statement for what my earlier remarks,” I’m trying to clarify them, to the extent that I know…I misconstrued them or misrepresented them. In any event, I want also to call your attention to the fact that MacNeil-Lehrer tonight will have, I think, a few of our panelists participating in the MacNeil-Lehrer Hour…we have, I think have been taped, I know we have been taped by C-Span, so I know we’ll have the videotapes available, I think we were covered by other networks, and to the extent that we’ll have the materials available, we will do so. We will also have an edited transcript [not the same as this transcript on pastebin at URL http://pastebin.com/kWkuBq9D which is by the uploader] and again, thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen, very much. [applause]

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy Holidays

This place, which was started as a kind of therapy, has fallen into neglect as I put other things in my life together. My hands right now are very full putting together a movie built around a plot tangent of one of the stories posted here – as with all stories I work on, it started as something small, and has metastasized into something labyrinthine. Originally, I’d hoped to have it at least by the end of this year – it will probably only be done by January*, the traditional month for the cast-offs and wrecks of film. When my work consumes me, I become nearly blind to the passing of time, but I mark this ceremonial time with a piece of music which carries the best qualities of religious music – seriousness, beauty, passion, and devotion – as well as well wishes to all passers-by, fellow citizens of this haunted world.

“Alleluia, Behold the Bridegroom” by the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir, conducted by Nicolai Korniev:

*Pardon the christmas lights still bedecking my roof – looks like this release has been moved to February March, dolls.

Inherent Vice / Thomas Pynchon in Los Angeles

Partly due to writer’s block, but mainly for tactical reasons, a long hiatus was taken on the unfinished post “Irving Wallace’s The Fan Club: The Fappening Part Three”. It will most likely be completed this week. In the interim, to keep ourselves busy, we made this.

Tagged , ,

Irving Wallace’s The Fan Club: The Fappening Part Three

IRVING WALLACE’S THE FAN CLUB: THE FAPPENING

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE

In an attempt to finally finish this piece, it’ll be posted incomplete, and finished part by part, day by day. Copy editing will obviously be a little rough till at least Monday.

Note (2016-07-22): After starting this, I pretty much took a hiatus from writing. This post will never be completed, though elements might show up in videos put out by this site.

THE VOYEUR OF UTTER DESTRUCTION (AS BEAUTY) /
THE LOOMING TOWER

Images of the U.S. Bank Tower - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/HugeLikableKoala

Various images of the U.S. Bank Tower, both real and unreal, taken from “Los Angeles 2014 HD”, “U.S. Bank Tower Los Angeles (HD)”, “GTA V Online: Landing a Jet on the Maze Bank Tower”, and Independence Day.

“For years I’ve felt I didn’t know what I was doing; I had to watch my activities and deduce, like an outsider, what I was up to. My novels, for example. They are said by readers to depict the same world again and again, a recognizable world. Where is that world? In my head? Is it what I see in my own life and inadvertently transfer into my novels and to the reader? At least I’m consistent, since it is all one novel. I have my own special world. I guess they are in my head, in which case they are a good clue to my identity and to what is happening inside me: they are brain prints. This brings me to my frightening premise. I seem to be living in my own novels more and more. I can’t figure out why. Am I losing touch with reality? Or is reality actually sliding toward a Phil Dickian type of atmosphere? And if the latter, then for god’s sake why? Am I responsible? How could I be responsible? Isn’t that solipsism?”

–excerpt from a letter by Philip K. Dick, found in The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem

“To be honest with you, when I began researching this topic, I was not entirely sure that there would be enough there to write a whole chapter on. I was also surprised, although, I dunno, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, to find that no one else had ever really done a comprehensive history of internet pornography, as an industry. I guess maybe I’m not surprised, but I dunno. Anyway, this has taken a bit longer than I thought, because it does turn out that the data and other materials, were sortof hard to come by. It seems like this is not something that people consider a legitimate topic for business or industry history, and then of course, the pornography industry itself is more than a little shy when it comes to publicity concerning their business practices. But I did find the overall details I uncovered to be _fascinating_, as a sort of alternative lens through which to study the overall development of the internet and the web.”

Internet History Podcast: “A History of Internet Porn”, written and hosted by Brian McCullough

I am drawn to simple, lurid plots, which somehow inevitably end up vaster and vaster, seemingly stretching out to engulf the entire substance of the world if one were to draw the lines between all the nodes, if one were to look deeply enough, until one mapped something like the conspiracy of Foucault’s Pendulum, a plot which took place over eons of human existence and animated all of our history. What follows is a far smaller drama than that, yet what I expected to be a small footnote has expanded into an entire world of its own. Only the first paragraph, and I am nearly out of breath, and we have barely started, not started at all. Let me take a gulp of breath and…okay, GO!

“I am so upset about this…can you just see the pain in this poor woman?” said Dr. Drew Pinsky on an HLN newscast the night after Mindy McCready killed herself. Mindy McCready was the former country singer sensation who developed a prescription painkiller addiction, was the subject of a nationwide manhunt after she kidnapped her son in December 2011, two years after which McCready’s boyfriend stuck a rifle to his head and pulled the trigger, and a month after that, McCready pulled the trigger too. “She signed it ‘I hope that you’ll miss me’, and she drove herself out of town,” Mindy McCready sang on “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now”. McCready knew Dr. Drew from her time on the VH1 reality series, Celebrity Rehab, where the formerly famous dealt with their addictions through the help of Dr. Drew. The program would end in 2013 after McCready became the fifth contestant on the show to commit suicide or overdose. “It is that pain in this poor woman, the intolerability of that pain that leads to suicide. This is an egregious situation. It’s awful,” said Dr. Drew on HLN that night. “To me, this is almost death by public scrutiny. People should be ashamed of themselves,” said Dr. Drew on HLN that night.1. There was a concept called “heroing” in the capper community, where you made a big show of your virtue in trying to help people, at the same time that you were actually just manipulating them for your own ends. Maybe Dr. Drew was that kind of hero. “We do have to leave it there, but I just hope as always, Dr. Drew, I just hope that this is a teaching moment, as we’re wont to call it, for so many people,” said the HLN host that night2.

Dr. Drew Pinsky: "It is that pain…"

A post shared by Goto Tengo (@gototengo) on

A vine of a fragment from “McCready’s struggles evident in last interview”, quote comes out of a fragment running from 2:57 to 3:09.

The capper community was a group of predators and extortionists who got underage girls to flash their tits, took screencaps, and then threatened the girls with sending the photos to friends or family – unless the girls did what they called “putting on shows”, which might mean stripping on cam or drinking their piss out of a toilet. One prominent victim was Aurora Eller, who would relate her experiences on The View, and another was Amanda Todd, who would kill herself at fifteen after a sustained campaign of harassment by one man. The capper community shared their pics on the image board Anon-IB, which was the same image board used by the members of #TheFappening ring, which was the group responsible for the massive hack of private pictures of various celebrities.

From an episode of The Daily Capper, a program made by and for the capping community, distributing valuable information, such as the fact that at the time of the broadcast of this episode, the image board Anon-IB was not taking down underage pics.

Amanda Todd and Aurora Eller - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/SandyOblongKakarikis

Images taken from “My Confessions” by Aurora Eller and “Amanda Todd’s Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self Harm”.

This hack was met by a tide of outrage at the violation of the privacy of these women, some of the strongest of which came from the gossip blog Gawker. This was a little surprising, because in the past Gawker had published private and nude pics hacked from the accounts of female celebrities without remorse or compunction, “Olivia Munn’s Super Dirty Alleged Naked Pics: ‘Lick My Tight Asshole and Choke Me'” (archive today link), “New Super Dirty Olivia Munn Pics: ‘I Want Your Big Dick Right Here'” (archive today link), “Christina Hendricks Says These Giant Naked Boobs Aren’t Hers, But Everything Else Is” (archive today link), “This Week’s Naked Celebrity Phone Pics: Glee’s Heather Morris” (archive today link).

There were many moments in this series of violations which Gawker would later be so outraged over, and one of the most successful was “Dane’s Anatomy: McSteamy, His Wife and a Fallen Beauty Queen’s Naked Threesome – Eric Dane – Gawker” which pulled in over 2.8 million clicks for some footage of Gray’s Anatomy star Eric Dane, his wife Rebecca Gayheart, and Kari Ann Peniche, a former Miss United States Teen and Playboy cover girl. Peniche may have ended up working for Michelle Braun, who ran an escort ring of Playboy playmates, marquee porn stars, B-list actresses, and maybe this tape was taken from her by her former roommate and Celebrity Rehab co-star, Mindy McCready. It was one more transgression that you were supposed to have forgotten so that Gawker might be outraged at the transgressions of others. If you didn’t forget those things, they served as a helpful framing for other events. There was this, tweeted out after Amanda Todd’s death, from the subject of several Gawker posts:

This was perhaps simple empathy that many felt after Todd’s death; only after coming across these posts, did I think that maybe Munn feel a more specific connection with a girl who’d been bullied by a nude picture of herself. That her Newsroom character then appeared in a scene which is almost a verbatim re-creation of a painful on-air appearance of a former Gawker editor, Emily Gould, might not have been just another day’s work, but may have carried a few drops of vengeful poison as well.

A scene, both in fact and fiction.

This infamous moment was taped the same day that Gould picked out the best comment making fun of Michael Hastings after Gawker published leaked excerpts of a memoir about his time in Baghdad, and his fiancé, who’d been machine gunned to death three weeks earlier. “And the perfect first line for this book is: What can you say about a twenty-eight-year-old girl who died IN BAGHDAD?” was the heartless line which Gould picked out as the premium selection of Gawker commentariat wit.

There is something exhilarating in thia gaudy frenzy – the out of control suicidal country singer, the celebrity escort ring, the celebrity sex tapes, Gawker spits in the face of Olivia Munn, and Olivia Munn spits back. The underground virtual network of self-display, extortion, coercion, and suffering which trapped Eller and Todd blends with our own sordid aboveground entertainments. This hurlyburly transmits an energy like any amphetamine, and only when you slow the tape down and look close does the form change to the plangent: Mindy McCready was a deeply troubled woman who dearly loved her son, Kari Ann Peniche spoke of being molested and raped twice, Scarlett Johansson wept when giving testimony against her celeb hacker, Olivia Munn may have wept at her own exposue, Amanda Todd died, and the war which consumed his fiancé might have finally consumed Michael Hastings as well. Only by slowing the tape down could you see the vital connecting filament, and this gave another sick kind of excitement, the let’s-pretend-we’re-detectives kick, the corpse on the floor as part of a larger tapestry. “Gawking at the Wreckage” focused on Hastings, part one on celeb hacks and the predator capping community, part two the Michelle Braun ring, and this penultimate section looks at one filament which connects to so many things.

THE FESTIVAL OF REASON

Student in the audience: I’d like to know if that cane you have has any mystical significance to you, and I’d also like to know if you think fascism is doing well in America today.

Hunter S. Thompson: Better than ever.

Student in the audience: Is that the cane or fascism?

Hunter S. Thompson: Fascism always does pretty well when people get lazy and pissed off. Almost any solution you come to when you figure, “Oh, fuck I’m tired of that…let’s kill those bastards.” Anytime things get the best of you, that’s a natural drift into a fascistic kind of solution. So in a country where there are no solutions and many problems, I think it has a tendency to adopt fascistic solutions.

–“Still Broke and Not Quite Sane”, from University of Colorado Lecture, November 1, 19773

Supply, succumb, deny – everything.
Always.

“Heretic Proof” by Charlie Sheen

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE

FOOTNOTES

1 From “McCready’s struggles evident in last interview”, first quote comes out of a fragment running from 2:57 to 3:09, second quote is taken from 3:42-3:47. A good background on Dr. Drew is the 2011 profile, “Does Dr. Drew Need an Intervention?” by Steve Mikulan. The disturbing level of fatalities of Celebrity Rehab was investigated in-depth after the fourth death by Maria Elena Fernandez in “Does ‘Rehab’ Help or Hurt?”, and looked into more briefly after McCready’s suicide in “‘Celebrity Rehab’ Deaths: Mindy McCready Becomes Fifth Cast Member To Die (PHOTOS)” on The Huffington Post, no credited writer. A mention of the show’s ending after McCready’s death can be found in “Dr. Drew: No More ‘Celebrity Rehab’ After Cast Member Deaths” by Erin Carlson.

2 Quote comes from “McCready’s struggles evident in last interview”, fragment from 7:03-7:15.

3 Recording can be found at “AntiCurrent Archive Vol 9: Hunter S Thompson- Lecture at Boulder University, 1977” from the blog Rants, Ravings, Gibberish & Jabs by Dr. Josh Roush.

Tagged , ,

Irving Wallace’s The Fan Club: The Fappening Part Two

In an attempt to avoid infinite delays on this very long post, I’ll be putting it up unfinished, with additions made every so often, so that the thing is complete by the end of the week, Friday, March 27th, 2015 Friday, April 3rd 8th (sometime in April), 2015…let’s aim for early May. This might be seen as the third part of a three part series, “The Last Magazine by Michael Hastings: Gawking at the Wreckage” and “Irving Wallace’s The Fan Club: The Fappening”.

IRVING WALLACE’S THE FAN CLUB: THE FAPPENING

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE

THREE WOMEN / THE AFFAIR OF THE NECKLACE

“I found out something I never knew,” Bobby Kennedy said of Dallas not long before his own murder. “I found out my world was not the real world.”

The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and its Hold on America by Sally Denton & Roger Morris

Mindy McCready, Kari Ann Peniche, Michelle Braun

Mindy McCready, Kari Ann Peniche, Michelle Braun; photos taken, respectively from “Mindy McCready weeps as she confirms affair with Roger Clemens” (no credit), WENN.com, and “Michelle Braun: Notorious L.A. Madam’s South Florida Adventure”, photo credit Broward Sheriff’s Office.

It ends with stolen rubies. It begins with ridiculous dreams. “You are one interesting girl,” said Howard Stern when he interviewed Kari Ann Peniche. “How do you get to be Miss Teen USA? That seems like a big deal, Miss Teen USA.” “Miss United States Teen,” Peniche corrected him. “I was modeling at a modeling agency and the receptionist, she was like, “Oh, I’m giving up my crown next weekend,” and I was like, “What crown?” and she’s like, “I’m Miss Teen Oregon,” and I was, “I wanna be Miss Teen Oregon! So…” Stern: “And after you win the whole thing, you think, something’s going to happen, but nothing really big happens, does it?” Peniche: “Um…no. Playboy came along.”1 Shandi Finnessey, Miss USA 2004: “Playboy, for some reason, has these little tentacle feelers that go out and girls in pageants are like, “My year’s over. Playboy!””2 “My initial reaction to the offer of doing Playboy was absolutely not,” said Peniche. “My mom raised me with honesty and integrity. There was no amount of money that could basically screw over the pageant, or make the pageant look bad…After talking more and more with my agents about it, and my mom, we came to an agreement to do it.” Finnessey: “A lot of people also think that Playboy is this big door that opens up, and provides all these other opportunites…”3 Does the obvious qualifier need to be added? Okay: no, it doesn’t.

Peniche seemed like a soft edged creature, whose soft edges you were never sure were entirely a pose, or whether it was genuine vulnerability occasionally employed for her own ends. “What’s your favorite song?” she was asked on the Sin City Sessions podcast. “I’m like an Air Supply, Kenny Loggins, Carpenters kind of girl. My favorite song, in the whole wide world has to be Kenny Loggins, “Danny’s Song”, because my dad used to sing it, when I was little…and I also love “Let Me be the One” by The Carpenters…I’m such a nerd when it comes to music.”4 Right after “Bush or brazilian?” (“Oh, brazilian,” said with a kind of obviously dismissiveness, from a time before hair made a comeback) on the same podcast, she was asked, “What turns you on?”: “Someone who makes me laugh…you know what turns me on? Someone who does my errands,” and then she gave a charming laugh. “Yeah, that turns me on.” Which was punctuated with another laugh5.

Peniche was one point in the trio, along with Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart, who appeared in the sex tape which Gawker and the current editor of The New Republic, Gabriel Snyder, had published: “Dane’s Anatomy: McSteamy, His Wife and a Fallen Beauty Queen’s Naked Threesome – Eric Dane – Gawker”. “Every young woman I know was violated when the nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and other successful women were posted on the internet for public consumption against their will,” Reut Amit would write in “That Type of Girl Deserves It”, which was also published on Gawker; the gossip platform Gawker, as well as on Gawker Media’s porn division, Fleshbot, had also published (the following links are all NSFW) “Olivia Munn’s Super Dirty Alleged Naked Pics: ‘Lick My Tight Asshole and Choke Me'” (archive today link), “New Super Dirty Olivia Munn Pics: ‘I Want Your Big Dick Right Here'” (archive link today), “Christina Hendricks Says These Giant Naked Boobs Aren’t Hers, But Everything Else Is” (archive today link), “This Week’s Naked Celebrity Phone Pics: Glee’s Heather Morris” (archive today link), “Are These Nude Photos Of Scarlett Johansson The Real Deal? [UPDATED 9/16/11]” (archive today link), “First Cassie, Now Rihanna: It’s Naked R&B Star Week” (archive today link), “Ashley Greene: Naked on the Internet?” (archive today link), and “Double Whammy Celebrity Nudity: Kat Dennings and Jessica Alba Topless!” (archive today link), all of them hacked celebrity nudes. Amit’s essay bluntly equated viewing such stolen pictures with rape: “We are not concerned with what it means to violate a young woman by viewing her unwilling naked body. We see hacking a computer as a crime but viewing the hacked image as a misdemeanor rather as an act of sexual violence.”

“Your bared body can always be used as a weapon against you. You bared body can always be used to shame and humiliate you,” wrote Roxane Gay in “The Great 2014 Celebrity Nude Photos Leak is only the beginning”, published in The Guardian. A follow-up post to Snyder’s “Dane’s Anatomy: McSteamy, His Wife and a Fallen Beauty Queen’s Naked Threesome – Eric Dane – Gawker” was “More People Know Kari Ann Peniche’s Boobs Than Her Face” by Brian Moylan, might be an example of what Gay was writing about: you are nothing but your decaying body, you dunce. Peniche, wrote Moylan, “walked right up to Chambers (who plays Dr. Alex Karev) at a party in L.A. Problem is, even after all the kerfuffle, he had no clue who she was. Harsh…Damn, we give it a month before she’s somewhere in Hollywood knocking over tables and screaming, “Don’t you know who I am? I was the other girl in the McSteamy tape!”” Gay writes of these on-lookers and debasers as if they are some crowd distant and faraway from The Guardian; well, at the time that her piece was published, Moylan was one of her colleagues at the paper6. “It’s not merely tawdry that the private sexual conversations of partners are now being disseminated like memes,” wrote Zoe Williams in “If you click on Jennifer Lawrence’s naked pictures, you’re perpetuating her abuse”. “It’s an act of sexual violation, and it deserves the same social and legal punishment as meted out to stalkers and other sexual predators.” Williams’ essay was published in The Guardian; she was a colleague of Moylan as well. That John Manese, the man behind the reddit, “The Fappening”, identified as asexual, did not seem to excuse him of complicity in the matter. Does Moylan being a gay man excuse him of complicity here?

I think you can look at this as a violation, though not equal to sexual assault – and Gawker, which had perpetrated this violation many, many times in the past, had better hope like sweet hell it’s not equivalent to sexual assault – but whatever degree of violation you want to assign it, this was just one more violation in the life of Kari Ann Peniche. This was revealed, not by the enlighteneed, noble souls of Gawker, but by a degenerate with a special place in my heart, Howard Stern. A degenerate, as well as a great interviewer. From his episode with Peniche, recorded after the sex tape went public and she was briefly on a rehab program called Sober House7:

HOWARD STERN [HS]: They sit her down in the first episode. They sit Kari down, in the first episode, and they…right away, you come clean, and you say, hey, I was molested…

KARI ANN PENICHE [KAP]: Mmmhmm.

HS: Raped…

KAP: Mmmmm.

HS: I mean, no wonder you got sex issues.

KAP: (laughs)

ROBIN QUIVERS [RQ]: Well, who, what was happening, how old were we, what was going on?

KAP: My next door neighbour molested me when I was five, six, seven.

HS: How old was he?

KAP: Older. Much older.

HS: Like a teenager?

KAP: No, like fifties.

HS: Like fifty?

RQ: Ewwww.

KAP: Yeah, but he also had a mental, like, thing.

HS: But how does he get alone with you? Where the fuck are your parents in all of this?

KAP: Um, well, my parents they worked, my mom worked a lot. My dad was working or passed out, one or the other. We had a nanny. And I had two other brothers. So, I would just go to the backyard fence, and…

HS: And he would take advantage of you?

KAP: Yeah.

HS: And you didn’t know what was going on, you were a kid.

KAP: No, I looked forward to it. Because he would bring candy…or give me games…

HS: And what was he doing to you at five? I mean, that’s the sickest Goddamn thing ever. Touching your vagina?

KAP: Mmmmhmmm.

HS: No kidding.

KAP: And then he would have me touch his.

HS: Through the fence, no less.

KAP: Mmmhmm. And then, oh my gosh, once he cut his finger, and the nanny had come out right, right when…he had pulled his finger out his finger from the fence, and it was one of those metal fences with wood on the other side. And the nanny went and got him a band-aid, and didn’t realize that my panties were down.

RQ: Wow.

HS: What kind of people were watching you, wolves?

RQ: Blind people.

HS: Nobody cared about you.

RQ: Well, that’s what it would seem, I suppose.

KAP: No, I had great parents. My mom-

HS: No, you didn’t.

KAP: Yeah, I had a good mom.

HS: Really?

KAP: She’s amazing.

RQ: You said your dad might have been passed out, what do you mean?

HS: He’s a drunk.

KAP: Yeah, he was like a musician/drug-addict.

RQ: You didn’t have good parents. I’m gonna-

KAP: My mom was great, though.

HS: Still alive? Both parents?

KAP: Mmmhmm.

HS: Do you ever see your dad? Or do you have nothing to do with him?

KAP: No, I do. I have a relationship with him as I choose to. I go see him. He’s not a bad person, he just made poor choices.

“How long was that going on?” Stern would ask. “For two or three years,” Peniche would answer. Stern: “Two or three years. And you say you looked forward to it, as a kid, because you got candy.” Peniche: “Isn’t that sick, isn’t that weird? But I didn’t know better.” Stern: “The bad part in this whole story is, nobody ever offered me candy for any kind of sexual thing.”8 They would then move on to a decade later9:

HS: And then, terrible stories as you’re growing up. Rape occurred.

KAP: Mmmhmm.

HS: How did this happen to you?

KAP: I was raped when I was fourteen and again when I was seventeen.

HS: How as a fourteen year old? Because you mentioned you were a sexy, hot model, you were going overseas modeling. So, were any parents around, or were you just out of their supervision?

KAP: When I was raped at seventeen it actually happened overseas. And no, there weren’t parents…we would go over…you know, I was the youngest one, like the next youngest girl was nineteen, from Australia. And we would live in a models’ apartment for six to eight weeks.

HS: Right. And what happened when you were fourteen?

KAP: I was raped by college boys. I had snuck out of the house, and…like, I had unscrewed my alarm system, and superglued it together so I could go out the window.

HS: You went to go to a party, have parties with friends? What happens, you go to a party and they all jump on you?

KAP: Nah, I just got drunk. And, you know…put myself in a bad situation, basically.

HS: You were drunk, and they took advantage of you. Wow. How many guys?

KAP: Just one.

HS: Oh, one guy. You never reported him.

KAP: MmmMmm [No].

HS: Why do you think that is? Why not report the fucker?

KAP: Because I think uh…at fourteen I was also getting into trouble. I was getting caught smoking cigarettes, or ditching school, and so, if you try to, you feel if you say something like that time, you’re just coming up with an excuse. Nobody’s going to believe you, you know.

HS: Everybody’s going to think you’re just…

KAP: And then you have to admit that you snuck out.

HS: Right. So did you ever tell anyone, or just kept it to yourself?

KAP: I didn’t tell anybody until I was nineteen.

HS: Did you ever say anything to the guy afterwards, or did you-

KAP: Uh Uh [No].

HS: -you fuck, you raped me.

KAP: MmmMmm [No].

HS: What did you do, you just got up and left?

KAP: I really, I never saw him again. It was a college party I’d gone to.

HS: He passed out after he did it.

KAP: No, he actually dropped me off at my house.

RQ: Wow, that was nice. Nah, I’m only teasing.

HS: Well, it wasn’t all bad, I guess.

KAP: Yeah.

HS: Oh my god. Where does he rape you? At the party?

KAP: Mmmhmm.

HS: And then says, “Get in the car, I’ll take you home”?

KAP: No, I asked him to take me home.

HS: And isn’t that crazy, that you got into the car with him and it could have happened again?

KAP: Yeah.

HS: You weren’t thinking.

KAP: Yeah. I was fourteen and drunk.

HS: Jesus christ. Who knew this was going on when I had you in the tickle chair [a reference to her previous, first appearance on the show, when they had a prop chair which women sat in]?

KAP: But it’s okay. It doesn’t matter, really.

HS: I wouldn’t have tickled you.

KAP: Who cares? It doesn’t matter really.

HS: You keep saying that about the sex. It so matters.

KAP: Well, it doesn’t matter, really. Why would you let some sick fuck, basically, like, affect your future, your forever?

RQ: Don’t you think it has?

KAP: It has, yeah. And that’s what I learned in sex rehab. I used to think, it doesn’t bother me, like, it’s not going to affect me. And actually it did. A lot of ways about my personality, my relationship.

HS: Sure.

HS: When you were seventeen, and modeling, how does a guy get a hold of you like that? You have no parents around…were you at a modeling session when you were raped?

KAP: No, I was actually in Itaewon [district unit in Yongsan District of Seoul], in Korea. Itaewon is like the American area. It’s like, there’s a lot of military guys. It was by a military guy [a military guy raped me]. And again, I was…I don’t drink at all, anymore, so…

HS: No kidding. Stop.

RQ: It wasn’t good for you.

HS: You were drunk. Where did this guy meet you?

KAP: At one of the bars.

HS: And so he says, “Hey, come back to my place”?

KAP: No, all I remember is…I remember very little of it, in a hotel room. And then not being able to fully wake up…and then I woke up behind a dumpster when the sun was coming up, and I was covered like in shitwater and…

RQ: Do you think this was a roofies situation?

KAP: Absolutely.

HS: Somebody slipped you something?

KAP: Yeah.

HS: You don’t even remember being raped?

KAP: I barely remember any of it.

HS: You’re kindof hazy about it. And then you wake up behind the dumpster?

KAP: Mmmhmm.

HS: Wow. Boy, guys are cold.

KAP: Yeah.

HS: Phewww.

KAP: But I was a virgin by choice till eighteen (laughs).

HS: That’s the weird thing, right? Yeah. Tough stuff.

Peniche would go on to win Miss Teen Oregon, then Miss United States Teen, then pose for Playboy while Miss United States Teen, after which, “Playboy came along,” Stern summarized, “and you did Playboy, and then you got booted out of being Miss United States Teen.” Stern: “And then things went downhill…did you get addicted to drugs? What was your whole thing?” Peniche: “Sex and drugs.” Stern: “Sex and drugs. What drugs were you doing? Meth?” Peniche: “All of them.” Robin Quivers: “You didn’t have favorites? You just did them all?” Peniche: “No, I had favorites. I went through phases.”10

Another follow-up post to “Dane’s Anatomy”, this one by Foster Kamer, would hint as to how Peniche paid for her habits: “Who’s Calling McSteamy Trio Participant Kari Ann Peniche A Hooker?” What takes place on the tape is very mundane – the three in various states of undress talk on a bed, and the two women get together in a bath – with only two moments that might concern us here. The first, is right before Peniche gets into the tub with Gayheart, when Dane tells them they’re “two of the fucking hottest girls”, Gayheart then says, “I know, you’re so nice…I was so bummed when you said that, you know…” Peniche: “That what?” Gayheart: “We had to call one of your girls.” Peniche gives her charming laugh. Gayheart: “Remember what I said to you?” Peniche: “Yeah.” Gayheart: “And then you’re like, “We can pay you.”” Peniche: “No.” Gayheart: “I was like, “No, you. You’re normal, you’re funny, you’re smart, you’re nice, you’re fun.” She was like, “No, I don’t do it.”” Gayheart’s line, “We had to call one of your girls,” touched on the point that was the theme of “Nude video pal of Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart has madam past, claim sources”, whose contents were summarized in “Who’s Calling McSteamy Trio Participant Kari Ann Peniche A Hooker?”, and this was the original essence:

Three on-the-record sources tell us the dethroned Miss United States Teen queen freely admitted to once being in the sex-for-hire business.

Country singer Mindy McCready tells us Peniche revealed that she hooked up guys with hookers when the two ladies were roommates on VH-1’s “Celebrity Rehab” show.

“Did she say she’d been a madam?” says McCready. “She sure did.”

Bodyguard Joey Gonzalez recalls, “Kari Ann wanted to hire me to follow a girl who worked for her – who she said was skimming money and stealing clients. I declined. But she bragged about how her girls could make $15,000 a month. She introduced me to one girl who told me she’d just gotten a boob job Kari Ann had paid for.”

Author Mark Ebner says Peniche told him she used to “subcontract” for big-time madam Michelle (Nici) Braun, who pleaded guilty this year to money laundering and prostitution.

“Kari Ann said that, unlike Nici, she’d only take 40% of what a girl brought in,” recalls Ebner, adding that Peniche admitted having turned tricks herself. (Another source says Peniche once joked, “I’ve gone from labor to management.”)

An obvious question would be how exactly this sex tape had ended up at Gawker. We know of one part of the route: journalist Mark Ebner (who gets a shared by-line with Gabriel Snyder on the original piece featuring the video, “Dane’s Anatomy: McSteamy, His Wife and a Fallen Beauty Queen’s Naked Threesome – Eric Dane – Gawker”) brought the video to Gawker, something openly stated in “Nude video pal”: “Ebner says he was present on July 30 at an L.A. Starbucks when an unnamed informant gave LAPD vice cops the Dane-Gayheart-Peniche tape. “The police said they already had Kari Ann under surveillance,” says Ebner, who admits bestowing the tape on Gawker.com, which first invited us to the frolic.”

Kari Ann Peniche would be allowed to give her most in-depth explanation of how the tape ended up with this unnamed informant on, where else, Howard Stern11. It was an intricate tale that involved Mindy McCready, a country singer who had long term addiction issues and was on Celebrity Rehab alongside Peniche:

HS: I’ll get into the whole night. According to what I’m reading…the claim is, you lived with a girl, she was your roommate for a couple of years. Somebody got into your personal computer-

KAP: Oh, Mindy McCready from Celebrity Rehab?

HS: From Celebrity Rehab?

KAP: Yeah.

HS: You lived with Mindy?

KAP: No, I never lived with her. After Celebrity Rehab, she had called me, and said, “I don’t want to be alone in my hotel.” And I said, come on over to my house, like, she’d invite me over to her house. Or her hotel. I was like, “I have six bedroom house. I’ll take you to the airport in two days.” She was supposed to stay for two days, because that’s when her flight was. Well, she ended up staying three weeks. Like, taking over my bedroom…like, I slept in the bunkbeds of my own house. Like, in my guest room. I was like, she’s taking over my room. And at first it was fun, like we cooked, we were going to go to Nashville, be country singers together, and then all of a sudden when I got the offer for Sober House, and she didn’t, she got really, really nasty with me. We were driving home from dinner one night, and she grabbed the steering wheel while I was driving, screaming at me, telling me how my career’s a joke, and Dr. Drew has asked her to help me. And I was like, what are you talking about?

KAP [continued]: And anyhow, when I left for Sober House, I said, “Mindy, when I leave, I need you to leave as well, because I’m having a housesitter here, and I want to blame her if anything happens in the house, you know.” Because I have a dog there, too. And she goes, “I’m not going anywhere.” And so then, I got to set, and asked the other producers and Drew to get her out of the house, and they were like, “Just call the cops.” So, I called the cops, but then when the cops were calling me, I’m at Sober House, I’m not even at my house, and Dr. Drew wouldn’t let me answer my phone. And I’m like, “It’s them.” And they’re like, “We’re filming right now.” So, anyhow, Mindy had told the police that, I guess, she was on the lease. So, they left. And, you know.

HS: Couldn’t get her out of your house. Now, you blame her, for taking out of your computer, the video…

KAP: She stole my external hard drives.

HS: Alright. So, in other words, this video, which I want to ask you about…with you, Rebecca Gayheart, and the other one…

RQ: Eric Dane.

HS: Eric Dane. That video was living in your computer. You think she took it out of there, released it on the internet…

KAP: Oh, I already know. I have the text messages from her, and everything. She was extorting me, basically. She wanted a certain amount of money from me, if I wanted my hard drives back.

HS: Now, everybody in the video thought you were a prostitute, working for Rebecca and Eric, right?

KAP: Right.

HS: Because at one point, they see him on the phone with his credit card?

KAP: No, that was me on the phone with my credit card.

HS: Right. And checking his credit card.

KAP: No, (laughs) if you actually watch the video – I’ve only watched it twice – but, you know, I had an assistant who used to videotape me doing everything, and I was actually buying a plane ticket to go to Hawaii. You see the suitcases on the edge of my bed too. And it was a completely different day, you could totally see it. And I was reading it to the airline people.

RQ: So they matched up those two pieces of video?

KAP: Yeah.

HS: So, in other words, you’re saying, you’re not a prostitute…

KAP: No (laughs).

HS: …you’ve never been a prostitute…

KAP: No.

HS: You weren’t charging people for sex?

KAP: No.

HS: And so, when you were with Eric and Rebecca, it was a friendly thing.

KAP: Yeah. We were at a party, and, like, we just wanted to continue the party. And then we came back to my condo.

HS: You’ve only watched it two times?

KAP: Yeah.

HS: I’ve watched it four thousand times.

The relevant details of Peniche’s version are that McCready had gotten the sex tape when she’d stolen Peniche’s hard drives, she had never charged anyone for sex, and she hadn’t charged anyone that night. There is one point she makes here, that is not under dispute, and it’s the second point of interest of this sex tape: the video consists entirely of footage with Peniche, Dane, and Gayheart, when abruptly we shift to an entirely different moment. Where the footage with Dane and Gayheart in the bed has candles lit on a side table, this brief scene features no candles or inside lights on, which suggests it’s taking place during the day. Peniche is lying on the bed, topless, reading someone’s credit card numbers into the phone while somone films her, and an open suitcase is on the bed. Dane and Gayheart are neither seen nor heard here, again suggesting that this is shot at an entirely different time. The footage seems to serve no purpose at all – Peniche is topless in the other parts of the video as well – except to serve as possible proof that Peniche is paid for her services.

In the bedroom.

A post shared by Goto Tengo (@gototengo) on

Gawker sex tape table night and day split screen - URL if gif doesn't load: http://gfycat.com/AdmirableDeadlyGoldenmantledgroundsquirrel

A split screen of the isolated fragments with the bedside table, one section showing a lit candle during the night when Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart were there, and another without light from the table, during the day when Kara Ann Peniche was reading someone’s credit card information over the phone.

Later in the Stern interview, McCready’s version of events would be brought up12:

HS: Now, the girl who…Mindy McCready…the one who you feel went in and got your hard drive. And released it, so you’re accusing her of that. She says about you, listen to this, this is what she says about you. “Kari Ann is the one that stole my hard drive, and copied it to two mini drives. She also stole money from me. I think she probably wanted to sell my music. I was the one trying to keep Kari Ann out of trouble, steering her away from drugs during the taping of the show.”

KAP: (laughs)

HS: But you’re saying, she was the-

KAP: We came home and did drugs the second we walked in the door, from her hotel. She was like, “I have to lose this weight. Give me those drugs that we were on celebrity rehab for.” I relapsed with, because of her. Not because of her, but she definitely influenced me, and, from after rehab…and then, um…why would I…she was in my house! How would I steal money from her? She’s a guest in my home.

RQ: How does anybody know how to get these download to mini drives…

KAP: No, they were just external hard drives sitting on my desk. You know, when I left for Sober House, I didn’t think someone was going to steal them off my desk, you know, in my house.

McCready and Peniche in happier times

McCready and Peniche goofing around in happier times; image taken from “Kari Ann Peniche Part 2: ‘I Know’ Mindy Released The McSteamy Nude Tape”.

Lee Ann Peniche, Kari’s mother, would back the version of events where McCready was staying at Peniche’s house and had to be forced out, in “EXCLUSIVE: Mindy McCready Wouldn’t Leave My Daughter’s House Says Kari Ann’s Mom”:

“Kari opened up doors and welcomed her when she had no place to stay and that’s a typical Kari Ann,” Lee Ann said. “The only thing I knew about Mindy McCready was that there was a problem and that she’s had to have her removed from her house.”

Lee Ann also revealed that McCready did not pay rent and “was only supposed to stay a few days but weeks went by and [Kari Ann] couldn’t get [McCready] out of her house.” Visiting her daughter last week, Lee Ann was already well aware of some tension: “I knew something was up when I was down there. As much as I knew she had some problems, not this, but problems with Mindy McCready, getting her out of her house.”

Over the course of two Access Hollywood segments, Mindy McCready would give her own perspective of what took place, one crosscut with a Kari Ann Peniche interview that provided her narrative. The first segment, “Kari Ann Peniche Part 1: ‘I’ve Never Been A Prostitute,’ Mindy McCready Is ‘Insane'”:

SHAUN ROBINSON, ACCESS HOLLYWOOD HOST[SR]: Did she tell you that she was a madam?

MINDY MCCREADY [MM]: Yes.

SR: She did?

MM: Absolutely.

SR: Did she tell you that she was a prostitute?

MM: Yes she did.

SR: Did she tell you that there were celebrities that she employed to work for her?

MM: Yes she did.

SR: Are you now, or have you ever been, a madam?

KARI ANN PENICHE [KAP]: I’ve never been a madam. I’ve never been a prostitute. Mindy is the craziest person I’ve ever met in my life, like, she’s insane.

SR (Voiceover): From the mouth of Kari Ann herself, the twenty five year old made infamous after appearing as a third player in the naked Rebecca Gayheart-Eric Dane video, maintains that the married couple were not her clients in a prostitution ring, as Mindy McCready alleged to me.

SR: Who did she say were her celebrity clients?

MM: She talked about Eric Dane. And his wife Rebecca. So um-

SR: She said both Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart were clients of hers?

MM: Absolutely.

KAP: It’s almost funny…I don’t know where she gets this shit.

SR: So, she, Mindy McCready is lying?

KAP: Flat out lying. Okay, flat out lying. She stole my hard drive.

SR: You think Mindy actually put it on the internet?

McCready and Peniche confrontation

Image taken from “Kari Ann Peniche Part 1: ‘I’ve Never Been A Prostitute,’ Mindy McCready Is ‘Insane'”.

This hanging question would receive an answer in the second segment, “Kari Ann Peniche Part 2: ‘I Know’ Mindy Released The McSteamy Nude Tape”:

KAP: I know Mindy, for a fact, is the reason that’s out on the internet.

SR (Voiceover): Keri Ann alleges Mindy McCready stole the video from her computer and brokered a deal for it to be released. According to Keri Ann, the theft occurred inside her home, where Mindy was a guest after VH-1’s Celebrity Rehab, Mindy denies the allegations but still claims that Keri Ann told her she was a prostitute.

SR: To say somebody a prostitute is libelous.

KAP: Yeah.

SR: If you say that about somebody, you’re in jeopardy of being sued.

KAP: Yes.

SR: But nobody’s suing Mindy for saying these things, these libelous, horrible things. Why? Why is that not happening?

KAP: I have absolutely no idea. I don’t know. I don’t know.

SR: But that’s one way to shut her up.

KAP: I might look into that. I’m just, uh, not really into that. What am I going to save?

SR: Your reputation?

KAP: Yeah okay, how does that fix my reputation?

SR: Because if she’s proven to be a liar, doesn’t that vindicate you?

KAP: Yeah, I guess…I just think the truth is the truth, karma is good enough. You know, if it continues, maybe I’ll have to do something about that.

Kari Ann Peniche on Access Hollywood

Image taken from “Kari Ann Peniche Part 1: ‘I’ve Never Been A Prostitute,’ Mindy McCready Is ‘Insane'”.

In a third Access Hollywood segment, “Did Mindy McCready Poison Kari Ann Peniche’s Puppy With Crystal Meth?”, Peniche would accuse McCready of poisoning her dog with crystal meth, allegations which McCready would deny: “That’s insanity. That could not be further from the truth. I’ve never used crystal meth in my life. This is just another out and out lie.”13 McCready would in turn allege that Peniche had poisoned her dog herself in order to gain sympathy from the producers of Celebrity Rehab, a program from which she would eventually be kicked off due to misbehavior. Stacy Kaiser, a body language expert amd author of How to be a Grown-Up: Ten Secret Skills Everyone Should Know, would be brought in at the end of the third segment to analyze the two women:

What I’m seeing over and over in this interview [Kari Ann’s] is that this is a person who is protecting herself. Her body language is tight, her shoulders are slightly raised, she’s nervous, she’s licking her lips. This is someone who’s uncomfortable with the conversation, and could be avoiding the truth. One of the things I notice when Mindy speaks, in contrast to Keri Ann, is that Mindy is calm and cool and relaxed. And that is very common in a person who is relaxed. You don’t have anything to be nervous about. In addition, I’ve noticed, under some of the more uncomfortable questioning, Mindy is getting reserved, as if she is uncomfortable to share that information, as if she’s revealing too much about someone.

In an interview conducted by Gayle Thompson a year after these tumultuous events, “Mindy McCready ‘Still Here’ After Weathering Scandalous Storms”, McCready would reiterate her version of events:

Your ‘Celebrity Rehab’ roommate, Kari Ann Peniche, blamed you for leaking her provocative homemade video with Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart. What’s your response to that accusation?

She is an extremely disturbed and very sick individual. The thing that she craves the most — to be famous, is also the worst thing for her, because she is such a sick person. I do want people to understand what happened in that situation is not at all the story that she’s told, and everything that comes out of her mouth is complete and utter bull. I did nothing to her but try to help her, and all she did was steal from me and lie and try to use every situation she possibly could to be more famous and get more attention … I hope that she does get help, and I hope that she does get better.

Do you want to tell us your side of the story?

Kari Ann had copied my computer on her hard drive. She stole all my information. Not only did she steal every bit of my new record coming out, my phone, my bank account information … she also stole thousands of dollars from me. When I took those hard drives, I took them because my stuff was all over them. Never in a million years was I going to leave my entire life from my computer and everything personal to me at her house on those hard drives. I didn’t even know what else was on there.

I went back to Florida and got a phone call a few days later from Eric Dane saying, “I understand you have a video that belongs to me,” and I said, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” I didn’t know it was on there. He said, “How can we work this situation out?” I said, “I have no problem giving you whatever you want. You can have the hard drives back. I just want to get my information erased off of them.”

Of course, you can never really erase anything. So I sent my computer person the hard drive and went to Eric Dane’s lawyer’s office. What they did was take the information that belonged to Eric and put it on his hard drive. They took Kari Ann’s information on a separate hard drive. Those two hard drives that had information of mine were destroyed. We all signed the confidentiality agreement that said none of us would talk about what was on there, none of us had any other copies of it. Except, the day that Kari Ann was supposed to sign the agreement, she didn’t show up. And the next day the video was on Gawker.com. And to this day, she still has not signed the confidentiality agreement. Eric Dane and I both know very much beyond any shadow of a doubt that I didn’t have anything to do with that.

If I were to try to dissect the truth of both narratives, my opinion would be that both women were lying, but about different things. Whether or not Kari Ann Peniche was working the night recorded in the tape with Dane and Gayheart, she had worked as an escort and she did work as a madam, and this forms what is the most fascinating part of the story. For proof that Peniche worked as an escort and madam, we have the various confirming statements in the Rush & Malloy piece, as well as Gayheart’s quotes on the tape. But it was McCready who took the drive with the tape on it, and she was instrumental in getting it to the police. McCready’s account in the Thompson interview makes no sense to me: she apparently was at Peniche’s house, had access to drives on which Peniche had copied her personal information, and her course of action was to take these drives out of the house. She did not call a technical person to the house to erase the drives there, nor did she check Peniche’s own laptop or take that – even though copies of the same personal information might have been stored there as well.

The statement quoted by Howard Stern offers a further entanglement: “Kari Ann is the one that stole my hard drive, and copied it to two mini drives.” Peniche stole McCready’s hard drive, presumably while she was staying at Peniche’s house, copied the valuable material to two mini drives while Peniche was still staying at her house, after which Peniche left for Sober House, and while alone in the house, McCready discoverd the data theft, after whcih she left the house and took the mini drives with her. I go with what seems like a far simpler explanation than this, that McCready was kicked out of Peniche’s house, McCready took Peniche’s mini-drives with the sex tape, and made sure they got passed to law enforcement. Everything that Peniche says about her friendship with McCready in the Howard Stern interview rings true for me; I do not doubt that they became quite close and Peniche told McCready about her secret life, about working as an escort. McCready leaked the sex tape not just to humiliate Peniche with footage of her naked, but over the secret that she was a prostitute. This is why you have the abrupt scene of Peniche topless on her bed reading someone’s credit card numbers into the phone, to establish clearly to the outside world what Peniche’s line of work is. Peniche’s explanation for this moment on the Stern show, “I had an assistant who used to videotape me doing everything, and I was actually buying a plane ticket to go to Hawaii. You see the suitcases on the edge of my bed too. And it was a completely different day, you could totally see it,” rings slightly false to me. You see the suitcases, yes, and yes, it looks like a completely different day, but it doesn’t feel like the camera holder is a personal assistant, but a man she is comfortable and physically intimate with, someone who she has no problem filming her topless on her bed.

McCready would begin her career with an extraordinary burst of success, her debut album Ten Thousand Angels selling two million copies, and “Guys Do It All the Time” a #1 Country single. This first album was the peak of her career, with her second record selling half as much, and her third a commercial failure. In 2005, her ex-boyfriend, another country singer, would be charged with trying to choke her to death. “With her eyes still showing injury, McCready testified in horrifying detail the beatings she says she received Sunday morning at the hands of this man, 38-year-old William Patrick McKnight,” was the clip that played on her interview with Larry King (“Interview With Mindy McCready”). “So you tried to commit suicide by doing what?” was one question (anwer: “I took a bunch of pills and drank a bottle of wine and went to sleep.”) Other questions: “And when did you attempt the second suicide?” and “You were how long pregnant then?” (answer #1: beginning of September, answer #2: a month and a half). Larry King: “Do you ever look in the mirror and say “I’m a train wreck”?” Mindy McCready: “Yes, yes I do, yes, all the time. I have got to be more careful about everything I do.” McCready would get arrested for an illegal OxyContin prescription in 2004, a DUI in 2005, and by 2007, the headline was “Mindy Mccready arrested again”: “She was arrested last week in Fort Myers when she scratched up her mom’s face and then resisted [arrest], leading to three violations: being charged with a new offense, not reporting those charges to her officer and assaulting someone.” She would admit to an affair with baseball player Roger Clemens that started when she was fifteen14, and it was after all this that she met Kari Ann Peniche and they were on Celebrity Rehab together. She would go on to overdose again in 2010, the same year in which her own sex tape, one called Baseball Mistress which capitalized on her affair with Clemens, would be released by Vivid Entertainment. The next year she would abduct her son with Billy McKnight, after which both McCready and her child were declared missing persons and a nationwide search was launched, the two eventually found hiding in a closet. Two years later, her record producer boyfriend, David Wilson, would kill himself with a gunshot to the head. A month later, February 17, McCready killed herself with a gunshot to the head as well15.

Those who believe that this post considers Kari Ann Peniche more truthful than Mindy McCready on some details out of arbitrary bias should consider some of McCready’s accounts of well-publicized incidents which appear to be very much at variance with actual established facts. There is, for instance, her charge of prescription drug fraud, for which she pleaded guilty16, and which she explained on Larry King Live this way:

KING: So you were addicted to prescription drugs?

MCCREADY: No, I was not buying that medication for myself. That’s why it’s prescription fraud. I was buying it for my doctor.

KING: Explain that.

MCCREADY: The doctor that wrote me the prescription I was buying the medication for my doctor and had been for several years. I mean I didn’t always buy him a pain…

KING: This was the doctor who gave various patients prescriptions for them so that he…

MCCREADY: Yes, he saw my band. He saw my parents. He saw my family, you know, Josh and T.J. my brothers on a regular basis and he would call me and say, you know, “Can you get me some cough medicine? Can I write you the prescription and you go get it for me” and I would.

KING: What happened to him?

MCCREADY: I don’t know. I don’t think anything. I think he lost his…

KING: He’s never been charged?

MCCREADY: No, I think he lost his license.

KING: When you were arrested did you tell them that you were filing this for a doctor?

MCCREADY: Absolutely, yes. I told them the whole thing. It never came out[,] unfortunately for me.

In 2005, McCready would be charged with identity theft and hindering prosecution because of her involvement with a con artist named Jonathan Roda. Supposedly, Roda would openly brag about his con schemes to McCready. Shortly after these charges, McCready would make one of her suicide attempts17. She would give this version of events on Larry King Live:

KING: And you were also this year charged in Arizona with identity theft, unlawful use of transportation and hindering prosecution, what was that?

MCCREADY: Those were all false charges. I never did any of that. I was never involved in any of that. I met a con artist earlier this year and this con artist was gallivanting all around the country pretending to be someone else and I met up with him and traveled with him for over a week.

I was going to Los Angeles and he was — he had a tour bus. He misrepresented himself that he was a record label owner and just unbelievable con artist. The guy spoke five languages. He was amazing.

KING: Where is he now?

MCCREADY: I hope in jail.

After McCready kidnapped her son and both went missing for two days, authorities would report to the press that they found both hiding in a closet at home she shared with her then boyfriend, David Wilson. From “Mindy McCready’s son found in Arkansas”:

Country music singer Mindy McCready was hiding in the closet with her son when authorities took the 5-year-old boy into custody in Arkansas, officials said early Saturday.

Authorities found Zander McCready and his mother in a home in Heber Springs, Arkansas, according to David Rahbany, the chief deputy U.S. Marshal in eastern Arkansas.

“The child appeared to be in good condition when we found him … he was in the closet with his mother,” Rahbany said.

Local sheriffs and marshals had placed the home — believed to belong to the singer’s boyfriend — under surveillance for hours before they found the boy late Friday, he said.

McCready would deny this basic fact, that she was found hiding in a closet in an interview for ABC’s “20/20” (on Youtube, “Mindy McCready Tells Her Story”, excerpt runs from 2:36 to 2:56):

ANDREA CANNING (V.O.): The U.S. marshals tell 20/20 McCready was hiding in a closet with Zander [her son] in a neighboring house. McCready tells a different story.

CANNING: Were you hiding out in a closet, like everyone has said?

MCCREADY: No.

CANNING: Where were you?

MCCREADY: We were sitting on a couch.

CANNING: Where did this come from that you were hiding in the closet?

MCCREADY: I think that…it just makes a better story.

In the days before her last suicide attempt, McCready would tell a close friend, “[The] point of me living is waiting to die so I can be with him,” a reference to David Wilson, the boyfriend who killed himself just two months earlier. A part of this audio of a phone call to a close friend was handed over by this close friend to Radar Online. This friend was Danno Hanks18, and Danno Hanks was a private detective. Hanks, along with his late partner Fred “Mad Dog” Valis, were two fascinating characters who somehow remained on the fringes of the press, while far more banal types took up space. They had worked decades doing paid undercover and surveillance work, for mundane workers compensation cases where they’d check in to see if an employee was actually sick or injured, as well as paid work for the DEA and tabloids. Their long career was written up in “Watching the Detectives” by Paul Cullum, and their involvement in the bust of Ron Sacco, who ran a billion dollar a year off-shore gambling operation, got them a prominent appearance on 60 Minutes, which can be found on Youtube under “Fred Valis & Danno Hanks On 60 Minutes”. Hanks had also been involved with the federal investigation of another prostitution ring, that of bygone Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. Hanks had been paid by Fleiss’s competition, pimp Ivan Nagy, to tape her phone calls in order to acquire her client list. Hanks would play the tapes for the producer of Hard Copy who had him on retainer, as well as Shawn Hubler, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times; the phone calls were especially noteworthy for the top name Hollywood people among the clients. “That whole story was filled with this whole Hollywood demimonde that trades in gossip, intrigue and information gathering,” said Hubler. “This league of rogues They were just two in a cast of hundreds of people who lived in that gray area.” Hanks would end up selling the tapes to Fleiss, and after her bodyguard threatened him, he would hand them over to the FBI as well19.

There was another profile of Hanks and Valis, also headlined “Watching the Detectives”, and this one was by Mark Ebner, an excellent old school shoe leather reporter, and the man who provided the Rebecca Gayheart sex tape to Gawker. The piece would discuss how the detectives helped Ebner out in dealing with a stalker. It would also go into deeper, grittier detail than Callum’s “Detectives” when exploring the careers of Hanks and Valis; how Hanks scaled a telephone poll to install the recorder that would tape Fleiss’s phone calls and how they got booked to record a sex tape with O.J. Simpson. In the account given here of the Fleiss tapes, however, they never hand them over to the FBI, only to Ebner and his then writing partner, Andrew Breitbart:

When the Feds turned Hanks’ apartment upside down on a mistaken identity drug-search, comically, they missed the Heidi tapes. They were sitting in full view on his bookshelf the whole time – secreted in the video box from the 1937 Shirley Temple classic, Heidi. And, in August 2003 – right when the statute of limitations had expired on his wiretap crime – Danno turned the tapes and transcripts over to me and my partner Andrew Breitbart, for inclusion in our tell-all best-seller, Hollywood, Interrupted. Verbatim, we published a sampling of septuagenarian sybarite Evans [producer and former Paramount head Robert Evans] arranging liaisons with an underage girl he affectionately called “the little one.” Heidi was not happy.

The book by Breitbart and Ebner which dealt with Heidi Fleiss, alongside many other episodes of Hollywood tawdriness, was Hollywood Interrupted. This blog had previously written on this book in a profile of its co-author, Andrew Breitbart, and it had many nasty things to say about the book, Breitbart, and maybe Ebner as well20. A few relevant excerpts from Interrupted featuring Fleiss’s recordings, of Fleiss and mogul Robert Evans:

In August 2003, private eye Dan Hanks of Backstreet Detectives [the detective agency of Hanks and Valis] gave us the transcripts and tapes. And he did it for free. Though burglars and police turned Hanks’ home upside down in their futile attempts to find the tapes, Hollywood, Interrupted got hold of them the old-fashioned way. We asked for them. The tapes, recorded over the soundtrack portion of two videotapes, had been sitting on Hanks’ living room bookshelf with his movie collection all along. In full view, the video box containing the tapes was from the 1937 Shirley Temple classic, Heidi…

Evans: “What did that little girl think of me? Did she like me?”
Heidi: “How could she not like you?”
Evans: “No, no. I’m curious.”

Heidi: “The first thousand dollars she made I think is the first thousand dollars she’s ever seen in her life.”
Evans: “I knew it. And she’s a good girl basically. I don’t think she could—I can be so wrong and naive, but I don’t [think] she wants to be a full-time hooker.”

Evans: “Here’s a 17-year-old vagrant who’s a fairly attractive girl, who could be very attractive . . . because she has presence and she’s not afraid. And she’s attractive in an interesting way, and she’s sort of sensual too, by the way. That’s a good combination. But she has to be able to open her mouth.”

On an episode of Crime Time, hosted by another solid journalist, Allison Hope Weiner, Ebner would bring up the fact that he worked as a private investigator under another detective’s license (presumably that of Hanks), that he sometimes worked for the Backstreet Investigations agency in collaboration with Hanks, and the modus operandi of detectives – all part of a discussion of another fascinating case, that of the shooting of Kameron Segal (which would be talked about more fully in another episode of Crime Time, “Ponzi Scheme Ensnared Hollywood Shooting Victim Kameron Segal”). From the Crime Time episode “Scientology Secrets, Bill Cosby Rape Conspiracy + Hollywood Murder” 21:

As you may or may not know, during my downtime, as a result of writing crime stories, I got myself godfathered into private investigative work. And I work under a guy’s license, Backstreet Investigations, my buddy Danno Hanks, and I found a little side industry to do during my downtime in-between writing projects. Well. I was introduced to Kameron Segal about two years ago. And I became his in-house P.I.

Two days later, I was sitting with my wife having dinner, I get a call from Danno. “Hey,” [Danno says] “weren’t we at this office, about two days ago, collecting money?” I was like, “What office?” And he said, “Sunset and Gardner. The guy in the rolls royce. Helicopters.” I said, “Danno, come pick me up.” He came, picked me up, we went to the crime scene. Now, in respect to Danno’s P.I. license, anytime we’re aware of a crime, it’s like being a journalist. It’s a license to be a rat. In other words, we took our files, on the guys that owed him money, gave them right to the cops. Said, detectives: this is where this is coming from.

One might focus first on what Ebner says here: “Now, in respect to Danno’s P.I. license,” Mark Ebner says in reference to the separate case of Kameron Segal, “anytime we’re aware of a crime, it’s like being a journalist. It’s a license to be a rat.” After which, Ebner and Hanks then gathered the documents they had, and handed them over to the police. Now I return again to “Nude video pal of Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart has alleged madam past”, and this sentence with my bolds: “Ebner says he was present on July 30 at an L.A. Starbucks when an unnamed informant gave LAPD vice cops the Dane-Gayheart-Peniche tape.” Fred Valis, as Ebner’s “Watching the Detectives” tells us, died in 2005. Who could this unnamed informant be? Someone who perhaps knew both Mindy McCready and Mark Ebner, who had done past work in breaking a prostitution ring, who worked several sides at once, and had in the past leaked taped evidence to tabloids? My guess, plausible, I think, given all that has just been shared with you, is: Danno Hanks.

All this, however, was far less interesting than what Kari Ann Peniche may have been part of. “Author Mark Ebner says Peniche told him she used to “subcontract” for big-time madam Michelle (Nici) Braun,” wrote Rush & Malloy in “Nude video pal of Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart has madam past, claim sources”, “who pleaded guilty this year to money laundering and prostitution.” A post made after #TheFappening by a Gawker commenter aliased “Magister”, “Recapping McSteamy v. Gawker from 2009”, was Gawker Media’s sole look back on the Dane-Gayheart-Peniche sex tape episode, one which would give none of Peniche’s perspective and only McCready’s voice, with the overriding implication that Peniche leaked the tape for publicity. Mark Ebner would comment there: “[B]elieve me, that video would never have been proffered to Gawker without me being sure that it had been bagged and tagged as evidence in an investigation by the LAPD vice squad.”22 This investigation, no doubt, was not just one looking into Peniche’s sex work activities, but that of the woman she used to work for, Michelle Braun. Who was Braun? Well, in “Charlie Sheen’s War” by Mark Seal, about the actor and well-known client of Heidi Fleiss’s services, this is her introduction: “I called Michelle Braun, the former Hollywood madam who became Fleiss’s chief successor on the strength of landing Sheen as her first client. She said Sheen had contacted her three months after Fleiss’s sentencing, in 1997.” “I show up with three girls,” is Braun’s opening line, “and he’s in this amazing condo…laid out on the floor in silk pajamas embroidered C. MA SHEEN on the pocket with some girl sitting on his face.” For a solid decade after, Braun ran a legendary escort service, before it was finally taken down by the FBI in 2007. Rush & Malloy’s “Hollywood madam Michelle Braun cozies up to federal agents” would tell their readers about one person who’d been very helpful to the Bureau in their investigation of Braun’s escort ring, a name unsurprising to anyone who’s read this post so far: “Investigators obtained evidence from private investigator Dan Hanks, who got to know Braun while working for “Fox Undercover.” “Michelle would ask me to do background checks on potential clients and girls, which I did in order to find out more about her,” Hanks tells us.”

Braun’s escort ring was, as said, legendary, eclipsing that of her infamous predecessor. Mark Ebner, in “Hollywood madam Michelle Braun cozies”, would say, “The things she knows make Heidi Fleiss look like Mary Poppins.” Braun was “planning to write a tell-all about her 11-year career hooking up centerfolds and porn stars with the men who could afford the $10,000 minimum for a date,” threatened Page Six23, but that book was never published, if it was even ever written. Whatever secrets Braun held appeared to be radioactive; no one touched the story of Michelle Braun. Even TMZ, the famously sleazy and well conntected gossip site which had the financial backing of colossus Time Warner24, only ponied up one Michelle Braun related story, “Madam: Two Alleged Tiger Mistresses Are Escorts”. “According to multiple sources, the only coverage TMZ steered clear of was anyone, like Ellen DeGeneres, involved in Telepictures productions,” reported the definitive history of the site, Anne Helen Petersen’s “The Down And Dirty History Of TMZ”, “other Time Warner properties were, however, fair game.” Whether the executives and properties of Time Warner fell within or without the bounds of fair game territory is an unanswered question, and along with all other questions related to Braun, one which the Hollywood and entertainment press had no interest in.

In the series “E! Hollywood Secret Societies”, focusing on the hidden prvileged worlds of the holy niche of Tinseltown famous, one episode was devoted to the subject of secret clubs accessible only to the elect, detailed with a few choice memorable and picturesque images, which conveyed well the idea of a hidden decadent world just out of plain sight25:

The Sayers Club, you actually go through a, what used to be a hot dog stand, it’s an indiscriminate front entrance, no signs, and you’re either in, or you’re out. There’s no line. There is a club in Hollywood Boulevard, where they open three different doors, and only one door actually opens, once you get inside, the girl on the bed asks you a question, and if you answer it right, a hydraulic system pulls pulls the bed away, with the girl on it, and it reveals a stairs that takes you down into the bar. So elitist, you don’t even do a red rope. You don’t even know where it is.

Michelle Braun and her ring, for a few years, were very much part of that hidden decadent world. One of the few to pierce its veil was the very good reporter Vanessa Grigoriadis, who profiled Braun in “The Sex Queen of L.A.”, which revealed why Braun’s prostitute ring was such an astonishing thing. Her stable of girls didn’t resemble, or were carved into resembling, fashion models, Playboy cover girls, actresses, and other coveted women – they were top models, centerfolds, actresses…the coveted women themselves. Playboy had its tentacles in beauty pageants throughout the country, according to Miss USA 2004, Shandi Finnessey, and Michelle Braun had her tentacles in Playboy, according to Braun. “I only worked with famous girls, mostly Playmates,” said the former madam. “At one time, seven of the eight girls living in the Mansion were working for me. I had one of [Hugh Hefner’s] girlfriends in the Mansion just to recruit for me.”26

Michelle “Nici” Braun grew up middle class in Bakersfield, California, the daughter of parents who owned a Baskin-Robbins franchise, but Braun had no plans to hang out in her small town for long. “I wasn’t going to stay in Bakersfield,” she made clear. “No way.” She was a popular, confident girl who knew how to build a computer on her own but also won hundreds of dollars in a wet t-shirt contest. Her way out of Bakersfield didn’t come through San Diego State University, where she dropped out, but through her work at the Century Club, where she’d pick out the pretty girls at the velvet rope, and seat them with the big spenders inside. “We’re really busy tonight,” she’d tell the couples trying to make it inside, “I don’t know if we have room for all of you, but the girls can come in.” After one man inside tipped her over eight thousand dollars to be set up with one of Braun’s girlfriends, she figured out quickly how you could make a lot of money quickly in Los Angeles27.

Her ring would end up consisting of over seventy girls, including at various times, 1999 Playboy Playmate Tishara Cousino, WWE wrestler Ashley Massaro, 2002 Playmate Tina Jordan, porn star Krystal Steal, 2003 Penthouse Pet Lanny Barby, porn star McKenzie Lee, Playboy model Patricia Ford, Maxim model Jody Palmer, porn star Angelique, porn star Taryn Thomas, porn star Victoria Paris, porn star Naomi, and Playmates Christi Shake, Alexandra Karlsen, and Victoria Silverstedt28. Anna David, another solid journalist, and the only one along with Mark Ebner and Vanessa Grigoriadis to really investigate this milieu, would provide the following revelation of another of Braun’s escorts in “My Time With Less-Than-Hip Hookers”, where she discusses the laptop contents of an unnamed associate (though those with some familiarity with the surrounding characters will figure it out easily) of a “well-established madam who’s since been busted” AKA Braun, I bold the relevant part:

Another bit of data that sent me reeling came about because I ended up getting a hold of a disc that contained the contents of a laptop which belonged to a pimp who’s now serving time in a Cuban jail. This disc contained many juicy elements, including IM conversations between the incarcerated guy and a well-established madam who’s since been busted and lists of clients and girl. While I expected to see Charlie Sheen and his ilk on there, instead I was privy to names I was unfamiliar with but which were all highly Google-able: the biggest car dealer in a Midwestern city, for example, and successful attorneys and bankers from across the country. Still, the most interesting piece of information was a list of his girls — for smack in the middle of the porn stars, Penthouse Pets and Playmates was the name of an actress who still works regularly and whose romantic travails are considered relevant enough to be covered in the tabloids. [for context, this piece was published in 2010] If she was willing to delve into such side work, I could only imagine how much the Cuban jail dwelling guy had been able to get [for] her.

That this was a world without clean borders, that it was not the muck in the pool of a shabby hotel, but flowed in the currents of the tippity top of the wealthy and famous is there in another anecdote from David’s “Less-Than-Hip Hookers”:

A guy who called himself a photographer but had served time for pandering (and was well-known in the community for supplying Hollywood’s highest rollers with women) [again, for context, this piece was published in 2010] invited me over to see the many portraits he had taken of one of the world’s most beautiful women, a multi-Academy Award nominated actress, when she was just starting out.

“Okay,” I said. “But what does this prove? And how do I even know you took them?”

He shrugged. Then I noticed, among his photos, an old issue of a now-defunct women’s magazine, this beauty on its cover. I turned the page and saw that he had the photo credit.

“How did this come about?” I asked, knowing that I knew there was no way he’d ever been established enough to have been handed such a high-profile assignment. “Did she request you for the shoot in exchange for you keeping quiet about her previous career? Was it a pre-condition for her appearing in the magazine?” He only shrugged again and I finally understood that the shrug wasn’t a proclamation that he was telling the truth but an indication that he would let the photos do the talking.

“Sex Queen” would make the allegation that “Nici even claims she once spoke with a teenage Paris Hilton, who offered to meet any client who paid $10,000 a night.” Hilton would call this charge “completely false and totally absurd.” An enforcer who collected debts for various madams would describe the essence of what was sought after in Anna David’s “The State Of Hookers in Hollywood”: the escorts are “right out of high school, with plastic surgery on whatever body parts aren’t already perfect.” How many famous women were part of this industry, and whether Hilton was one of them was an open mystery, but it was without question that this was a playground in which many of the topmost sheiks of the industry played. “State Of Hookers” mentioned a roving “strip club and brothel that requires a constantly changing password for entry and is attended by big players such as a top action-movie director and his producer.” Sometimes it was at someone’s house in the Hollywood Hills, sometimes it was in a Valley restaurant closed for the night, but it always featured women who could be paid to play. “You can get lap dances, blow jobs, or whatever,” said one participant. “It’s an unspoken law-no one will say anything about what goes on there.” And the escorts would be open to things to which a regular, open-minded girlfriend might not. “These girls will get with each other, stuff things up their asses, or put a dog collar on the guy and drag him around his house,” said one pimp. One player invited a group of men over to a party, then went missing for hours. “Finally we found him in the corner of his front yard, naked, on all fours, with a collar around his neck and a hooker standing over him, lifting her leg and peeing on him,” said one guest.

It was a not-so-secret business that overlapped with that other not-so-secret business, the porno world of San Fernando Valley. From an interview with Anna David on “Red Eye”, hosted by Greg Gutfeld (“Anna David Bought Interview on Red Eye”, this segment runs from 1:50 to 2:19):

GUTFELD
Don’t all porn stars do this? They always say it’s an overlap between these call girls and porn stars, but the fact is, once you’re being paid for sex on camera, this is no different?

DAVID
I mean, they call it side work in the industry, you know, and it is, I mean, we can’t say a 100%, every single porn star is doing it, but I think we can say 99.999 are doing it.

GUTFELD
There can’t be any difference between…the only difference is, there’s no camera there. And they’re probably getting paid more.

DAVID
A lot more.

“Many companies in the adult-entertainment industry, estimated at $13 billion annually, have seen their fortunes plummet by a third,” Grigoriadis would write in “Sex Queen”, “with video rentals and sales down nearly 50 percent over the past decade.” The decline in the industry would force more adult performers into escort work, which in turn made porno work riskier. Despite the image, women in the adult industry work with a relatively small circle of men, having sex with the same partners over and over, with everyone tested for STDs before their scenes. “It used to be that [performers] who escorted, if that was known, weren’t hired, because they were considered a higher risk factor w/ STDs,” Kayden Kross said in E.J. Dickson’s “When porn stars become escorts: Lucrative new trend could also be risky”, about the intersection of the two industries. That, however, was before the porno business completely fell apart, with piracy and tubing. “When the bottom started falling out of the porn industry, work started drying up, and you had an oversaturation of girls who wanted work,” says Mike South, a former producer and reporter of the scene. “You had people who were shooting 25 percent of what they were the previous year, so what you had was a lot of hungry girls who needed to pay the rent.” When you did escort work, you were now having sex with a larger circle of men, with some escorts offering the comdomless bareback full service (BBFS). This would lead to the greater possibility of an infection being brought into the closed porno industry. “What Porn Stars Do When The Porn Industry Shuts Down” by Susannah Brelin would report on what took place when the industry went on hiatus over an STD scare in December 2013, the third time that year. “Despite the amount of money that performers make, most still live paycheck-to-paycheck, so having your income cut off for a few weeks is a huge damper financially,” said one adult perfomrer, Chanel Preston. “Most successful adult film stars understand that financial success is a result of cultivating multiple revenue streams,” said Donia Love, head of Slixa, an on-line escort site which included adult performers in its stable. You had to escort in order to supplement the smaller paycheques of the porn industry, but that meant the possibility of more STDs, which shut down the industry, which meant you had to spend more time escorting, which meant increased risk in your porn scenes, and a greater likelihood that things would shut down again, and it was an obvious vicious circle.

Retired porn star Mariah Milano would write the following editorial, “Mariah Milano on Porn Stars Escorting, A Double Standard” (linked page features very NSFW ads) at porn blog Luke is Back, on September 4, 2011:

With the recent HIV scares and the big controversy over cross over talent there is one subject that seems to be constantly ignored that is a very serious double standard.

Porn stars escorting. I have been over this before and taken quite a beating for speaking out but I don’t fucking care. It needs to be said. If a girl goes and fucks some random guy in a hotel room and then continues to show up to sets to shoot how is that not being addressed as high risk for the rest of the industry? If a girl gets her test on August 20 and fucks strangers in hotel rooms and does movies until September 19 when she tests again how is that not a very serious concern for OSHA and all the people screaming about the recent HIV crisis? It’s almost as if it isn’t really happening.

The reality is there are very few “Porn Stars” anymore. The huge majority are escorts who shoot some movies on the side to keep their per hourrates high. And please try and tell me that these girls who are being flown to Dubai for weekends for $50,000 are using condoms and tests are being provided by sheiks and princes!

One commenter on Mark Ebner’s “A Brief History of a Hollywood Madam: Nici’s Girls, Clients and the Sting that Stung Her” would link to an ad on the site of Luke Ford, a gadfly and reporter who covered the industry, an ad which featured a long list of girls available as dates for the 2006 Adult Video News awards (the adult equivalent to the Oscars), including Chasey Lain and Krystal Steal, who were mentioned in “Sex Queen” by Grigoriadis, but other name performers as well, such as Kendra Jade, Monica Mayhem, Puma Swede, and Sativa Rose. They all worked for Bella Models. And who was behind Bella Models? From “Sex Queen” by Vanessa Grigoriadis:

In 2005, when one of the largest escort agencies for porn stars, Exotica 2000, was shut down by authorities in New York, Nici quickly maneuvered to fill the open niche with a new agency. She named it Bella Models, a dig against a madam in London named Bella with whom she had fallen out.

A screenshot from “Looking for an AVN Date??” (ads on page are very NSFW):

Ad for porn stars as escorts at Luke Ford

The following is an excerpt from an interview with the adult performer known as Gauge, conducted by Billy Watson, a porn director (see his AMA: “I am Billy Watson. I’ve shot porn for the last decade, a lot of which is interracial porn for Blacks on Blondes.”), in 2013. Gauge had returned to porn that year after several years of civilian life, and this portion of the interview dealt with what had changed with regard to escorting and the industry (though this interview was once on youtube, it’s now been taken down; the excerpt in the original runs from 9:5 to 11:56):

BILLY WATSON
Now, your big years were ’98 to 2005, about.

GAUGE
Yeah.

WATSON
Plus or minus.

GAUGE
Yeah.

WATSON
Okay. Try to be honest with me here.

GAUGE
Okay.

WATSON
Your contemporaries, your peers. From ’98 to 2000, the girls that you were working with, or around, how many of them were escorts, as opposed to just being porn stars? What would the percentage be?

GAUGE
You know, honestly, I really don’t know. I’m gonna just do a guesstimate here…maybe only a few. One of the girls that I just knew for sure was Brittany Andrews [listed in the roster of “Bella Models”, in their “Looking for an AVN date?”], but she’s always been open about that, her own website advertising it, and everything.

WATSON
A few, is the point. Because here’s my point now. You just jumped back into this game. Let me tell you what the brutal news is now. Because this business is getting so crushed by piracy, by people stealing content and stuff, most of the girls now are escorts as well as porn stars.

GAUGE
Right.

WATSON
The escort[ing] is their primary work, almost, because they can’t make enough money shooting scenes.

GAUGE
Yeah. Well.

WATSON
Which wasn’t the case when you were involved.

GAUGE
Right.

WATSON
Like, you could be a porn star and make plenty of money and not have to escort or do anything.

GAUGE
Right. Right. Well, you know, yeah, I didn’t really know anybody’s personal business and I don’t ever recall talking to anybody about their escorting deals. I know it’s pretty more open now…I think what it is, is that now that…through the internet, and gentlemen with money are able to, you know, buy their time with a porn star, a lady of their choice, if they’re escorting. You know, I would hope that…I’m not going to judge anybody, but I hope that if they’re doing that, then they’re careful because then the gentlemen who can afford I’m sure a porn star, can also afford to be tested just like we are…and still keep in mind, to keep the business safe. Whether it’s your personal life, escorting, in the business…

Gauge interviewed by Billy Watson

Though “side work” must be as prevalent now, if not more so, than it was in late 2013 when “What Porn Stars Do” was posted and early 2014 when “Lucrative new trend” was put up, the topic appears to still be largely verboten. Molly Lambert’s “Porntopia”, for instance, a lengthy account of this year’s AVN awards and an adult industry beleaguered by piracy and falling DVD sales, would not mention escorting or prostitution a single time. The focus of the piece is Carter Cruise, who goes on to win the AVN award for Best New Starlet; the 2007 winner of the very same award, Naomi, would work for Braun.

Though she never got around to publishing a book naming names, Michelle Braun was open and proud of the prestige of her girls. From an interview with CBS Correspondent Peter Van Sant, “Extra: Michelle Braun on the life of a madam” (beginning of video to 1:12):

VAN SANT
So, you’re a nice little Jewish girl, if I may say, from Bakersfield, California…

BRAUN
Yes. Nice Jewish girl from Bakersfield, California.

VAN SANT
…who rose to become the most influential, wealthy madam on planet Earth.

BRAUN
Right. My business was called Nici’s Girls, and I operated Nici’s Girls for eight years.

VAN SANT
And what kind of girls were available through your service?

BRAUN
I only worked with famous women. Penthouse Pets, Playboy Playmates, porn stars, actresses, models…unless a girl had a title or, I used to say, if she was “googleable”, then…if she wasn’t, then I wouldn’t work with her.

VAN SANT
How did you convince these girls, who’d been in the pages of Playboy magazine, Penthouse, to become one of Nici’s Girls?

BRAUN
Well, I offered them a lot of money. [laughs] And then I would tell them about some of my clients. You know, some of my clients were very famous, others were, you know, very famous in the business world. I would encourage them, “Look, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, this guy could really like you, could really fall for you, you know you could have a real Cinderella story. And if not, I have a hundred others just like him.”

VAN SANT
So for some men, this [holds up a copy of Playboy magazine] was like a shopping catalog?

BRAUN
Correct.

Peter Van Sant interviewing Michelle Braun

Michelle Braun interview

Peter Van Sant and Michelle Braun, taken from “Extra: Michelle Braun on the life of a madam”.

The ring may have been known as “Nici’s Girls”, but it was run under the corporate title, “Global Travel Network, Inc.” The escort ring was “disguised as a travel and security business and was used to facilitate the laundering of Braun’s prostitution proceeds,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank D. Kortum29. “I never discussed sex with the girls or the clients,” Braun would tell Van Sant. “What I was being paid for was an introduction…I never considered it prostitution. I thought these people were very fortunate to have somebody to put them together and naturally, there would be an attraction, and sex would occur.”30

Braun’s ring laid bare the illusion, that the modes of Playboy were the girls next door, that they were within reach of the average ordinary man. Yes, these fantasy women were available, yes, they were accessible, but for a very, very steep price. Clients were charged $50K or more for a night. Despite Michelle Braun’s talk of introduction services and attraction, Braun’s lawyer was more blunt about the arrangement: “I’m not sure people would pay money to meet a porn star and talk about Stephen Hawking’s newest book,” said Marc Nurik31. The other side of the equation was a con as well: the illusion was of woodland nymphs embraced by new industrial barons, the molten steel of dynamic, vital capital, the marriage of guileless beauty and the astonishingly efficient engine of business. But the women were paid beautires, pricey delicacies like rare oxen or squid, commissioned artwork for a skyscraper office, and many of the men weren’t prophets of capital who owed their fortune to innovation, effectiveness, or genius, but were simple keepers of delicate, ephemeral trophies of hollow wealth, the loomwork of simple frauds, cons, and theives.

There was small fry like one name in Braun’s black book32, Gregory Turville Harry, who would be involved in a classic pump and dump scheme, issuing millions of shares of two shell companies, Austin Chalk Oil & Gas Ltd. and Amtex Oil & Gas, then boosting the share price by getting buys from investors for whom they promised returns like 500% on their investment in Amtex. In 2012, Harry would plead guilty, admitting that the shell companies had asset of less than $130K and that he’d sold his shares at peak price for millions33.

At the other end of the scale was Hakan Uzan, brother of Cem Uzan, son of Kemal Uzan, a wealthy Turkish family that had its hands on an extraordinary range of assests, including the country’s Telsim mobile network and the Imar Bank. Hakan Uzan would be Braun’s whale, a man who wanted a harem ready for him at an Istanbul hotel every week, a harem thick with Playmates, porn stars, and others of the distaff sexual elect. What was even better, this guy didn’t even necessarily fuck them every week, or even see them; he was willing to throw down to cash just to know that the harem was there34. Braun had at least one connection in the Playboy mansion, with a Hef “girlfriend” (those quotes were always a safe bet) willing to bring over other girls from the mansion to Braun for work opportunities. When they heard they could make $25K by flying to Turkey, the pussy literally started to fly. “Hakan would send me an instant message at 3 a.m., and I would have to get four Playmates ready right away,” Braun was quoted in “Sex Queen”. “The first flight to Istanbul was around 6 a.m. through Paris, and sometimes I’d wake them up in the middle of the night for that flight.” Again, from “Extra: Michelle Braun on the life of a madam”, which starts off on Braun’s success as a madam before seguing into her work for her Turkish client (1:53-2:41):

VAN SANT
And you became a millionaire from this?

BRAUN
Yes. I made over twenty million dollars.

VAN SANT
And so, the girls who worked for you, did they become millionaires?

BRAUN
Oh absolutely. I had one girl make a million dollars in one month.

VAN SANT
And would they sometimes provide transportation, a private jet to fly them wherever-

BRAUN
Yeah. They’d fly them on their private jets, I had a tobacco billionaire who had a private 747, he would pick the girls up and fly them. You know, he would spend minimum hundred thousand dollars on a weekend. Every time. Then I had, you know, my Arabic clients, my client in Turkey. He would fly five Playboy playmates a week out to Turkey. I mean, it got to a point that I had almost every playmate in L.A. on standby 24-7 with a suitcase packed, ready to fly off to either Abu Dabai or Istanbul.

Grigoriadis gives us a picture of escorts who are overall happy with their madam. “It was like a paid vacation,” says porn star Angelica, “There were eight girls there, and I was doing the math: like, at least $200,000 is being spent here, and these guys don’t even care.” Another escort in “Sex Queen”, would concur. “Nici was the least shady of all agents,” is a quote from an unnamed Penthouse Pet who made over $200K a year working for Braun. “Other people made me feel like I was a product, and she treated me like a buddy. We would gossip for hours on the phone. She made me feel like it was us against them. She tooled her clients, and most agents tool their girls. That’s the difference.” Anna David, who would cover Braun’s ring as part of an investigative piece into Hollywood prostitution for Details magazine, “The State of Hookers in Hollywood”, would pick up a different sentiment. “How’d you do it?” Caleb Bacon would ask her about how she managed to write about this secretive milieu, in the bluntly titled “Anna David Knows A Lot About Prostitutes”. “I ended up sort of infiltrating this world, and spending about six months in it. Luckily everybody in this world hated this madam, so all these people talked to me for this story.” There are only two madams mentioned by name in “State of Hookers”, and one of them is the retired Heidi Fleiss; the other is Michelle Braun. The section from David’s “Less-Than-Hip Hookers” iterating the list of prominent Braun girls – “the porn stars, Penthouse Pets and Playmates” – found in the files of an associate stuck in a Cuban jail, has already been excerpted; afterwards, David writes of meeting them in person and the story of one madam’s callous treatment of girls she’d sent to Turkey, and the identity of this unnamed madam can be guessed as falling on the same co-ordinates as the madam which everyone hated, which may well be the same x-y of, as CBS’s Peter Van Sant puts it, “the most influential, wealthy madam on planet Earth”, and that noteworthy section receives bolds:

But these girls looked a lot different up close than they did in documents. Once I was sitting across the table from them, looking into their eyes, I didn’t see seductresses who, with their bodies, wielded power over the world’s elite. I saw fear, confusion, a ridiculous amount of plastic surgery, and a strong desire to do something — anything — else. I saw people who spent outrageously, at least in part to dispose of income they were ashamed to have earned, and who would thus have nothing to show once their years of hard living caught up to them and their looks were gone. I saw women blotting themselves out with chemicals and constantly chasing the next thing so they wouldn’t have to examine too closely what they were doing.

It wasn’t only the men they needed to forget about, either. I heard tales of madams that treated the girls far worse than any client ever could. One in particular would send girls on jobs to places like Turkey and then shut off her phone so that if they ran into trouble, they’d have no one to call. Girls would have to literally beg her for the money they were owed (one told me about having to “send someone” — a guy you didn’t want to mess with — to collect) and deal with a series of lies, shady excuses and threats. “If you were unavailable when she wanted you, she’d threaten to tell your boyfriend that you were a hooker,” a girl told me over the phone.

In an interview with Marty Beckerman, “The Complex Lives of Escorts”, David would emphasize the point made in this excerpt, on the damage done to the women by their work, despite the high pay and them being in the high end of their profession:

Did the hookers you interviewed have hearts of gold, or were they drugged-up pains?

Every girl was extremely damaged and doing a lot of drugs to numb themselves. You can see the damage in their eyes, and you can see how in denial they are. I’m not saying every hooker is like that, but I wouldn’t say they had hearts of gold.

Though this is a fascinating byway of a major business, which bisects the entertainment capital of the United States, it remains almost entirely unspoken of. For one of the few accounts of such overseas escorts who are flown to Dubai, we again have to rely on the investigative work of Howard Stern, who would discuss the subject in-depth with porn star Kacey Jordan. This interview is on youtube (“kacey jordan 2 1 11”) with a transcript on pastebin (“Howard Stern Interviews Kacey Jordan Full Transcript”), and it’s of interest not just because of the details that Jordan provides, but because her client in this case was the crown prince of Dubai, Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum34, and so she provides some major insights about a rather important figure. The reason for Jordan’s interview here is her cameo in the breakdown of another of her clients, Charlie Sheen, with her making appearances in such profiles of that fiasco like “Charlie Sheen’s War” by Mark Seal and “Coke, Hookers, Hospital, Repeat” by Amy Wallace. What follows are two lengthy excerpts from the interview dealing with Jordan’s experiences as an escort in Dubai. First excerpt runs from 8:02 to 15:28 in the interview, second excerpt is from 24:53 to 28:44:

Key: KJ=Kacey Jordan, HS=Howard Stern, RQ=Robin Quivers

KJ
So, at the AVN, AVN Vegas, okay. See, I had a ton of money.

HS
Right. Where’d you get it all?

KJ
[laughs, knowingly]

HS
You blew some guy or something?

KJ
[laughs, a “correctumundo!” laugh] No, I got, uh, I got a gripload of money, just as much as Charlie Sheen [just as much as she was paid by Charlie Sheen].

HS
You had about thirty grand on you?

KJ
Like, thirty five thousand.

HS
Where’d you get that?

KJ
I got it…overseas.

RQ
Somebody paid you to party?

KJ
It was just a gift.

HS
Do you ever go overseas, to these rich arab dudes, who, like, you go over and they make you put you part of their sheik-

RQ
Harem.

HS
-harem, or whatever you call that?

KJ
I dunno. [said this way: “I have no idea what you’re talking about, officer.”]

HS
Was it Hosni Mubarak, that guy?

[laughter]

KJ
No. [laughs] No, it’s-

RQ
Or that Italian prime minister. [Silvio Berlusconi]

HS
What’s the deal on that? They hire you to go over there…

KJ
They just hire me to go over there35 and then I-

HS
And then you fuck the prince, right?

KJ
Who was saying- Who is saying this? [trying not to laugh]

HS
I’m saying it. Because I had a girl on here who told us this whole story.

KJ
Okay. It’s true, and he’s under investigation now, he’s in a lot of trouble now, he’s a pill popper, because it’s against their religion to drink?

RQ
Right.

HS
Right.

KJ
-and he gets three girls to go over there, and yeah.

HS
Do you ever get nervous, they’re going to kidnap you and keep you there? When you go over to these arab countries?

KJ
No, I was really freaked out by all their turbans and stuff. I was like, oh my god.

HS
They were fucking you with a turban on?

KJ
[laughs]

HS
Does that freak you out?

RQ
Do they keep their turban on?

KJ
No, but they have this thing, where like, when you go into the room, it has the AC on, like you’re in a freezer. Because it’s against their religion to have me sweat onto them.

HS
You know what? This is what this girl said. Remember that girl we had in, who wrote a book about this. [I think this is Jillian Lauren, who wrote Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, about her experience as a member of the harem of the Sultan of Brunei]

RQ
Who wrote the book, yeah.

HS
She said it’s so cold, she said she would shiver the whole time. And that’s because, when you fuck a prince or something, you’re not allowed to sweat on them?

KJ
I’m not allowed to sweat on him. I’m like, why do you have the AC on, he wouldn’t turn the AC off, and I’m sitting there, shaking. And I’m like, what the hell, can you just turn it off for a second?

HS
What’s the whole deal on that? So, in other words, somebody hooks you up, you fly over to this arab country, they fly you, what, on a private jet?

KJ
Uh, well, he owns the airlines.

HS
He owned the airline.

KJ
Yeah.

HS
So, you go over…

KJ
First class.

HS
How long you gotta stay there?

KJ
Uh, I was supposed to stay there for three days…and he wouldn’t let me leave till eight days.

HS
He kept you over.

KJ
Kept me over. Wouldn’t let us leave. And it was okay, we just stayed at one of his hotels, that he owned, and I sat there, let’s room service this up, let’s start ordering shit we don’t eat…I went to the spa, like twelve times…

HS
So when they fly you, first class accommodations too, right? I mean, gorgeous rooms, the whole thing?

KJ
Yeah.

RQ
Sometimes they even give you shopping sprees.

KJ
We stayed at the world’s only seven star hotel.

HS
Yeah.

KJ
I forget what it was called. [Burj Al Arab] It’s some…lalalala, whatever arabic jabber or whatever. But it’s seven stars, that’s all I know.

HS
So, you go to the seven star hotel. You’re there with two other chicks, right? Are you all in the same room, or different rooms?

KJ
We get…it’s like, two chicks per room. It was four girls…

HS
Are the chicks hot? Or are you like the hottest one? Honestly. It’s okay, you don’t have to be humble.

RQ
Are you ever going to see these girls again?

KJ
One girl, uh, is a cunt, so…

HS
Cunt, or smelly pussy.

KJ
She just has too much plastic surgery. She’s just like…

HS
You were not attracted to her at all.

KJ
No.

HS
Personally…

KJ
But the other girl, she was really nice, but she’s kinda shady, kinda, she’ll still screw you over for money.

HS
Right.

KJ
But I ended up hooking up with her, like the first night we got drunk and I was like, I don’t know, I’m straight, but once in a while, how about some random lesbian fling, I’m like, the fuck’s wrong with me? It’s the alcohol.

HS
Yeah. Absolutely. So you mean she ate you out and everything?

KJ
Yeah.

HS
So, wait, let me understand, back up. So you go over there, the prince or whoever the hell he is, he flies you over, you don’t even meet him the first night, right?

KJ
Uh, no. No, we didn’t meet him for like three days.

HS
Alright. So you’re there, you’re like, hey, this is a cush gig, because-

KJ
Yeah, but we have to be back by eight pm.

HS
Why?

KJ
Because, in case he calls.

HS
Right. You’re on call.

KJ
You’re on call. During the day I went out, I went to Atlantis [Atlantis The Palm Hotel & Resort], and, you know, we got to go do…I went to a mosque, where I wore those robes and stuff. I did cutesy stuff during the day, but I had to be back at eight at night.

HS
So were you bored out of your skull?

KJ
Nah, I just drank.

HS
So, you started drinking in the morning. So, the chick that you’re in the room with, she was the good looking one who maybe would screw you over, but that’s the one you had lesbian sex with?

KJ
Yeah, she’s alright, you know.

HS
You went out drinking, and you’re slutting around, you’re having a good time, and then suddenly, you say, hey fuck it, I’m drunk, I’ll have some sex with her.

KJ
Yeah, we were just in the room, and fucking drinking, and just sitting there, like, we’re all taking little pictures of each other, trying to tweet the photos, and because we had to keep hushhush while we were over there, we’re still trying to sneak photos.

HS
Did you girls just run around naked in the room the whole time? Or, like, what’s the fun?

KJ
Yeah, we’re all walking around naked.

HS
Getting all comfortable with your bodies, and you’re all naked…

KJ
Yeah.

HS
She’s naked, and you’re naked, and you’re talking on the bed, and taking pictures, and you’re tweeting, drunk out of your mind.

KJ
I’m always just like naked, I’ll always rock the robe. I always have a drink in my hand, I’d have a robe that’d be open, and not even shut. I always sit on the couch, with my legs wide open, like this, like the Al Bundy.

HS
Are you doing it? Like that. Because you’re totally comfortable in your body.

KJ
Yeah, I’m just like, just, I’m always…

HS
What are you wearing today? Let me see.

KJ
Well, actually, I put on a dress. But because it’s so fucking cold outside…I don’t know how you guys deal with this weather.

HS
We don’t deal well with it. Look at us. [laughter]

RQ
We’re falling apart.

KJ
I have a dress on, but I was like, I’m going to put on pants, and then put on jacket, so I’m all bundled up.

HS
Yeah, it’s hard to tell what’s doing there.

KJ
Yeah.

HS
So, wait a second, so when you’re over there, I want to get to Charlie Sheen, but this is fascinating to me. So, you’re over there, you’re hanging out for three days, you don’t see this guy, you don’t even know what he looks like, right? I mean, you don’t even know who you have to fuck?

KJ
Well, I googled him.

HS
You did? Is he gross?

KJ
No, he’s hot.

HS
He’s a good looking guy?

KJ
He’s hot. He has a huge dick.

HS
He does?

KJ
Yeah, and he’s really aggressive during sex.

HS
This prince?

KJ
Yeah.

HS
So, you’re waiting around, nobody’s allowed to fuck you, because you’re for the prince, or for some party or something. So, what happens in the three days that you meet the prince? Like, where do you meet him?

KJ
He has, like, a secret house.

HS
Cool.

KJ
Like a little secret hidden house.

HS
Does he bring you there alone, or with the other two?

KJ
I was thinking I was going to go the palace and stuff, but of course, he has to keep it on the low, and so he has this like, hang out spot. And he’s obsessed with America, he has MTV…each girl was like, we’re comparing our stories, he does the same routine with each girl. He makes us play games to test to see how smart we are. He like, makes us do crosswords, he wants to prove that his english is better than us.

HS
Wait a sec. He walks into the room, he’s dressed…are you naked? What do you have to wear to prepare for the prince?

KJ
I just wore, I dunno, I wore, like, we have to cover up over there? So I wore this dress, but then I wore one of their weird arabic shawls over, and I come over, and the first thing he does is, alright, we’re going to play a game.

HS
Yeah.

KJ
And he makes us play games. And I’m like, this is so weird, this is, I thought I was just come over-

HS
And what is the game?

RQ
It’s like school!

HS
Play the game with me. What is it?

KJ
It’s like- He has like a machine, from like a casino-looking, and it has these optional games, and he’s like, okay, we’re going to play this, and he’s like, compare the photo, and figure out which one’s missing, or which one’s different than the other.

HS
It’s an IQ test.

KJ
Yeah.

HS
And what, what, aren’t guys weird like that? Why doesn’t he just fuck you, and get it over with?

KJ
It’s because he has so much. He has so much, and he’s so fucked up.

HS
So, get back to the prince, and then we’ll get to Charlie that night. So, just finishing up with the prince, so you finally get in there, he gives you the IQ test, where he’s testing you out.

KJ
Yeah.

HS
Are you there with the other girls, or are you all alone?

KJ
We all go individually.

HS
Individually. So you’re there alone, and finally, does he put a move on you, and say, hey honey, take your clothes off and let’s get to it?

KJ
No, he just goes, “Okay,” he’s like, he’s always “I promise you I beat you in anything. I beat you in any game. I love MTV, I love America,” he just tries to prove, he just wants to be cool. Like, I wanna be like Eminem. And then he gives this spiel, and he brings me upstairs to the room, where it’s freezing cold, and I’m like, “Can you turn it up, can you turn that down, please?”

HS
And he says, “No I can’t because you can’t sweat on me.”

KJ
I didn’t know that. He’s like, oh no, I don’t want to get too hot.

HS
Right.

KJ
And I didn’t figure it out until someone later told me, why.

HS
Right.

KJ
And uh, so anyways, so, you know, we fuck, and he’s, he’s really aggressive, fucking my throat, and everything-

HS
Jesus. Did he see some of your movies, or he didn’t know who you were?

KJ
He’s just get sent photos, and he says pass or no pass.

HS
Right. And so, did he undress you, is there anything romantic about it?

KJ
No…it was really like, he was like, and after we were like having sex, we had sex a total of three times-

HS
When you have sex with this guy, and he’s fucking your throat, do you to moan like he’s the greatest ever-

KJ
I’m gagging, I’m not moaning. I’m like [gagging sounds].

HS
And are you like, hey dude, could you back off a little?

KJ
Uh…I was just trying to do the best I could…

HS
Right. So, when he’s fucking you, do you fake an orgasm, do you go “oh my god, this is so good, ohoh”-

KJ
I did come with him. I didn’t have to fake with him.

HS
Oh, you did come?

KJ
Yeah, he’s, like I said, he’s-

HS
Huge.

KJ
-and they’re really aggressive, and after you’re done, he’d just hold me down, like, on the bed, where I was like, can you kinda just not put me in a headlock. He would do that. He kept putting me in a headlock.

HS
What’s that about?

KJ
I don’t know.

HS
Does he use condoms?

KJ
He did that with every girl.

HS
Did he use condoms?

KJ
No.

HS
No.

RQ
No condoms with him!

HS
And you wouldn’t mind getting pregnant with him, right, because that’s a pay fucking day like you wouldn’t-

KJ
I dunno, because matter of fact, if they found out I got pregnant, the guy would probably get assassinated.

RQ
I was going to say, you might never show up again.

KJ
Take the baby, and kill him.

HS
Yeah. I was thinking you could own Dubai, but maybe you’re right. They could take the baby and kill ya.

RQ
Women have no power there, Howard.

HS
Yeah, right.

KJ
I would be, like…it would be…

RQ
There’s no court to go to.

KJ
I would not wanna be in some robe, stuck in a room…

HS
Isn’t it weird that these guys don’t use condoms? They don’t know you, they don’t know what you’ve done, they don’t know anything. They don’t know if you’re clean…

KJ
I should’ve used a condom because…of how many girls he sees?

RQ
Yeah!

HS
I can’t believe you didn’t, yeah. I can’t believe you didn’t make him put one on.

KJ
I was a little drunk.

HS
You were drunk, that drinking’s going to do you in, I’m telling you, you’ve gotta back off a little bit. You think of ever going into rehab, or just, fuck that? You would never do that. Because you don’t want to stop, right?

KJ
Well, what’s the point?

HS
What do you mean?

KJ
I mean, it’s not like it’s ruining my life.

HS
You’re enjoying it.

KJ
Yeah.

HS
And you’re not going through your money, you’re saving some money and stuff.

KJ
I dunno…I’m blowing some of my money.

HS
You are?

KJ
Yeah.

HS
What are you blowing it on?

KJ
Uh, well, that’s what Vegas, I blew a lot in Vegas. I went to Christian Louboutin, I bought the thirty two hundred all diamond shoe. I blew all my money from Dubai and I was like, after AVN-

HS
So, Dubai, you get the thirty grand, does he just give it to you there?

KJ
Yeah. Cash.

HS
Cash?

KJ
Yeah. I had to wire it.

HS
No shit. Thirty grand.

KJ
Thirty five.

HS
Nice money.

KJ
Mmmhmm.

HS
And you only fucked him that once?

KJ
Right, that’s it. And then I had a free vacation, spa…I just raped the spa. I was like, I need, I got every treatment that they offered…

HS
Women would rub you down, or men? You get a massage from men?

KJ
They’re not allowed to…men are allowed to only do facials. [tries not to laugh]

HS
Do you ever get massages from guys-

RQ
Did you do some of those guys over there that were giving you a facial-

KJ
Yeah. [laughs]

HS
You did?

KJ
Well, that’s part of the facial, right?

The money for Braun’s women to be flown, kept, and fucked in Turkey came from Hakan Uzan, and though the thievery of the Uzans went almost entirely unreported in the American press, it was a heist on a scale that placed them in the same infamous league as Bernie Madoff or Jeff Skilling. Their fortunes began with father Kemal’s construction company, which won contracts for soccer stadiums and dams thanks to Kemal Uzan’s friendship with Turgot Ozal, first the country’s prime minister and then the country’s president. The Uzans would go on to buy Imar Bank, founded another bank, Adabank, and set up a news empire of radio, TV, and newspapers called Star TV. In 1992, they bought 11% of the shares of Cukurova Elektrik, a Turkish hydroelectric and gas utility, after Franklin Templeton’s Emerging Markets Fund had bought up a big investment stake. They then managed to gain a majority stake in the utility, replaced the board members with their own proxies, and put the utility’s cash balances with their Imar bank. Cukurova Elektrik shares went from fifty cents to $3.50 after the Uzan share buy, then hit a low of eighteen cents after the cash balance transfer. Cukurova Elektrik went from $41 million net to an $18 million loss after the cash transfer, and Franklin Temleton was hit with an $18 million dollar loss36. It was a variation on Gregory Turville Harry’s pump and dump, on a much larger scale.

Cukurova Elektrik was a preview of the next scam by the Uzans. They were given the license to set up a private cell phone network in the country, through a company they set up called Telsim Mobil Telekomunikasyon Hizmetleri [Telsim Mobile Telecommunications Services]. In order to gain access to the market, Motorola loaned Telsim over two billion in equipment, services, and cash, with Nokia loaning a little under a billion in equipment, services, and cash as well. The Uzans pledged 66% of Telsim shares to Motorola, and 7.5% to Nokia as loan collateral. And after that, Telsim missed the loan payments. The collateral of Telsim shares were transferred to a private Turkish foundation, out of reach of creditors. A PricewaterhouseCoopers report, commissioned by Motorola and Nokia afterwards, would reveal that over two hundred million in cash and assets from Telsim was transferred to entities controlled by the Uzans, to pay for apartments in the Trump Tower, several aircraft, and four yachts. And though the report was perhaps too discrete to mention it, a reader could make the obvious additional inference: and Michelle Braun’s women. The Uzans must have thought that with their connections, they could somehow outsmart or outlast the suits brought by Motorola and Nokia against them; but their empire would collapse before Michelle Braun’s37.

Kemal Uzan, son Hakan Uzan, and son Cem Uzan

Kemal Uzan, son Hakan Uzan, and son Cem Uzan.

Cem Uzan, Hakan’s brother, would set up a new political party with a nationalist appeal, The Youth Party, and ran in the 2002 election. There he would pitch the scandal as a story where the Uzans were Robin Hoods, using the family’s Star TV network to promote his campaign. “Everyone steals from Turkey, the people think,” said one Turkish Foreign Ministry official. “But here is a guy who steals from rich Americans. And they admire that.” Cem Uzan hoped to gain ten percent of the vote and a seat in Parliament, which meant immunity from prosecution. Cem Uzan got neither. The Turkish government would first cancel the licenses of Uzan utilities Cukurova Elektrik and Kepez Elektrik, then seize them. The seizure would have a devastating impact on the Uzans’ Imar Bank, which relied on these utilities for raising capital. About a month after cancelling the utility licenses, Turkey seized control of Imar Bank, after which they discovered an astonishing level of widespread theft, with dummy accounts created in order to transfer over $5 billion dollars out of the bank and over to the Uzans. Account information was distorted to keep the fraud going. Retrospective invoices were created and real invoices were deleted. A raid at the bank’s hub would discover hard drives detached and stolen, back-ups deleted, and computers that were empty shells, the damning hardware circuits inside taken away. A July 31, 2003 cable from the American embassy in Turkey would give some idea of the problem; from “BRSA PRESIDENT ON IMAR BANK PROBLEMS (ACTION REQUEST)” at Wikileaks:

Summary: Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BRSA) President Engin Akcakoca confirmed to us July 30 that the agency is facing serious difficulties trying to address the problems resulting from the discovery of massive fraud in the Uzan family-owned Imar Bank. The fundamental problem is that BRSA is being beseiged by bank depositors waiving their bank books and demanding their money back (to the tune of billions of dollars), but the agency has no ability to verify accounts because Imar Bank owners/managers destroyed virtually all of the bank’s records during and immediately after the takeover. Akcakoca believes perhaps 50 percent of the accounts are fictitious — bank books with no corresponding account — and speculated that the Uzans may have handed out bank deposit books (not backed by any account) to would-be voters.

On July 30, BRSA President Engin Akcakoca provided us with his views on the problems associated with the agency’s recent take over of Uzan-family owned Imar Bank. As reported in reftels, BRSA took over management of the bank and responsibility for its $800 million in deposit liabilities early this month. However, it has subsequently learned that the bank was keeping a second set of books and that total deposit liabilities were many times greater than officially reported, perhaps as high as $5 billion.

That same July, a judge would find in favor of Motorola and Nokia in their fraud suit seeking $5 billion dollars against Telsim and the Uzans38.

The Turkish government would seize all two hundred businseses of the Uzan empire and all the company’s assets within the country in the wake of the outstanding five billion dollars in debt of the Iman Bank after its collapse39. All three men connected to the fraud – Cem, Hakan, and Kemal Uzan – would go into exile. Cem Uzan would flee Turkey in one of his yachts. He would eventually be granted temporary residency in France, while being sentenced to three and a half years in abasentia in Turkey for fraud. In July 2012, the Turkish paper Today’s Zaman would note that “Wanted Turkish tycoon spotted on Jordanian king’s boat”, after Hakan Uzan was spied amongst those in a speedboat alongside his good friend, King Abdullah of Jordan. Hakan Uzan was piloting the speedboat40. A diplomatic cable on January 27, 2006, “TURKEY/JORDAN: JORDANIAN PM BAKHIT FINDS BROAD AGREEMENT IN ANKARA” (again, at Wikileaks), from the American embassy in Turkey would contain the following item when Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit visited the country:

Bakhit was reportedly asked at a press availability about the rumored presence in Jordan of fugitive Hakan Uzan and members of his family. The Uzan family is sought for corrupt financial dealings that led to the collapse of the Imar bank and the loss of billions of dollars. According to Turkish press reports, Bakhit acknowledged the Uzans came to Jordan as investors and received some kind of residence documents, which the Jordanian government has since revoked. Bakhit told the press he had no information on the Uzans’ current whereabouts. The MFA [Minister of Foreign Affairs] told us the Uzan affair was not discussed officially with the Jordanian delegation.

At the time of this writing, these three members of the Uzan family are still wanted in Turkey for prosecution, and all three are still at large.

The Uzans were the largest fraudsters who were also customers of Michelle Braun; but it was Mark Yagalla who was the fruadster discovered first, who was part of the most noteworthy plot, whose theft was the start of a path that led to murder and stolen rubies. It was the arrest of Yagalla which first brought the Michelle Braun ring into bright light, and it might give some hint of the disinterest, wariness, or fear about the possible consequences of shutting down an escort ring patronized by so many wealthy and powerful men, that even years after her exposure in the Mark Yagalla case, Michelle Braun was able to continue operations, with her business pulling reportedly pulling in over eight million dollars before she was finally stopped, far from L.A.41

It was all there in the best account of the Yagalla affair, published in 2001, six years before Braun’s arrest, “The Prodigy and the Playmate” by Benjamin Wallace. Yagalla was an isolated Pennsylvania kid who stopped growing at 5’3″, who insistently wore khakis, button down shirts, thick glasses in high school, and who other kids called “Urkel”. He watched movies about the corruption of the eighties, Wall Street and Other People’s Money, over and over again, not as polemics, but heroic narratives. “Most young boys dream of being a professional athlete, or something like that. What were your dreams?” asked Peter Van Sant of Yagalla. “I wanted to be Gordon Gekko,” he replied. “He seemed to possess a Disney-manufactured filter that transformed every story into a fairy tale,” Wallace would write in “The Prodigy and the Playmate”. “Even when he watched morality plays like Wall Street, what he took away was the glamorous premise, not the unhappy ending.” Indecent Proposal was a love story, and so was the movie that was even closer to his heart, Pretty Woman. A love story involved making a fortune in business, finding a beautiful woman, then spending heaps of cash on her, after which she fell in love with you. “I had sortof developed this fairy tale from movies,” Yagalla said, “that if you get money, you get the girl.”42 And if you cut a few corners in business, if you maybe engaged in outright fraud, if you built a ponzi scheme that robbed people of their savings, that was part of the love story, too. Yagalla didn’t go to his high school prom. He stayed home, and made $23,000 trading stocks.

After graduating from the prestige Wharton business program, Yagalla would go on to found two hedge funds, Apex Investments and Ashbury Capital, with a focus on tech stocks and a goal of over a billion dollars in assets. Yagalla took the profits he got from these funds, and spent it on prostitutes. From “Extra Interview – Mark Yagalla on Ponzi Schemes”, an interview with Yagalla by CBS’s Peter Van Sant (segment runs from 1:06 to 1:54):

PETER VAN SANT
And how old are you at this time?

YAGALLA
Twenty one.

VAN SANT
And were you having a good time?

YAGALLA
I was having a great time…it started with prostitutes.

VAN SANT
How often did you do this?

YAGALLA
Daily. Sometimes three, four girls a day. I was spending anywhere between six hundred to a thousand an hour at this time, for the girls. It was one day when I was on the internet, I came across a website that linked me to nicisgirls.com. I had a conversation with a girl [Michelle Braun43], and she had a pin-up model available, and I said, “Well, I’m going to Puerto Rico this weekend, I’d like for her to come with me.” And she said, “That’ll be $28,000 dollars.” And I looked at the girl’s picture, and I was like, “OK.”

Mark Yagalla on Forty Eight Hours

Mark Yagalla, from “Extra Interview – Mark Yagalla on Ponzi Schemes”.

Yagalla put down a $5000 admission fee for the prvilege of paying another $10,000 to $20,000 to “Nici”, openly identified in “The Prodigy and the Playmate” as a madam, and openly identified by her actual name: “Nici was fast becoming the new Heidi Fleiss, L.A.’s reigning madam, and Yagalla, as a preferred (and relentless) customer, ended up befriending her and learning her real name: Michelle Braun.” “She was the first person to really use the Internet to offer prostitutes,” said Yagalla. One of the women he was set up with is a woman identified nowhere else as part of Braun’s harem, though it is a very big name that Yagalla drops here: “Eventually, he started flying to L.A. to rendezvous with Nici’s “specials,” including porn megastar Jenna Jameson.” This, however, was just a prelude to even more expensive merchandise44.

For $40,000, Yagalla got a weekend with May 1999 Playboy Playmate Tishara Cousino, a candidate for what Yagalla called “The Program”, which was something like the plot of Pretty Woman, which meant it was something like Pygmalion, where a young woman would be styled into something greater through the power of money. On her Playboy form, Cousino had put down that her ambitions were “To see how far I can go as a model and actress, while studying naturopathic medicine,” and that her turn-ons were “Intellect, a big heart, sensitivity and passionate energy.” On their first weekend together, in a 125-foot yacht sailing through the Florida Keys, Cousino reclined on the bed of this yacht leased by Yagalla, and asked, “Do you want to do anything with me?” Yagalla was repulsed. He wanted a fairy tale, not a business transaction. He wanted her only when she wanted him. That weekend, he bought her a new Mercedes anyway. “When I was dealing with the playmates,” Yagalla would tell Van Sant, “I was giving out Mercedes like they were tennis bracelets.”45 Cousino would deny that she met Yagalla through a madam or that Yagalla put her through “a program”.

Tishara Cousino, photo by Arny Freitag

Excerpt of a photo of Tishara Cousino from her May 1999 Playboy shoot, photo by Arny Freitag.

Tishara Cousino's Playboy form

An excerpt from Cousino’s form in Playboy.

It was through Cousino that Yagalla met Sandy Bentley, one half of the Bentley twins, both of whom were supposedly Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends. In the pictures and talk show appearances where the wizened satyr and the nymph duo appeared, it was a relationship that was romantic, but in the raw fact, the relationship appeared entirely contractual. Neither woman were supposed to have other boyfriends, though both did, each had to call in and touch base with the “old man” (as they called him) every day, and both were contractually required to appear with him at the mansion on Christmas and New Year’s. “Won’t Hef mind?,” Yagalla asked Cousino. “He wishes,” said Sandy. “The Prodigy and the Playmate” was cold in the details of the nocturnal rituals of Hef and the twins: “The heterosexual icon, Sandy had told Yagalla, had trouble finding satisfaction through intercourse; instead, he liked the girls to pleasure each other while he masturbated and watched gay porn.” The last detail made no sense to me until I read “The Playboy After Dark” by Sharon Waxman, where Carrie Leigh, a long-term girlfriend of Hefner’s from the ’80s, would say that she and other Hef girlfriends were “disturbed by Hefner’s propensity for sexual encounters with men. Leigh says she interrupted Hefner’s liaisons with men a couple of times.” And: “The irony that this symbol of heterosexual male virility was involved homosexually was not lost on her.” Hefner would deny that he was gay, while acknowledging that he’d slept with men. “There was some bisexuality in the heterosexual, swinging part of my life,” he said in Waxman’s piece. Yagalla would go with Bentley and Cousino to a Cher concert at the Las Vegas MGM. After, they went to The Crazy Horse Too, a strip club where Bentley used to dance, and Yagalla sat between Bentley and Cousino, the object of their affection, the gentle target for their kisses. A stripper at The Crazy Horse Too wondered what Yagalla’s secret was. “I’m fucking loaded,” said Yagalla. Sandy Bentley was a willing subject for “The Program.”

Sandy Bentley

Sandy Bentley, with Hugh Hefner. From CBS’s “Playing With Fire”.

Sandy Bentley grew up in Vegas, with the various surgeries that helped make her a Playboy cover girl and Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend paid for by Herbie Blitzstein, a one-time mob enforcer who worked alongside mafioso Tony Spilotro, who was the basis for the figure of reckless menace played by Joe Pesci in Casino. After time in prison over federal income tax and credit card fraud charges, Blitzstein would die a used car salesman, shot in the head in his own home. “Blitzstein, 63, might have been robbed by someone he knew,” said an obituary. “Property was missing from his townhouse and there were no obvious signs of forced entry,” said Las Vegas Metro Police homicide Lieutenant Wayne Petersen46. This, is what’s referred to as dramatic foreshadowing.

Herbie Blitzstein

A photo of Herbie Blitzstein, taken from a 1980 arrest. Photo was found at the page “The Mob in Vegas: Fat Herbie Blitzen”, a site promoting the book The Mob Files: The Illustrated Guide to the Mob in Vegas by John William Tuohy.

Yagalla would get Bentley and Cousino Platinum American Express cards and a monthly allowance of $20,000 to $25,000. He would buy Cousino a house worth close to half a million. He bought Sandy Bentley a six thousand square foot plus two floor Spanish Villa in Vegas for over a million and a half. He bought her a Mercedes SL 500, a red Ferrari FL 355 Spyder, a Range Rover, a black Cadillac Escalade SUV, a pair of fur coats from Bloomingdale’s, and two Rolexes. He bought her $190,000 worth of jewelry from Venetzia in Vegas. He bought her more furs, a shaved mink and a monogrammed chinchilla. Possessions meant nothing to me, Sandy Bentley told Yagalla. On one of their first dates, they watched Pretty Woman together at his Delaware home. She flew up from Vegas, though she refused to fly commercial; he chartered a jet. When they were in Vegas, they’d walk into a high roller room accompanied by two bodyguards, Sandy Bentley decked in furs and blinding jewels, and the croupier would casually say, “Mr. Y’s here,” sliding a million dollars in chips toward his place on the table. They’d met in August 1999. In December, they were already talking marriage. That month, Yagalla bought his girlfriend a white Bentley Azure convertible. On a piece of stationary at the dealership, Bentley wrote out: S. Yagalla. S. Bentley-Yagalla. That Christmas, Yagalla bought Bentley a necklace of rubies and diamonds modeled after that worn by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Fairy tales, sometimes, do come true. That fall, Yagalla told some Apex investors that their portfolio had grown by more than fifty percent in one month. Ashbury also showed extraordinary growth, with a return of more than seventy percent over the course of half of 199947. “And where was all this money coming from?,” asked Peter Van Sant of Yagalla about the millions of dollars of gifts spent on Bentley and Cousino. “I was robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Yagalla. “I was taking client money to fuel my addiction,” said Yagalla. “I was running one big Ponzi scheme.” Van Sant: “How much money are we talking about…that you scammed people out of?” Tagalla: “All together, debt wise, I’m probably fifty, sixty million in debt,” Yagalla answered, years after the fact, years after Sandy Bentley left him and two people were killed48.

Close-up of the reproduction of the ruby necklace that was in Pretty Woman

Close-up of the reproduction of the ruby necklace that was in Pretty Woman. From CBS’s “Playing With Fire”.

One of the only flaws of Wallace’s “The Prodigy and the Playmate”, is that it understated the length and breadth of corruption in Yagalla’s career. It was left to something like Armstrong v. Collins, a suit by Michael Armstrong, receiver for Apex and Ashbury against investors Ronald Collins and his family over assets transferred by Yaglla to Collins as part of his ponzi scheme, which laid out a life of fraud which didn’t spin out of any later moment of desperation, but began with the very start of his obsession with investing. “Prodigy” has Yagalla start out at fifteen getting a chunk of money from his mom that he’d made helping his dad, who drove a truck for a tree nursery. Yaglla would lose half, then decided to do more research before his next investment. He got five thousand from his cousin, and sunk it all into Dell. After that paid off, his cousin gave him more money, which he put into Microsoft and Intel. His investing streak presumably continued, with Yagalla buying a Corvette and a Chevy Blazer while in high school, his high school success capped by his prom day trading when he made over $23,000. That is all accoring to “Prodigy”. Armstrong v. Collins gives us a different picture.

“Carl and Pat Dias, the owners of a business near Weatherly, had the misfortune of being Yagalla’s first clients,” is the second paragraph under Armstrong v. Collins‘s “History of the Yagalla Scheme”, and the first devoted to his sorry investment history. “and in 1995, they invested approximately $15,000 with Yagalla.” The whole 15K was a wash. “Responding to a Canadian telemarketer’s pitch, Yagalla used the money to purchase what he believed were rubies. But the purported rubies turned out to be nearly worthless and Yagalla lost virtually all of the Dias’ money.” This all was according to Yagalla’s own trial depositions. He told the Diases that they’d actually made a profit, gave them a false statement, and then used money from other investors to give the Diases a fake return on their investment. That same year, according to Armstrong v. Collins, Yagalla got $15,000 from the same cousin mentioned in “Prodigy” who gave Yagalla the money for Dell, Intel, and Microsoft, a man named Francis Dolinsky. Yagalla invested the money in worthless rubies and worthless baseball memorabilia. Yagalla told Dolinsky that the investment was profitable, and paid him back with money from other investors. He invested $50K in Kentucky oil and gas leases, and lost it all. He invested $150K in stocks, and pulled in a $120K loss. He told the lucky investors that the investment was sucessful, and gave them fake profits, again taken from others.

All these investments were done at his hedge fund, Apex, and since the perception of Apex as a sound, financial success was so different from the fund’s actual performance, Yagalla founded another hedge fund, Ashbury Capital. Though Yagalla said that he intended to run Ashbury separately from Apex, and as an actual legitimate investment fund, Ashbury Capital investors ended up subsidizing the fraud at Apex. No effort was made by Yagalla to keep the funds of Apex and Ashbury Capital – or his personal funds – separate from each other. Again, this is all according to Yagalla’s own depositions, cited in Armstrong v. Collins. At some point, Yagalla would discover that the brokerage Kensington Wells was manipulating stocks. Armstrong v. Collins would explain what happened next (citations indicating that all statements come from Yagalla’s trial depositions have been removed):

After meeting the individuals he was told were manipulating stock, and until his arrest in October, 2000, other than some sporadic and minor day trading, Yagalla traded exclusively in stocks that he testified were manipulated. The manipulated stocks included: United Energy Group, Franklin Opthalmic, Delsoft Consulting, Logpoint Technologies, Page International, Hydrogiene, Intelliworxx and TravelNow.com. Yagalla explained that in each case he and his criminal partners would identify new private companies, merge them with public shells, and by controlling the float and paying off brokers, manipulate the price of the securities. According to Yagalla, he broke even on the United Energy Group and Franklin Opthalmic manipulations; made $500,000 on the Delsoft Consulting manipulation; made $250,000 on the Logpoint Technologies manipulation; lost $750,000 on the Page International manipulation; made $450,000 on the Hydrogiene manipulation; and lost a “substantial amount” of the $500,000 to $750,000 he invested in the manipulation. On his most profitable manipulation, TravelNow.com (“TravelNow”), Yagalla made over $6 million between August, 1999, and January, 2000. Yagalla, however, spent the money “[o]n airplane travel, . . . [his] former girlfriend Sandra Bently [sic], jewelry, cars, houses, [and] gambling.”

Yagalla was planning on asking Sandy Bentley to marry him that Christmas, the first Christmas of the millenium. He was going to have a connection shut the Eiffel Tower down, and propose to her at the top. They were going to have the biggest wedding New York had ever seen. In late July, he’d promised investors in Ashbury Capital that they could expect a fifty percent return, around the same time of the Republican Convention at Philadelphia, where he’d been the second largest donor from Delaware, right after MBNA, a regional bank that specialized in credit card debt, which would soon be bought up by Bank of America. The stock market was collapsing because of the dot com implosion, but no worries. “We have invested in stocks that have explosive growth potential and aren’t too heavily tied to the slowing growth of the economy,” Yaglla wrote to Ashbury Capital investors in a newsletter of that summer. His investment letter of September sounded an equally confident and sagacious note. “The days of the individual investor buying stocks blindly and making money are gone,” he wrote. “Our strategy has faired [sic] well during the markets’ topsy-turvy ride this year, and we think it will serve us well going into 2001.” September was the month he lost over half a million in the failed Intelliworxx manipulation. He bought the Intelliworxx shares through a margin account at Lehman Brothers. Three days after he promised to wire the funds, he showed up with a personal check of four and a half million dollars. That check didn’t clear. He then showed up with a check for over a million dollars. That check didn’t clear either49.

He flew to Bentley’s home in Vegas and told her he was in serious trouble. “As long as it’s just fines,” she said. He tried to make some money to keep investors happy by playing baccarat and blackjack. He lost another $800K. He had an emergency phone call with his right hand man, Frank Luppo. “Were all the statements phony?” asked Luppo. “Ah, last year was not,” said Yagalla. “This year was the problem.” Luppo: “So they were all phony this year?” No, said Yagalla, it’s just “within the last three or four months.” Before they ended the conversation, Yagalla said, “It’s a shame all this happened, because I really think six months from now we’re goin’ to be rockin’ and rollin’ with big money…I just got myself in a jam. I made a lot of mistakes.” It didn’t really matter what Yagalla believed and what he actually did, and it didn’t really matter here if he was lying or telling the truth about when the fraud and the phony statements began, because he’d already admitted to fraud and phony statements over the phone to Frank Luppo, and Luppo was an FBI informant, and this call was being taped. Yagalla was arrested five days later50. “Sandy stayed loyal to Yagalla,” wrote Benjamin Wallace in “The Prodigy and the Playmate”, “until she learned the government was going to take away all the things he gave her.”

Sandy Bentley would leave Yagalla, but she would hold on to all the jewelry he gave her, including the Pretty Woman necklace. After they broke up, she went to the Garden of Eden, a nightclub she’d gone to before, with Yagalla, with Hefner, where every celebrity and semi-celebrity went, and where she met her next boyfriend, the Garden of Eden’s doorman, Michael Tardio. She was with Tardio when she started to lose everything, when everything she had was being confiscated as proceeds of Yagalla’s ponzi scheme. “The judge ordered Sandy Bentley to hand over the house, the jewelry, the cars,” said Eugne Licker, the attorney in charge of hunting down where Yagalla had stuck his ill gotten millions51. “Playing With Fire” (transcript is at “A Playmate, a Ponzi scheme, jewels and murder”), an episode of 48 Hours devoted to the murder of Michael Tardio, would explain what happened next:

Faced with losing everything, a desperate Sandy Bentley went to her new boyfriend, Michael Tardio, for help.

“So, Sandy literally had nothing now. They were kicking her out of her house,” Cox explains. “So, at this point, Michael says to her, ‘Well, why don’t you just take a little bit of the jewelry. Could sell it.'”

And that’s just what happened according to surveillance video a private investigator shot at Sandy Bentley’s Las Vegas mansion the week those two allegedly took those jewels.

It’s estimated that Michael Tardio and Sandy Bentley made off with nearly $1 million in jewels and furs.

“He was doing it for his girlfriend,” [Los Angeles Times crime reporter Andrew] Blankstein says. “He wanted to sell the stuff off, give her money, and obviously satisfy her.”

“Now, Sandy Bentley claims this was Tardio’s idea… but Tardio, of course, is dead,” notes [CBS reporter Peter] Van Sant. “Do we really know the ultimate truth there?”

“No, we don’t know the ultimate truth,” says [LAPD Detective Bill] Cox.

Eugene Licker was videotaped taking inventory of the jewels that were left behind after Sandy was evicted.

“The ‘Pretty Woman’ necklace wasn’t there. It was definitely worth hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Licker says. The Canary diamond ring wasn’t there and I know [it] was at least invoiced at a half a million dollars.”

Police inventory of Benton's jewelry

Police inventory of Sandy Bentley’s jewelry box. From CBS’s “Playing With Fire”.

Missing jewelry

Police videotape of the evidence after Yagalla’s arrest, which shows missing jewelry. From CBS’s “Playing With Fire”.

Bentley would originally tell Licker that the jewels must have been stolen by someone else, or were lost. “Sandy Bentley not only lied to us about what had happened to the so called missing jewelry, but she took it. She stole it,” said Licker. Bentley would eventually co-operate with police in the murder investigation of Michael Tardio, after being granted immunity on charges related to the theft of the jewels. Bentley said that Tardio had found a buyer for the jewels at the Garden of Eden. “Michael Tardio had been talking to a guy at the nightclub and the person said he knew someone was interested in the jewelry. So Michael Tardio asked to set up a meeting,” said LAPD Detective Bill Cox. September 1, 2002, nearly two years after the arrest of Mark Yagalla, was the night of the meeting, and the last day Michael Tardio was alive52.

Before he left for the meeting, Tardio gave Sandy Bentley a phone number. “If anything happens, call this number,” he told Bentley, according to Cox. The phone number belonged to a convicted felon named Michael Jacobs, and it’s believed that Jacobs was the man who introduced Tardio to a potential buyer, a man whose name remains unknown at this time, and who Tardio, along with his close friend Christopher Monson, travelled to meet on September 1, 2002. The closest we get to Jacobs is the attempt by CBS 48 Hours to interview him about the Monson-Tardio murders for their program, “Playing With Fire”. Jacobs would refuse to give a public interview to 48 Hours, or allow them to use his voice. From “Playing With Fire” (transcript is at “A Playmate, a Ponzi scheme, jewels and murder”):

Jacobs confirmed that Sandy Bentley called him that night looking for Tardio, but refused an on camera interview. He also refused to answer any questions about the jewelry deal, except to say he had nothing to do with the murders and that he “sleeps well at night.”

“He’s the one who can actually, I feel, blow this case open,” Cox says. “But he just doesn’t wanna be cooperative.”

At the time of the murders, Jacobs was questioned extensively by police, but they never had evidence to charge him. For now, this investigation has hit a wall.

Michael Jacobs

Michael Jacobs, who told Michael Tardio about the fence for the rubies. From CBS’s “Playing With Fire”.

For the meet, Tardio would rent a black Mercedes SUV and a cash counter machine. Detective Cox thought he had no idea of what he was doing. “Like, the guy you’re gonna sell this stuff to is gonna sit in the car while you feed money through the cash machine to count it?” he said. “I think Michael just either was a victim of too much television or too much reading.” Tardio and Monson left for the meeting at 9:30 PM, Sunday, September 1, 2002, the night before Labor Day. They met the buyer at a restaurant at Sunset Boulevard, an unidentified man, referred to on “Playing With Fire” as “Mr. Big”. “Do you have a sense of who this ‘Mr. Big’ is based on your own investigation?” Peter Van Sant asked Detective Cox. “No, not a clue,” said Cox. At 11:30 PM, Michael Tardio would call his girlfriend, Sandy Bentley. “Hey we’re driving through the Mount Olympus area,” he told her, and that was the last thing she ever heard him say. Less than two hours later, Michael Tardio and Christopher Monson were in the Hollywood Hills, where they were shot dead in the black Mercedes SUV. “I think it was a surprise attack. These guys were caught completely off guard,” said Cox on 48 Hours. “And then the car is driven down to the North Hollywood area where it’s set afire.” What was left of the car after an attempt to set it on fire was found in the early morning of that Labor Day. “There was no identifiable fingerprints found on there – there was no really useable evidence,” said Cox. The necklace was, no doubt, cut up for its jewels. “It’s long gone. You can’t even trace it,” said Cox.

Re-creation of the burning Mercedes in which Tardio and Monson were found

Re-creation of burning Mercedes in which Michael Tardio and Christopher Monson were found.

Burnt out car after murder from CBS 48 Hours

The burnt out remains of the Mercedes in which the bodies of Michael Tardio and Christopher Monson were found. From CBS’s “Playing With Fire”.

Without any arrests a year after the double murder, police would release new information and announce a $25,000 reward, as described in “Police Revisit 2002 Homicide Case” by Richard Fausset and Andrew Blankstein. Nearly a decade after the murder, police would again seek leads to the unsolved double murder, through the broadcast of “Playing With Fire”, the 48 Hours episode devoted to the Monson-Tardio murders and the posting of a $75,000 reward53. From “Police seek help solving 2002 LA double killing” by Thomas Watkins:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Almost a decade after the bodies of two men were found in a burned Mercedes SUV, police detectives said Friday they need the public’s help in cracking the case, which has ties to designer jewelry, a Wall Street Ponzi scheme and a former Playboy cover girl.

The case dates back to the early morning of Sept. 2, 2002, when firefighters doused a vehicle that was ablaze in the Studio City neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. In the SUV, they found the bodies of nightclub doorman Michael Tardio, 35, and his close friend Christopher Monson, 31.

Both had been shot to death.

The men were well-known in the Hollywood club scene. Detectives said Friday they hoped former customers of the Garden of Eden nightclub, where Tardio worked, would come forward with information. A $75,000 reward was being offered in the case.

“We believe the nucleus of this case is around the Garden of Eden,” Detective Dennis English said.

The jewelry had been in the possession of Sandy Bentley, Tardio’s girlfriend at the time, who became a minor celebrity after appearing on the cover of the May 2000 Playboy with her twin sister.

Bentley previously dated Mark Yagalla, a Wall Street wonder kid who in 2002 pleaded guilty to securities fraud and was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for stealing $50 million from clients.

Yagalla lavished the money on girlfriends and expensive living, including spending more than $6 million on Bentley, buying her six cars, three Rolex watches, a ruby and platinum necklace, other jewelry, furs and a Las Vegas mansion.

English said Tardio persuaded Bentley to try to sell off her jewels, even though a court-appointed receiver seeking to recoup some losses for Yagalla’s victims had demanded that Bentley turn over the gifts.

It was not known how Tardio was trying to find buyers for the jewelry, but “word of mouth would go around, especially at a place like the Garden of Eden,” English said.

Sandy Bentley, said Detective Dennis English, has “moved on with her life”. At the time that this sentence is written, April 4th, 2015, the Monson-Tardio case remains open. “The case is definitely solvable,” said Detective Cox in “Playing With Fire”. “I would love more than anything to just have one little lead. It’s amazing what we can do with one little lead.”

Christopher Monson and Michael Tardio

Christopher Monson and Michael Tardio, taken from the 48 Hours episode “Playing With Fire”.

Christopher Monson Michael Tardio Information Wanted Poster

A poster advertising the $25,000 reward for information on the double murder, issued February 17, 2011.

The Braun escort ring wasn’t broken in Los Angeles, and it might never have been broken at all if Braun hadn’t expanded outside of the city. Anna David’s “The State Of Hookers in Hollywood”, published in 2004, would report that two different sources, “one of whom is an FBI informant, said that the agency is investigating Braun.” David’s “My Time With Less-Than-Hip Hookers” referenced a disc containing the “contents of a laptop which belonged to a pimp who’s now serving time in a Cuban jail,” and this sounded a lot like information taken from a laptop that only one other person seemed to have access to, and that was Mark Ebner, who wrote about the contents of the laptop and its owner, Dillon Jordan, an associate of Michelle Braun who served time in a Cuban jail, and who would end up suing Ebner over a chapter devoted to him in Ebner’s book about Hollywood’s sleazy underside, Six Degrees of Paris Hilton. The person who provided Ebner access to the information on Jordan’s laptop was Danno Hanks, who provided information to investigators related to Michelle Braun, and who might be the “unnamed informant” who handed over the Dane-Gayheart sex tape to investigators and Mark Ebner, and who might also be the unnamed informant in David’s piece54. Benjamin Wallace’s “The Prodigy and the Playmate” would explicitly state in 2001 that Michelle Braun ran a call girl ring, whose girls had been paid with the proceeds of a fraud scheme, while David’s piece in 2004 would mention that the FBI had an interest in Braun, but only in 2006 did things fall apart, far from L.A., perhaps because no one in L.A. actually wanted to break such a ring.

First, there was Braun’s sister, Mandy Gray, who Braun brought in to help her run the operation. When Gray left her husband, he went to the FBI and told them that Braun had a safe full of cash from her business buried eight feet deep in her garage. But it was in 2006, at the “Nici’s Girls” satellite operation in New York City, “Bella Models”, where things fell apart. An FBI Agent using the name George Tarpinsky paid the $2,500 fee to join the Bella premium club. In October of 2007, “George Tarpinsky” booked a Playboy cover model and a Playboy.com model in Boca Raton. The FBI raided Braun’s house, arrested her, and brought her in for questioning. “What do you do for a living?”, an agent asked Braun. “I think I’m here because you know what I do,” Braun answered. In 2009, Braun would end up pleading guilty to two prostitution related counts55.

Michelle Braun would forfeit her millions, and at the time of this writing, would never know such great fortune again. After the end of the escort ring, she seemed unable to make much money at all. A year after her arrest, she busted a boyfriend’s Rolls Royce, which cost over ten grand to fix. She paid for the repairs with a cheque, and the cheque bounced. The next year, she deposited a cheque in her account at a Boca Raton bank, and the cheque bounced. She ordered $16K in furniture from a furnishing company, putting it on her plastic, and her plastic was rejected. “We don’t deal with Ms. Braun anymore for obvious reasons,” said a spokesperson for the furnishing company. She had a bill for a little over five hundred dollars for moving and storing her possessions. She didn’t pay that. In 2010, Braun declared herself flat broke, unemployed, and in debt for over $700K56.

In February 2011, CBS would air “Playing With Fire”, on the Monson-Tardio murders, and featuring interview segments with Braun. Five months later, she was charged with the kind of stock fraud her past clients had engaged in. She was alleged to have run a company called Sterling Capital Trust, which was a boiler room that sold non-existent shares in an energy company. Braun and another Sterling Capital executive went to the energy company about selling shares to raise capital, the energy company declined the offer, but Braun and Sterling Capital sold shares in the energy company anyway, taking in over $400K. Marc Nurik, Braun’s lawyer for the prostitution charges, was her lawyer for this as well. “The amount of money she received is totally inflated,” said Nurik. “I’m confident once we get to the bottom of this, it will all be cleared up, at least as far as Michelle is concerned. This is not something she bears responsibility for.”57 In March 2013, Braun would plead guilty to operating a boiler room, and would be sentenced to a year of house arrest, plus four years probation58. Braun, listed as vice president of Sterling Capital, was facing twenty years in prison for the felony, but she might have gotten leniency by paying over $100K in restitution. Brian Dunlevy, another defendant in the scam, who had no money to pay any such restitution, got fifteen years. “Everyone else in the case who was able to provide restitution was given straight probation,” said Dunlevy’s lawyer. “You look at this and you say these people bought their way out of prison,” asked reporter Bob Norman. “It certainly looks that way,” said Dunlevy’s lawyer59. Terrence McCoy, the author of “Michelle Braun: Notorious L.A. Madam’s South Florida Adventure”, a 2013 article which detailed Braun’s difficulties after her prostitution arrest, tried to contact Braun for the story. “Do not call me again, seriously. Don’t call me again.”60

Though Braun’s escort ring was broken, what looked like another elite escort ring had taken place its place in Los Angeles, and was stll in existence at the time that this sentence is written, May 8, 2015. Like Braun’s ring, it is another invisible colossus, one I would never have heard about were it not for research into links between Dubai and escorts, prompted by the convincing stories told by Kacey Jordan61. The Luxury Companion featured a harem filled with various name girls of the porn elite – Anna Bell Peaks, Jynx Maze, Abby Brooks, Brittany Banxxx, Puma Swede, Dana Vespoli, Helly Hellfire, Jada Fire, Sara Jay, Angelica Taylor – many of these names are unfamiliar to my virgin eyes, but those stood out. Though Molly Lambert’s “Porntopia” gives no mention to escorting, a brief mention of the banners hanging everywhere at the AVN Awards, “The banners for the AVN Awards hanging all over the premises feature promo shots of Alexis Texas and Tommy Pistol…along with life-size posters of starlets Mia Malkova, Tori Black, Riley Steele, and Veronica Rodriguez clad in red spandex hot pants, tube socks,” mention one woman, Veronica Rodriguez, who is also one of The Luxury Companions. Kacey Jordan, whose fascinating stories prompted this search, and Melanie Rios, the girl who invited Jordan to Charlie Sheen’s house, are part of the harem as well.

From their page “See The Companions” (archive today link), both links contain NSFW content without blurring:

The Luxury Companion roster

The Luxury Companion roster

The Luxury Companion roster

The Luxury Companion roster

The Luxury Companion roster

“What I was being paid for was an introduction…I never considered it prostitution,” Michelle Braun firmly emphasized, and the About page (archive today link) of The Luxury Companion was equally careful in the distinction.

An infusion of luxury and companionship begins here with T.L.C. where fantasies become your reality.

Meet your favorite adult star up close and personal. For those with a discriminating taste for Adventure, Beauty, Passion and Companionships will find themselves friends of The Luxury Companion. Whether it may be a night out on the town with one or more of our beautiful companions around your arms or spending a weekend or an extended evening stay with a true companion will surely make a difference and bring about memories of a life time.

All adult models and Adult performers are Independent contractors. All independent contractors understands they are not employees Of The Luxury Companion, TLC. Independent Contractors are responsible for paying any taxes earned as a Independent Contractor of The Luxury Companion, TLC. All Independent Contractors Makes their own schedules of availability. The Luxury Companion does not schedule specific days and Hours of availability.

The Luxury Companion About page

Kari Ann Peniche would record a song, “You and me and Tiger makes three” (lyrics on pastebin), which made fun of the fact that she worked as an escort and her sex tape and Miss America scandals with a playfulness that seemed perfunctory. Her voice was autotuned, and her joyful mischief was autotuned as well. Her life since the videotape scandal has been a dispiriting series of TMZ headlines. Like “VH1 Star Checks into Non-Celebrity Rehab” (9/10/2010) and “‘Celeb Rehab’ Star Bails on Real Rehab After 3 Days” (9/19/2010). “You keep on saying that it’s time for my therapy / All this sobriety is really freaking scaring me” sang Peniche in “You and me and Tiger makes three”. “‘Celeb Rehab’ Star Preggo — Hubby Doubts Paternity” (7/7/2011): “TMZ has obtained the divorce papers, in which Justin Williams states that Kari Ann is pregnant — and wants a judge to order genetic testing to determine if “this is a child of the marriage.”” “‘Celeb Rehab’ Star Exposed Baby to Meth … Says Husband” (7/25/2012): “Justin Williams has filed documents in L.A. County Superior Court…claiming he took his 10 month old son for a hair follicle drug test earlier this month after he began to suspect Kari Ann had fallen off the wagon and was using drugs around the kid…Williams says he was initially concerned because the baby “has a habit of sucking on Kari Ann’s hair and clothes and I became concerned that he could be affected by drug residue.”” “Hey doctor doctor / Think I need some help,” sang Peniche, “Sometimes I can’t seem to control myself”. “‘Celeb Rehab’ Star Cheating Drug Tests with Bogus Urine” (12/4/2012): “TMZ has learned…Peniche’s friend filed a declaration in which he claims he accompanied the former Miss United States Teen winner to a drug-testing facility in July and witnessed her injecting the urine into her genital area…so she would “secrete the purchased urine” in the event a staffer at the facility followed her into the bathroom.” “When I say I’m ready, you don’t really want to help this girl,” sang Peniche, “I’m good for ratings in your made-up make-up TV world”. This story was about three women. It began with ridiculous dreams. It’s now over. “You are one interesting girl,” said Howard Stern when he interviewed Kari Ann Peniche.

IRVING WALLACE’S THE FAN CLUB: THE FAPPENING

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE

(On April 2, 2015, additional material about Michelle Braun’s escort ring and the Uzan scandal was added. On April 4, 2015, material on the Mark Yagalla ponzi scheme, as well as the Michael Tardio-Christopher Monson murders was added. On April 5, 2015, additional material on Michelle Braun and the Sterling Capital Trust scam was added; some details were tweaked in the last paragraph of “Three Women”, devoted to to Kari Ann Peniche. On April 5, 2015, this post underwent a badly needed session of copy editing. On April 6, 2015, the interview excerpt with Gauge was added. On May 5, 2015, the excerpts from Howard Stern’s interview with Kacey Jordan were added. On May 6, 2015, footnote #34, explaining the certainty of the identification of “Fazza” Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum as the prince refered to by Kacey Jordan, was added. On that same day, the gif featuring excerpts from the sex tape which supplemented explanations of the tape being made up of segments shot at different times was added. May 6, 2015 was also the day that footnote #35, on Jordan denying that she worked with Braun, was added, and the footnote was expaned on May 7, with material from the Howard Stern Porn Star pageant. On May 7, 2015, the gif with the split screen comparison of the bedside table was added. On May 8, 2015, the excerpt from Mariah Milano’s editorial was added. On that same day, the material on The Luxury Companion was added. On July 10, 2015, the additional material about Peniche’s rape allegations was added to footnote #7.)

FOOTNOTES

1 All five parts of the Kari Ann Peniche interview with Howard Stern are: “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 15 [part 1 of 5]”, “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 25 [part 2 of 5]”, “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 35 [part 3 of 5]”, “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 45 [part 4 of 5]”, “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 55 [part 5 of 5]”. Transcript for selected portions of this interview is on pastebin: “Kari Ann Peniche on Howard Stern Selected Transcript”.

From “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 15 [part 1 of 5]”, fragment runs from 0:56 to 1:35.

2 From “Kari Ann Peniche on Beauty Queens gone wrong”, from 3:08 to 3:18.

3 From “Kari Ann Peniche on Beauty Queens gone wrong”, from 3:20 to 3:36, from 3:43 to 3:50, and from 4:02 to 4:07.

4 From “#25 – Kari Ann Peniche Returns”, relevant fragment runs from 21:26 to 21:58.

5 From “#25 – Kari Ann Peniche Returns”, relevant fragment runs from 19:59 to 20:23.

6 For example: “I don’t regret outing Anderson Cooper”, “James Corden’s Late, Late Show: winning debut with room for improvement”, “Community’s sixth season: still smugly self-referential”, and more.

7 From “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 15 [part 1 of 5]”, first fragment runs from 2:36 to 3:36, second runs from 3:50 to 4:43.

I find the allegations which Peniche makes here to be very believable based on the extent of her details, and her emotions throughout the interview; she does not collapse into tears, but tries to put a happy face on so many things, and then will suddenly become very withdrawn, as if she suddenly feels the pain again and doesn’t want to go on. All of this, to my mind, rings true. There’s also the fact that Peniche relates the same cases of molestation and rape in a December 2008 interview, a few months before this one, “Kari Ann Peniche talks about her rape: A steppin out interview” (archive today link) on the site Times Square Gossip:

ON BEING RAPED AS A TEEN MODEL/BEAUTY QUEEN:

I’m currently writing a book about my life called “Beautifully Abused.” I’ve been though a lot of sexual abuse in my life. I was raped twice before I turned 18. It happened while I was modeling. The first time I was raped I was just 13. I was living in Texas and it happened on by a stranger [sic]. The second time was by a Military guy while I was modeling in Korea. I woke up in a dumpster and I was just 14 years old. But I wouldn’t take any of it back because it’s made me who I am. My book is about empowerment. I’ve moved ahead in my life. I’m not a victim.

I was also molested by my next door neighbor from the time I was four to seven years old. I was living on Tasman Ave in San Diego. I’ve never shared this with anyone before. But I want to talk about it. I want to deal with it. All of these people are still walking around but what can I do about it now?

8 From “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 15 [part 1 of 5]”, fragment runs from 5:41 to 6:03.

9 From “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 15 [part 1 of 5]”, first fragment runs from 6:12 to 8:44, second fragment runs from 9:05 to the end, continues onto “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 25 [part 2 of 5]”, from beginning to 0:16.

10 From “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 15 [part 1 of 5]”, 1:35 to 2:10.

11 From “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 25 [part 2 of 5]”, fragment runs from 1:25 to 4:36.

12 From “Kari Ann Peniche Interviewed on Howard Stern Show Part 35 [part 3 of 5]”, from 2:26 to 3:32.

13 A full transcript of this third episode, as well as the other two, is on pastebin: “Mindy McCready Kari Ann Peniche Interview Transcripts”.

14 The main source for this revelation is “Mindy McCready weeps as she confirms affair with Roger Clemens” by Teri Thompson, Michael O’Keeffe, Nathaniel Vinton, and Christian Red.

15 Overviews of the life of Mindy McCready that were useful for this paragraph were her obituaries in the New York Times, “Mindy McCready, a Singer Long Troubled, Dies at 37” by N.R. Kleinfeld, and CNN, “The long, tortured journey of Mindy McCready” by Chelsea J. Carter.

16 Her guilty plea is noted in Country Weekly’s brief news item, “Mindy McCready Pleads Guilty”: “Nashville’s The Tennesseean reported that Mindy McCready pleaded guilty to prescription drug fraud in a local court on Monday. In exchange for her plea, Mindy will serve three years of supervised probation, perform 200 hours of community service and pay a $4,000 fine.”.

17 From “Mindy McCready’s Downward Spiral” by Jill Smolowe:

During the spring the singer, once engaged to Lois & Clark actor Dean Cain, became involved with a suspected scam artist named Jonathan Roda, 32. “He came to me under the guise of being some kind of record label owner-producer,” she says from Florida. “I didn’t realize he was a con man until they took him out in handcuffs.” But a witness told the police that Roda openly bragged about his schemes in McCready’s presence. Roda was arrested for identity theft and attempted fraud on June 24 in Tucson, and McCready was charged with hindering prosecution. “I am confident I will be exonerated 100 percent,” she says, adding that she actually supplied Arizona authorities with evidence against Roda. While the arrest warrant has since been downgraded to a subpoena, Arizona police say the charges stand.

From “Mindy McCready Leaves Hospital after OD” by Todd Peterson:

Country singer Mindy McCready was released Tuesday from a Florida hospital, four days after she was found unconscious in the lobby of a Holiday Inn in a reported suicide attempt.

The country singer was discovered in the Holiday Inn Harborside in Indian Rocks Beach on July 22. With her was her on-again, off-again boyfriend, William McKnight, who told the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office that McCready had consumed “large amounts of two unidentified substances” and drank a lot of alcohol, the Associated Press reports. McCready also left behind a four-page suicide note, the contents of which were not released.

18 From “Mindy McCready’s Heartbreak Over Death Of Her Soul Mate: ‘The Point Of Me Living Is Waiting To Die’ – Hear Her Tragic Call To A Friend” (no author):

Just days before she killed herself, country singer Mindy McCready called a friend and told him she couldn’t bear to live without her boyfriend David Wilson – who had died just weeks earlier after shooting himself in the head – and RadarOnline.com has exclusive audio of their heartbreaking conversation.

The grieving mother-of-two reached out to her longtime friend Danno Hanks shortly before she committed suicide herself on Sunday — and the level of pain and suffering she was attempting to deal with following her tragic loss is all too apparent.

“[The] point of me living is waiting to die so I can be with him,” Mindy admitted, in a chilling admission.

“Danno, this is a real love story. It is… I have been with people before. I have loved. I have done all kinds of things where I could say that I was in ‘something’ with that person.

19 From “Watching the Detectives” by Paul Cullum:

But probably the local story they had the most to do with was Heidi Fleiss. Because Hanks was the man behind the infamous Heidi Fleiss tapes.

“On the Heidi Fleiss thing, [Brennan] came to me, and he said, ‘You know, there’s talk about this Hollywood Madam,'” says Hanks. “I started putting Heidi under surveillance, and I saw all these celebrities coming and going. And then I decided to tap Heidi’s phone. The wiretapping was not for Hard Copy. Heidi’s competition had come to me — Ivan Nagy [Fleiss’ former lover and ongoing nemesis] — and he said he’d pay me to get tapes of her telephone activity. But he didn’t want it for anything other than he wanted her client list.”

When Hard Copy‘s parent company, Paramount, ordered them off the story, Brennan continued paying Hanks out of his own pocket. The story was finally broken in the Los Angeles Times by reporter Shawn Hubler, who later identified Hanks in an accompanying sidebar as “The Man With the Tape.” Hanks claims the Times paid him $2,000 to listen to all 13 hours and promised not to identify him in print.

“That whole story was filled with this whole Hollywood demimonde that trades in gossip, intrigue and information gathering. This league of rogues. They were just two in a cast of hundreds of people who lived in that gray area. But they were a hoot.”

Hanks later sold the tapes to Fleiss herself — for $5,000 — before turning them over to the FBI, after she subsequently threatened him as well.

“She called me up and said, ‘I’m going to cut your throat and shit down your neck.'”

Fleiss also had her enforcer — the mysterious Cookie, who director Nick Broomfield had been famously unable to identify in his documentary Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam — call Hanks and threaten him. He gleefully recounts his response:

“I said, ‘Is this the same Cookie whose real name is Jacob Orgad, who lives at 1311 whatever, whose Social Security number is et cetera? Because if this is the same Cookie, try to remember: I ain’t one of Heidi’s girls that you’ve beaten up.’ And I basically advised him that I’d been threatened by professionals. But just to cover my ass, I decided that just in case the guy did have the balls, I wanted to have a backup plan.” Hence, the FBI.

Hanks shows up in Heidi’s Arrest Is the Talk of Tinseltown : Vice: Celebrities are rushing to help or distance themselves from alleged madam to the stars. by Shawn Hubler and James Bates, on page four of that story, as well as in “Amid a Media Crush, Fleiss Pleads Not Guilty”, where he shows up on page three, where he is “THE MAN WITH THE TAPE”.

20 Hollywood Interrupted is brought up in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Two”, and Breitbart is discussed at great length in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part One”, and to a lesser extent in “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Three” and “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part Four”.

21 From “Scientology Secrets, Bill Cosby Rape Conspiracy + Hollywood Murder”, first fragment runs from 33:02 to 33:31, second fragment runs from 34:50 to 35:34.

22 Taken from “Recapping McSteamy v. Gawker from 2009” (direct link to the comment), the following is a screenshot:

Mark Ebner Gawker comment

23 See “Madam bares Playboy links”, credited to Page Six Staff.

24 Why a gossip blog backed by the massive resources of a corporate behemoth like Time Warner was such a game changer is well explained in Anne Helen Petersen’s “The Down And Dirty History Of TMZ”.

When Time Warner merged with AOL in 2000, the idea was to use AOL’s internet muscle to exploit Time Warner’s media holdings. But the two companies had very different corporate climates, and struggled to foster the originally imagined cross-platform synergies. According to Jim Bankoff, then president of AOL (and current CEO of Vox Media), Bankoff hit it off with Paratore at a 2005 meeting between AOL and Warner Bros. executives designed to kindle increased collaboration. Paratore regaled him with stories of thousands of hours of unused Extra footage — the perfect candidate for an AOL collaboration. Neither Bankoff nor Paratore knew what, exactly, they wanted to do with that footage, save put it on AOL and establish a brand that was something other than “AOL Celebrity.” That vague, amorphous idea was enough to pique Levin’s interest.

Plus, following the historic summer of 2005, gossip was percolating at an alarming rate. A cottage industry of blogs, almost entirely run by women and queer men wholly outside the industry, were exploiting that interest — most visibly Perez Hilton, but also D-Listed, Lainey Gossip, Pink Is the New Blog, Just Jared — all of which were proving, to the somewhat startled old guard of gossipmongers, that the future wasn’t in syndicated television or print, but online. Constantly updated, dynamic, with a strong authorial voice; snarky, immediate, and originating outside the carefully cultivated celebrity sphere.

These bloggers were defined by their outsider status — and their very lack of access — but that outsider status (and lack of capital) also proved problematic. Hilton, for example, was sued multiple times — more than once for copyright infringement. What these bloggers lacked was infrastructure and capital to expand and bolster their operations, all while keeping the same all-important outsider ethic.

Which is precisely what an operation housed at Telepictures, with the larger launching pad of AOL (which, in 2005, still boasted an amplifying power of 22 million subscribers), could achieve.

25 The full series can be seen in a single video on youtube, “Secret Societies of Hollywood (All 3 Episodes)”, and this fragment devoted to elusive club entrances runs from 4:11 to 4:45.

26 Taken from “Madam bares Playboy links”, credited to Page Six Staff:

Braun, who now lives in Florida with her two daughters, won’t name names yet. Of one very single TV personality, she said, “If I dropped his name to Page Six, I certainly wouldn’t be his idol.

“I only worked with famous girls, mostly Playmates. Hef couldn’t keep any of his girlfriends in the [Playboy] Mansion,” she said. “At one time, seven of the eight girls living in the Mansion were working for me. I had one of his girlfriends in the Mansion just to recruit for me.”

27 From “The Sex Queen of L.A.” by Vanessa Grigoriadis:

As a kid, Nici enjoyed the privileged lifestyle of a small-town California girl. Her Jewish parents owned a Baskin- Robbins franchise in Bakersfield, an oil and agriculture town, and showered her with gifts, like a purple Chevy truck that sported pink flames along its sides and the license plate YOOSEXY. After school, she worked at a gym and a tanning salon, hanging out in the apple fields at night to drink beer with her friends. A popular girl who loved wielding power over a clique of friends, she plastered her bedroom with posters of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, and dreamed of moving to Hollywood. “I wasn’t going to stay in Bakersfield,” she says. “No way.” As a freshman at San Diego State University, Nici spent most of her time partying at frats. Her roommate got on her case for not having a job, but she never wanted for money: On one trip to Rosarito, Mexico, she entered a wet T-shirt contest and won hundreds of dollars. Her primary skill involved the computer – her father, an electrical engineer, taught her to build one for a school project. “From the beginning of the Internet, I was obsessed with communicating over the Web,” she says. “I was a computer geek with a party-girl persona.”

One day, while she was window-shopping for sequined miniskirts on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, Nici was picked up by a handsome fashion designer 14 years her senior. She soon dropped out of school and moved to L.A. to be with him full time. When he dumped her, she took a job working the door at the Century Club, where a manager offered her extra money to find pretty girls to sit at the tables with the big spenders. Nici quickly proved to have a knack for separating girls from their dates. “We’re really busy tonight,” she’d tell people straining at the velvet rope. “I don’t know if we have room for all of you, but the girls can come in.” Eager to get into the club, the women would ditch their boyfriends without a thought. Then one night, a big spender asked Nici to set him up on a date with a girl she had befriended – and tipped her $500 for the privilege.

“That,” she says, “is when I realized this was a business.”

28 This partial list of women who worked for Nici Braun is compiled from “The Sex Queen of L.A.” by Vanessa Grigoriadis and “A Brief History of a Hollywood Madam: Nici’s Girls, Clients and the Sting that Stung Her” by Mark Ebner. The names Ashley Massaro, Tina Jordan, Krystal Steal, Lanny Barby, McKenzie Lee, Naomi, Jody Palmer, Taryn Thomas and Angelique are taken from Grigoriadis; Patricia Ford, Christi Shake, Alexander Karlsen, Victoria Silverstedt, and Victoria Paris are taken from Ebner.

An accompanying picture from “The Sex Queen of L.A.” by Vanessa Grigoriadis:

Lani's Girls taken from Vanessa Grigoriadis Sex Queen of L.A.

29 From “Woman accused of $8.5 million porn star prostitution business” by Rachanee Srisavasdi:

Braun allegedly operated an online business through her corporation, Global Travel Network, Inc., with the assistance of her husband and sister, according to court records in a separate money-forfeiture case involving Braun.

The company was “disguised as a travel and security business and was used to facilitate the laundering of Braun’s prostitution proceeds,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank D. Kortum.

30 From “Extra: Michelle Braun on the life of a madam”, fragment runs from 1:31 to 1:51.

31 From “A-listers nervous as woman admits running Hollywood prostitution ring” by Helen Pidd:

Braun’s lawyer admitted the men who used Braun’s service did so to get sex. “I’m not sure people would pay money to meet a porn star and talk about Stephen Hawking’s newest book,” Nurik told the Daily Mail.

32 This name is taken from the excerpts of this black book featured at “A Brief History of a Hollywood Madam: Nici’s Girls, Clients and the Sting that Stung Her” by Mark Ebner.

33 Information on Gregory Turville Harry, his associate Daniel Sifford, and their pump and dump scheme is discussed in “2 accused of `pump-dump’ stock scheme” by Bloomberg News and “Man pleads guilty to inflated-stock scheme” by Salvador Hernandez.

34 We can make the identification that the prince Kacey Jordan refers to is Dubai’s crown prince, Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, popularly known as “Fazza”, (wikipedia entry) without difficulty and great confidence. “We stayed at the world’s only seven star hotel,” says Jordan, and there is only one seven star hotel in the world, it’s in Dubai, and it’s the Burj Al Arab. This extraordinary hotel is owned by the Jumeirah Group, which is a subset of Dubai Holding (Jumeirah Group page on Dubai Holding site, archive.today link), whose majority shareholder is Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Hamdan’s father (information taken from Dubai Holding FAQ page: “Who owns Dubai Holding?” “The major shareholder in Dubai Holding is His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.”, archive.today link). “And it was okay, we just stayed at one of his hotels, that he owned,” says Jordan. “So, in other words, somebody hooks you up, you fly over to this arab country, they fly you, what, on a private jet?” asks Stern. Jordan: “Uh, well, he owns the airlines.” Though Hamdan does not personally own the airlines, his family does – from “A tale of two desert dynasties” by Christopher M Davidson references Ahmed bin Said Al-Maktoum, Hamdan’s uncle as the head of Emirates Airlines, and this is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is one of the emirates, owned by the Dubai royal family. In “Charlie Sheen’s War”, Mark Seal would also state openly that the country of this prince – never explicitly said by Jordan in the Stern interview – was Dubai. The most relevant portion from the article is bolded:

“They call me the Whore Whisperer, because I’m really good at talking to these girls,” says the Bizzle, who went by his real name, Kevin Blatt, before Snoop Dogg crowned him K-Bizzle at a porn convention. Balding, with a soul-patch goatee, he is wearing a blazer over an open shirt when I meet him for lunch in February. He says he has hardly eaten since he met Kacey Jordan less than a week ago. “I really care about these chicks,” he continues, devouring oysters. “Most people consider them throwaway sperm receptacles, but these girls have a place in the world.”

Best known for peddling the sex tape of Paris Hilton and for representing Capri Anderson when she went public about her torrid night with Sheen, the Bizzle says he got wind of Jordan from “underbelly sources.” On January 27, she had barely unlocked the door of the house she shares with a friend in the environs of Los Angeles, which she calls “the sticks, Bumfuck, Egypt,” when her cell phone rang. It was the Bizzle, who said, “I know you were at Charlie’s house last night.”

He would also soon know that she was supplementing her work in standard porn films such as Rocco’s Bitch Party 2 with low-budget, non-titled segments for the Internet. Furthermore, he would learn that she was eking out an income by escorting, that she had just returned from eight days in Dubai, and that she had already blown through the $35,000 she had been paid by her client there, a prince. More important, he knew that the $30,000 check Sheen had written that night—which she had already cashed—was chump change compared with the bonanza she now had to sell.

“Is he gross?” asks Stern of the prince. “No, he’s hot,” answers Jordan, and Hamdan fully matches Jordan’s description of a very good looking man. A Fangirls Guide to Fazza, for example, is a tumblr that is a tribute to the man’s doe eyed beauty. The U.S. embassy cable from February 12, 2008 on Wikileaks, “Dubai Designates Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler” carries the information on the appointment:

Summary: On February 1, 2008, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MbR), Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, appointed his second eldest son, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad Al Maktoum (HbM), Crown Prince of Dubai. The appointment of the 25-year-old heir apparent was not a surprise; MbR had been increasing his son’s visibility through high level government assignments and unofficial publicity campaigns over the past several years. Consolidating the Dubai government’s succession planning, MbR also appointed another son, Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammad Al Maktoum (MbM), as Deputy Ruler of Dubai. For now, MbM will share responsibilities as Deputy Ruler with Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum. (Hamdan bin Rashid is MbR’s older brother who was named Deputy Ruler of Dubai in 1995, the same year MbR assumed his role of Crown Prince. Sheikh Hamden [sic] also serves as the UAE Minister of Finance and Industry). End summary.

That Hamdan was made crown prince, rather than his older brother and the oldest son, Rashid, is given an unsettling explanation in the same cable. I bold the significant detail:

MbR’s oldest son, Rashid, does not play a public role in Dubai affairs. (Note: It is alleged that Rashid killed an assistant in the Ruler’s office, thereby forfeiting his opportunity to be heir. Post believes MbR has a total of 20 children from both his official and unofficial wives. End note).

35 In a later interview with Stern, Jordan would claim that she had no connection with Michelle Braun or her escort ring. From “Howard Stern – Pageant”, part of a 2011 show devoted to a porn star contest pageant (11:40-12:54):

STERN
Weren’t you sent over by that lady pimp who was in the, who was coming forward also, or you have a different person who puts you in charge with these parties?

JORDAN
I take care…it’s all through like, mutual acquaintances, like one guy, and then it’s their friend, and then it’s the doctor, and then it’s the dentist. Which…I fucked my dentist. Which is so hot.

STERN
You fucked your dentist?

JORDAN
My biggest fantasy when I was growing up, getting my teeth cleaned, I just wanted to fuck my dentist. And finally I have a dentist I can fuck. And-

STERN
How does that work? In other words, you-

JORDAN
Oh, I’m going to get a complete set, it’s like, forty grand worth of veneers for free.

STERN
Let me ask you, are those your real teeth?

JORDAN
Yeah.

STERN
Your teeth are gorgeous! Don’t put those veneers on, they always end up looking fake.

JORDAN
Nonono, this guy is amazing. And he’s-

STERN
Let me see, move to the side, and give me a smile. [JORDAN does so] Don’t touch those teeth!

QUIVERS
What do you want!

STERN
Why would you do that!

JORDAN
I can’t achieve the whiteness.

STERN
Listen to me. These girls who get these veneers. They make these white chiclets, and they never look hot anymore. Don’t touch your teeth.

QUIVERS
You’ll look so fake. You look so natural.

STERN
So what is it, the dentist agrees to give you veneers if you fuck him?

JORDAN
Yeah. Well, he had to fuck me in my ass the other day, because I couldn’t have sex yet.

STERN
Because of your abortion?

JORDAN
Yeah. It was a big fat load. I always see how long I can keep it in for.

This pageant was a contest between three women who’d known Charlie Sheen – Jordan, Amanda Rios, and Capri Anderson. Most of the hilarity comes from the hatred between Anderson and Jordan; Anderson had been invited to Sheen’s hotel room in 2011 when he wrecked it and allegedly threw a lamp at her, and it was this hotel room wrecking incident which prompted a call to the police and brought a spotlight to Sheen’s excesses. Jordan felt that Anderson was playing the card of a helpless victim, and she wasn’t buying it. Jordan was especially hostile to the idea that Anderson was suing Sheen after he apologized, which led to Jordan, one of those people a writer loves because they’re an endless fountain of quotables, coming up with one of the best lines I’ve heard in a while. From 39:12 to 40:28.

ANDERSON
…as soon as he [Sheen] started getting physical with me, I got really nervous, I resisted, I started to get off the bed, and weasel my way away, and he picked up the lamp next to the bed and just tossed it, like baseball style…

JORDAN
Question for Capri.

ANDERSON
…smashing everything around the room.

STERN
Go ahead, Kacey.

JORDAN
So, if he apologized and everything, why do you want to sue him?

ANDERSON
He apologized two days later. Because people have to suffer the consequences and the repercussions of their bad actions.

JORDAN
He even offered you money, and you still want to sue him?

ANDERSON
Yeah, I’m suing him to make a point.

JORDAN
Okay. That’s kind of mean.

ANDERSON
Yeah, it is kind of mean. Somebody was kind of mean to me. A lot of people have been kind of mean to me. The paparazzi have been mean to my family-

JORDAN
[repulsed sigh]

STERN
What have they been doing?

JORDAN
So people have been mean to me too! That’s what comes along with this. It’s just-

ANDERSON
I’m not complaining about people being mean to you. You asked me, so I’m answering.

JORDAN
Cunt.

"You're complaining about people being mean to you…"

A post shared by Goto Tengo (@gototengo) on

QUIVERS
But this is the problem, Howard. A lot of the girls don’t like the way Capri has handled all this. They say it’s part of the job.

STERN
Kacey, you think this is unprofessional of her, even though she was attacked physically, she claims.

JORDAN
Yeah. Well. Okay. I don’t blame him.

STERN
You think she’s in it just for the money.

JORDAN
Yeah.

ANDERSON
Attacked physically, emotionally. My entire life. I mean, they went to Philly, to my sister’s, where she’s doing her internship-

JORDAN
You suck dick for a living. You’re afraid of a lamp getting thrown at you?

"You're afraid of a lamp getting thrown at you?"

A post shared by Goto Tengo (@gototengo) on

36 The details in this paragraph on the Uzan family’s beginnings and their involvement with Cukurova Elektrik are taken from “Dial ‘D’ For Dummies” by Matthew Swibel.

37 Details in this paragraph are taken from “Dial ‘D’ For Dummies” by Matthew Swibel, “Turkey’s Berlusconi?” by The Economist staff, and “Motorola’s fraud lawsuit a story of global intrigue” by Barbara Rose and Catherine Collins.

38 Information in this paragraph on Cem Uzan’s attempts at election are taken from “Turkey’s Berlusconi?” by The Economist staff, “Motorola’s fraud lawsuit a story of global intrigue” by Barbara Rose and Catherine Collins, “Neophyte status a plus for hopeful” by Catherine Collins; I found the best source for information on the fall of the Imar Bank to be the Hurriyet Daily News, among them “$5 billion lost in Imar Bank” (no author credit fro Hurriyet Daily News stories), “Share sale reminds of a dark chapter in Turkish banking”. A PR release on the judgement was released by Motorola on July 31, 2003, and published on PR News Wire: “U.S. District Court Issues $4.26 Billion Judgment Against Uzan Family of Turkey for Perpetrating Massive Global Fraud, According to Motorola”. Further information on this initial verdict can be found at “Uzan says he sought deals” by Catherine Collins and David Greising.

39 Information on this seizure is taken from “Turks take over 219 companies of family” by Catherine Collins.

40 Except for the cited article from Today’s Zadan, all information on the exile of the Uzans here is taken entirely from Hurriyet Daily News: “PM accuses France on Uzan move”, “Uzan row may worsen Turkey-France ties, reports say”, “Turkish court issues another warrant for former media mogul” (a reference to Cem Uzan), “President Gül to ask Jordan to cooperate over Uzan case”.

41 The figure of over eight million is taken from “Woman accused of $8.5 million porn star prostitution business” by Rachanee Srisavasdi; in “Extra: Michelle Braun on the life of a madam”, her interview with Peter Van Sant, we get a slightly different answer, that she made over twenty million dollars.

42 The quotes from Yagalla in this paragraph are all taken from his interview with Peter Van Sant, “Extra Interview – Mark Yagalla on Ponzi Schemes”.

43 We are told it was Michelle “Nici” Braun that he talked to, via the account of the phone call from “The Prodigy and the Playmate” by Benjamin Wallace:

He churned through strippers as if sheer numbers could fill the hole in him. But again he grew bored, and this time he turned to the Internet. It was there that he stumbled on Nici’s Girls, a website that was just then taking the online escort business to a new level. Men willing to pay a $5,000 “admission fee” could gain entrée to Nici’s “Millionaires Club,” billed simply and mysteriously as a harem of unnamed porn stars, Penthouse Pets and Playboy Playmates. That was enough for Yagalla. He called Nici, who was herself just 21, and said he was young and had a lot of money. She matched him with a pin-up girl who came to his home and flew with him to Puerto Rico. The four days only cost him $28,000 plus airfare.

44 The details in this paragraph are all taken from “The Prodigy and the Playmate” by Benjamin Wallace, except for the quote “She was the first person to really use the Internet to offer prostitutes,” which is taken from the transcript of “Playing With Fire”, the 48 Hours episode devoted to Marc Yagalla, Michelle Braun, and the aftermath; transcript is here: “A Playmate, a Ponzi scheme, jewels and murder”. “Playing With Fire” was produced by Chris O’Connell, Ira Sutow and Greg Fisher.

45 Taken out of “Extra Interview – Mark Yagalla on Ponzi Schemes”, fragment runs from 2:28 to 2:32.

46 Details on “Fat” Herbie Blitzstein’s life and death are taken from “Slaying of ‘Fat Herbie’ Evokes Mob’s Heyday” by Robert Macy. The association between Bitzstein and Bentley is taken from Benjamin Wallace’s “The Prodigy and the Playmate”: “Sandy, close to five-foot-nine, had hair extensions and breast implants (the latter paid for by a pre-Hefner boyfriend, slain Vegas mobster Herbert “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein), and ambitions centered on fame and fun and wealth.”

47 The details in this paragraph are all taken from “The Prodigy and the Playmate” by Benjamin Wallace.

48 Taken out of “Extra Interview – Mark Yagalla on Ponzi Schemes”, fragment runs from 2:33 to 2:58.

49 The details in this paragraph are all taken from “The Prodigy and the Playmate” by Benjamin Wallace.

50 The details in this paragraph are all taken from “The Prodigy and the Playmate” by Benjamin Wallace.

51 Details in this paragraph are taken from the transcript of “Playing With Fire”, the 48 Hours episode devoted to Marc Yagalla, Michelle Braun, and the aftermath; transcript is here: “A Playmate, a Ponzi scheme, jewels and murder”. “Playing With Fire” was produced by Chris O’Connell, Ira Sutow and Greg Fisher.

52 Details in this paragraph are taken from the transcript of “Playing With Fire”, the 48 Hours episode devoted to Marc Yagalla, Michelle Braun, and the aftermath; transcript is here: “A Playmate, a Ponzi scheme, jewels and murder”. “Playing With Fire” was produced by Chris O’Connell, Ira Sutow and Greg Fisher.

53 Information on the reward was taken from “Police hope new show, $75,000 reward will solve cold double slay case linked to pinup’s jewelry” by Nancy Dillon.

54 For legal reasons, information on Dillon Jordan is left out of this post. However, I have read the missing chapter of Ebner’s Six Degrees of Paris Hilton devoted to him. An account of the lawsuit can be found at Courthouse News, “Hollywood Blogger Accused of Defamation” by Che Akiba, and the effect can be found in a “Archive Note” (published April 1st, 2012) reprinted on Ebner’s site, Hollywood Interrupted: “All publications concerning Dillon Jordan have been removed due to a legal settlement agreement (with prejudice) reached in litigation with Plaintiff.” The detail that Danno Hanks provided investigators with information can be found at “Hollywood madam Michelle Braun cozies up to federal agents” by Rush & Malloy: “Investigators obtained evidence from private investigator Dan Hanks, who got to know Braun while working for “Fox Undercover.” “Michelle would ask me to do background checks on potential clients and girls, which I did in order to find out more about her,” Hanks tells us.”

55 The details of the end of Braun’s ring and her arrest are taken from “The Sex Queen of L.A.” by Vanessa Grigoriadis; the plea by Braun can be found at United States of America v. Michelle Louise Braun.

56 Details of Michelle Braun’s difficult post-madam life in this paragraph are taken from “Michelle Braun: Notorious L.A. Madam’s South Florida Adventure” by Terrence McCoy.

57 Details on Sterling Capital and Braun’s arrest for fraud are taken from “Former California madam charged in South Florida stock fraud” by Peter Franceschina.

58 Details on Braun’s plea in the Sterling Capital fraud can be found in “Former Hollywood madam sentenced in Fort Lauderdale stock scam” by Jon Burnstein:

A Boca Raton woman who once ran Southern California’s most exclusive escort service was sentenced Friday to one year of house arrest for her role in a Fort Lauderdale scam that bilked investors out of more than $200,000.

Michelle Braun cut a deal with state prosecutors in January to avoid prison time in exchange for paying a sizable chunk of money in restitution and pleading no contest to a felony charge. She had served as vice president of a company, Sterling Capital Trust, that sold nonexistent stock to investors, according to court records.

She pleaded no contest in January to unlawfully operating a boiler room operation, a first-degree felony under Florida law punishable by up to 30 years in prison. A boiler room typically is a fraud operation in which telemarketers use high-pressure sales tactics to lure the gullible and the greedy into purported investment opportunities.

As part of her plea deal, Braun agreed to house arrest followed by four years’ probation. She already has handed over $100,000 in restitution for the victims and will be on the hook for more if her co-defendants don’t cover the rest.

59 Details on the disparity between Michelle Braun’s sentencing and that of Brian Dunlevy are taken from “Did high-priced madam bought her way out of prison” by the great reporter Bob Norman.

60 Quote is obviously taken from “Michelle Braun: Notorious L.A. Madam’s South Florida Adventure” by Terrence McCoy.

61 I was prompted into looking at The Luxury Companion from the sentence, “Jessie seems an odd choice to talk about the dangers of unprotected porn sex, when it’s well known Derek and Adonia sent her on the sheik tour of Dubai for unprotected prostitution sex,” a line I came across in a long thread devoted to retired adult performer Jessie St. Rogers (“Jessie Rogers Official Thread. New 18yo brazilian (page 43)”, thread content and ads are very NSFW). It was porn veteran Rob Black (see “Extreme Porn, Xtreme Wrestling and Solitary Confinement: The Life and Times of Rob Black” by Daniel Dylan Wray) who alleged the owner of The Luxury Companion was Karen Adonia on his podcast, “The Rob Black Show (2013/07/02)” (he makes the allegation at 1h52m, both the show and time I got from XXXpornTalk‘s “The Pornarium (page 8)” thread, contents and ads very NSFW). Derek is presumably Derek Hays of the porn talent agency, LA Direct Models.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,