Saturday, October 30, 2010

I started working at a tabloid paper titled the "L.A. Star." It was a local Los Angeles porno paper. Paul and Shirley Eberley owned and published it. It was an underground type of thing and had been quite successful at that time. I told them about an idea I had for the Hollywood Star. They asked me to do an ad for it to run in their paper. But, this was so sudden and I had no idea how to do this. I just had an idea for a newspaper with no particular design. So there was no workable ad. They were behind on paying their contributors too, so after a few articles, I left but had watched and learned a lot about how to do a small newspaper. I had also taken Journalism in high school, which helped me a bit too.

Then I came up with a format that I liked for the paper. I used to love the old "Confidential Magazine," of the fifties with their exposes of the stars. This is what I wanted to do. I bought a layout pad with press-on format letters to create a headline. It would resemble an ordinary newspaper, but with eye catching headlines that would guarantee sales (I hoped). Then I had to try to find a backer to pay for the typesetting and printing costs. The stories I wanted to write about, were already stored in my head. Things I knew about but nobody had ever written about them. I wanted to be anonymous but at the same time I wanted "my name" to be known.

So, in many issues, in photos taken with celebrities, I had my face blocked out before I went to press. I needed to remain anonymous so I could gather gossip without people knowing what I looked like. And on occasions I would get into semi-drag, (my face would be made-up in drag), for a disguise, but I would wear men's clothes. I went to a "porno" premiere at the Pussycat theater on Santa Monica Boulevard like this too. And another time, singer Frankie ("Sea Cruise") Ford, drove me to "That's Entertainment II." But, studio publicist, Ted Hatfield, who had promised a press pass for me, wouldn't let me in when he saw me with my face made up.

Frankie had stopped his car in front of the bleachers that had been set up for fans and tourists so they could see the stars as they went into the Cinedome Theater. And we opened the trunk of his car and took out bundles of THE HOLLYWOOD STAR and passed them out to everyone in the bleachers. The crowd was ecstatic. But, later I was pissed because Ted had ignored me and wouldn't let me in. I had already seen the film at a press screening, but I wanted the exposure. So, a few days later, after writing to his boss stating that if it had been Elton John in drag, or any other celebrity like Alice Cooper, they would have gotten in and that the make-up was "my thing" and I had been made a fool of. So, I was told I would be on their screening list "for life"...probably so they wouldn't have to go to court over my threat of a lawsuit.

I had the HOLLYWOOD STAR format all figured out. It would consist of three pages of gossip, an occasional celebrity interview, a controversial editorial called "On my soapbox," in memory of Louella Parsons, who often used that term, and "I Nominate for Stardom," page, giving space for new actors. I would include numerous movie reviews with photographs and of course a male, nude celebrity photo, whenever possible. I ended up with several stories on transvestites, male strippers, circus freaks, Hollywood murders, autopsy reports of celebrity victims, a music review section and a few "freebie" ads. I would reword items making them aimed at adults. If so and so was making a comeback, I would write that but would add, who the fuck cares? Of course if someone was getting a divorce, I'd say so and so are no longer fucking....they are getting a divorce.

I developed many fans as well as enemies. The studio publicists had mixed emotions. Jet Fore, at Fox, was always friendly and loved the newspaper and always wanted extra copies. The Paramount publicists hated me. With Columbia Pictures, it was an on and off romance with them, according to what mood they were in. If I did a nostalgia thing, they loved it, but if I gave a "candle-up-the-ass award," (this was for persons who gave me a hard time), then Columbia would be up in arms. Ironically, 99% of the time, the persons who I gave that award to, left their jobs soon after. Well, not all were demoted or fired. A couple had been promoted.

For such a small paper, I began to receive notoriety. I received phone calls from around the world, with foreign radio stations wanting to interview me. Many of my stories had been reprinted and published in European newspapers. The Los Angeles Coroner, Thomas Noguchi, congratulated me on a headline story he had seen in a foreign newspaper. I don't even remember what story it was that he had seen copies of, but I heard that one story was headlined in a newspaper in Melbourne and Adelaide, Australia. Even CNN's Anne McDermott interviewed me. I don't recall now what the story was that she reported on. It was probably the paper itself, or a pick-up from the Los Angeles Magazine interview or the Harriet Choice story in the Chicago Tribune. Yes, I had my fifteen minutes of fame, if you can call it that.

One of my stories made headlines in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, written by reporter, Denis Hamill. He had been advised, via a phone call from Nevada, not to print the story. He did write it and it made headlines. It was about the David Begelman affair, the head of Columbia Studios at the time. The whole thing is chaptered in this book.

I also had a threat from actress Jean Peter's husband, when I ran an article saying she was "getting cobwebs in her pussy," while married to Howard Hughes, because they weren't having sex. I heard she had laughed at the article but her new hubby was pissed. He had personally phoned and threatened me. But, the HOLLYWOOD STAR was never sued. The Los Angeles magazine printed a lengthy story by Mitch Tuchman, about me and the newpaper. This made me halfway legitimate. SCREW was one of the first publications to do a story on the newspaper, followed by another publication titled "Brut," that re-ran some of my stories. Harriet Choice, of the Chicago Tribune, flew in and interviewed me and wrote a syndicated story that went over the wire services to other newspapers across the country, where they ran half page stories. I was on Cloud 9 and had gained a lot of clout. I would often be invited to "private press screenings" at the studios. I could be sitting, with two or three people at 7:00 a.m. watching a horror film. Press screenings became a one a day thing.

My first scandalous headline in the first issue of the paper was, DAVID McCALLUM IS BLIND. Nobody today, even knows who the hell David McCallum is. Well, he was one of the stars of the popular TV series, "The Man From Uncle." I mentioned this in the gossip section, where it was sort of buried. But, the headlines sold the paper, even though he is only "blind in one eye"...probably from birth.

The papers were sold, mostly in news vending racks on the street, although the local newsstands sold them too. The second headline was TAB HUNTER SAYS I'M HOMOSEXUAL! Thirty years before his autobiography TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL. But, it was no secret in those days either. At that time he had all ready told this to a magazine but I went to press with it first and their story came out a couple of months later. But, I was first! My distributor had been disappointed when the first issue came out. He said, "it isn't selling." Well, I had absolutely no advertising nor promotion. It was just "there' in the news racks with the headlines. But, the next week he said, "Guess what? All the Beverly Hills racks are empty...and the money is there too." Word of mouth was selling the paper. A lot of the exposes had been old stories that had been around Hollywood for years but were never in print. People in Hollywood, knew they were true. I pushed the paper as "Movie Gossip for Adults."

I started using four letter words, to try and out-do Rona Barrett publications. They were too boring and filled with studio hype. The Laufer Company paid for and used her name but she seldom, if ever, wrote anything for them. Barbara Sternig was Barrett's ghost writer. She also found stories for Rona's three minute daily ABC clip. Bill Royce was the editor and he was, at one time much later, a producer of Jay Leno's Tonight Show. I asked Sternig is she had written Rona Barrett's book and she denied that she had written anything for her, (at that time), but in Sternig's book she told the truth.

I would always keep my ears open to conversations in restaurants and had a way to sneak inside the studios to find out things. I also had a gossip "hot line" and would get leads from people. Often celebrities themselves would phone me and tell me gossip. People would call at hours of the night. Many had run ins with celebrities and wanted to dish me all the dirt.

The third big headline was 8 STARS WHO WERE FORMER HOMOSEXUALS. If there is anything such as a former homosexual. Among those were Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter (again), Tony Curtis and Alain Delon. Anyway, you get the idea without me running down each and every title. I already mentioned the Elvis Presley story on his drug addiction in the first issue of the paper. And now Lisa Marie Presley Cage, (well Cage for three months), admits she too had been a drug addict, in her teens, after Elvis was long gone.

I later named 150 MALE BISEXUAL STARS. Brad Davis, star of "Midnight Express," Tony Perkins ("Psycho"), were on the cover as well as French film star, Alain Delon. As we all know now, both Brad and Tony died of AIDS. Both talented actors and I miss them very much. The reason I named and outed so many actors, was to get it done and over with. (I explain this in the 150 that were named, and now listed in this book). Not one actor was hurt by my outing. Only two persons complained to me. Donna Summer (through her agent) said she wasn't gay or bisexual, (she was in the list of bisexual female actresses), and Scott Baio phoned me and said, "I'm Scott." I said, "Scott who?" and he hung up. I knew it was him from his voice. I later heard, from a limousine driver, that Scott had knocked up a girl and that he and his Dad were arguing in the limo about it. His Dad said he he should have used a rubber. So, I deleted both of them from the lists, although I have heard "rumors" about them since the paper ceased publication.

I recall, way back in the fifties, Tony Perkins had suddenly disappeared. And Louella Parsons had written in her column to "check out Tab Hunter's apartment on Sunset, that's where Tony Perkins car is parked." Tony was at the peak of his good looks and had just started acting in films. He was in "Fear Strikes Out," a baseball story and then "The Tall Story," with Jane Fonda, also starting her film career. That's when she was living with her agent, Dick Clayton. Tony was tall, lean and lanky and sexy. I saw him at the premiere of, "The Gunfight at the OK Corral," which premiered at the Hollywood Paramount theater, (now the El Capitan). He was wearing goggle type of glass frames, usually used for sunglasses. But, he had plain, untinted glass in them. Later I would have the same type made up and other than the President of General Motors, we were the only three who had those type of frames. Today they are all too familiar.

I saw Tony another time at the Mocambo on Sunset, after the premiere of,"The Spirit of St. Louis," at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood, many years before the paper. There was a benefit fund raiser for the widow of the owner and Frank Sinatra was appearing. Tony came out the front door at intermission and just looked over the fans and tourists who were crowded around the front door, then smiled and went back inside. Frank came out and asked if we could hear the music alright? The front door was left open so we could listen.

It was a star studded event and it's where I learned there is a small group of autograph hunters who keep up on celebrity events and they all go to them to get autographs. One of their group was "discovered" by Tab Hunter and at another event Tab "arrived" with the former autograph hound. (Today autograph hunters are called stalkers. It's a damned shame).

Funny that one of the autograph hunters, who had been there, appeared years later when I was taking photographs of the Carradine's at the Ebelle theater. He was standing in the crowd. He told me he had lived in New York but was retired and had moved to Hollywood. Hard to believe, but harder to believe I had remembered his face over all those years.

Jack Sernas, the handsome actor from, "Helen of Troy," was there and I got his autograph and he "wrote down his phone number." He was married to an obese woman, who was with him, but he was obviously gay. And believe it or not, I never phoned him. Jack was very short, sort of an Alan Ladd type. He looked tall and muscular on film. The only other film I saw him in was, "La Dolce Vita." He reminded me of a good looking usher at the Capitol theater in Flint, Norman Courney.

I saw Brad Davis after the screening of "Chariots of Fire," at the Academy theater. I had gone there with artist Kenneth Kendall. Kenneth had painted a porcelain miniature of Brad, so I introduced myself and Kenneth, while Brad was waiting for the red traffic light to change. He talked to Kenneth for quite a while. After Brad's death, at a memorial service at the Doolittle theater in Hollywood, Kenneth gave the miniature to Brad's widow. Brad's death was very sudden and his illness had been kept quiet from the press. Brad's brother, Gene, is more handsome than Brad and he still hasn't recovered from losing his brother. Gene starred with Charles Bronson in, "10 to Midnight." Kenneth Kendall's brother, Lester, (nee Katz) had been Bronson's agent when Charles was using his real name, Charles Buchinski. Kenneth was a James Dean fan and created the James Dean Memorial at the Griffith Park Observatory, where scenes for "Rebel Without A Cause," were filmed. He dedicated a similar memorial in Fairmount, Indiana where Jimmy grew up. It stands in a small park near the edge of town. Kenneth passed away September 3, 2006.

The Hollywood Star newspaper didn't make up stories but we wanted to be sensational as well as truthful. There was "no intent" of hurting anybody's career and it was a sort of cat and mouse game. If actors wanted to be mousey, then we were catty and often caught up with them. Many stories seemed to be outrageous when they were written and many people didn't believe what we printed. But, as time went by and the things we said were proven true, then attitudes changed. We wanted to be more "confidential" than Confidential magazine ever was.

We erred on two stories that I can recall. Actually it was one story and one photo. The "Sal Mineo's Killer is Known," headline, proved later that our sources were wrong. At that time, even a detective thought it was credible. And a nude of Kent McCord, wasn't Kent McCord. It was a questionable photo. Some thought it was him while others didn't. The Hollywood Star had an editor's pledge that read:

                       "Whatever we print, we believe it to be true.
                        If we should err on any item or story, we
                    will acknowledge it in future issues. We research
                     our stories to the best of our ability. We hope you
                   enjoy our paper and will recommend it to others" - Bill Dakota

I would often venture out with my face in drag, as I mentioned here. After the Westwood Village premiere of, "A Star Is Born," (where I had worn a white, rental tuxedo, as everyone had to do, so that when Ms. Streisand came, wearing a red gown, she would stand out like a rose-.....phew). Anyway, the following evening I went walking down Hollywood Boulevard, in the tux, and face in drag, with a tape recorder interviewing theater managers and I used this in a column titled, "Waltzing Matilda." "Deep Throat," had played at the Pussycat theater on Hollywood Boulevard for a couple of years. I stopped and asked to see the manager. Then I asked him a few questions, such as how the movie was holding up after such a long run? I had never done this before, and I can imagine what they thought, seeing and talking to a man in a white tuxedo and face in drag! Anyway, this turned into a full page story, things happening along Hollywood Boulevard. And some people even asked me for my autograph. That's Hollywood! Of course people knew me in the bars that I frequented in those days, the Sideshow, the Beachboy and the Kenmore Lounge, where some scenes for "Barfly," were filmed. All of which are now gone.

The HOLLYWOOD STAR was started on a shoestring. The first few issues had different backers. Some were the vendors who owned the racks, (this was before we bought ours). It was the best selling tabloid on the street. It outsold Playboy Magazine at the World Book and News on Cahuenga Boulevard. I finally got a backer who bought 120 newsracks and they were put out, along Hollywood Boulevard, on nearly every corner, along Sunset Boulevard and Ventura Boulevard in North Hollywood, and some special places like the original Brown Derby on Wilshire Boulevard, and in front of the post-offices.

The paper only came out once every two or three months. Yet, each week the racks would often be sold out. Other tabloids were weekly and they never sold as well. My backer had purchased an Iteq Quad typesetter (this was before computers of course), which cost around $18,000 in those days and $5,000 for a printer. The copy was in a sealed binder that had to be run through a developer or printer. We also had a photo machine to do half-tones as well. I operated out of the basement of an apartment building I was managing. So, this is how the Hollywood Star was born. Well, it was born in Hollywood earlier but it wasn't that secure, moneywise.

My 24 hour hot-line could also be dangerous, so I taped all of the phone calls. I also asked for names of witnesses for whatever it was they were calling me for. I tried to get a minimum of two other names and then I would verify the information. I often found myself phoning restaurants or bars for verification. I may have been duped a few times, but I always printed the fore-mentioned disclaimer. I didn't want to intentionally hurt anyone by making up gossip on them.

The Hollywood Star newspaper was also published as a magazine titled,
HOLLYWOOD "CONFIDENTIAL" STAR. Copies were mailed to Graceland for Elvis to peruse.

Now the book is published. Isn't that hysterical? Limited editions so make sure you get a collectible copy.



Discounts Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all other book sites that sell books.
Retailers may order at INGRAM Book Distributors
ISBN 978-0-615-37758-2
Published by Studio "D" Publishing Company

(link:the-gossip-columnist-31.blogspot.com) David Begelman- Studio head and a thief.