The FBI has an image. The clean-cut, dark-suit, sunglass, earpiece. The ones who are called in to help local police or when there is a serious crime.
It’s an image the agency has created from its inception by J. Edgar Hoover. But, whether for Hoover’s political gain or investigative purposes, the agency has gone beyond its initial scope on occasion. Hoover used the FBI to harass and bully any potential threats. The agency has used the newest technology to track, investigate and watch seemingly anyone it chooses.
Those in Hollywood are no exception.
The FBI targeted magazines that printed gossip about Hoover’s personal life. Then moved on to potential communists during the “Red Scare.” Now, the FBI seems to investigate any statement that comes its way or anybody in the national spotlight.
Even the so-called squeaky-clean seem to have found themselves under the FBI’s microscope. Celebrities such as Bob Hope, Helen Keller and John Travolta found themselves within FBI’s files.
The following 8-part series looks at the celebrities who found themselves in the FBI crosshairs, why and some jaw-dropping allegations about their personal lives.
Many of the files are available for public consumption through the FBI Vault.
Some investigations turned out to be warranted with criminal charges and convictions. Others seem nothing more than to harass and intimidate. Here are the FBI files of Hollywood from A-Z.
Hollywood sexy symbol Clark Gable sought help from the FBI after he received threats to extort money. The actor was under siege by several unsavory characters. He received many letters ordering him to pay up: “[I]f you know what is good for you, do as I say — and no G-men!” These demands were handed to the FBI, because MGM Studios wanted to avoid any unpleasant publicity about its matinee idol.
One strange case involved farm laborer and dishwasher Gaylord Forsyth, 30, of Fonda, Iowa. In 1983, Forsyth sent letters to Gable demanding $1,000. He wrote that failure to comply with his demand would result in peril to the actor’s life and future.
Mysteriously, Forsyth’s handwritten letter was signed “Alice Schnetter.” Schnetter led the FBI agent to Forsyth, who upon questioning, revealed that Schnetter, a widow, had been the object of his affections. Forsyth was so hurt by her rejections that he signed her name to extortion letters to get even. Forsyth added he’d also written Schnetter’s name and address on dollar bills, hoping she’d be annoyed by letters from cranks who came into possession of them.
He’d gotten the idea for the plan from reading detective story magazines, Forsyth told police. Clearly, he hadn’t read them too carefully — it had never occurred to him that his letter to Gable could get Schnetter into serious trouble with law enforcement.
And when asked if he’d planned a cash drop, Forsyth admitted he hadn’t even thought about it.
Telling agents he’d “been kicked around all his life,” Forsyth claimed he was the victim of circumstances. FBI files don’t reveal how long a sentence he drew.
“Lucky” Judy Garland became one of the celebrities Hoover held in high esteem after she starred in the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.”
So, agents jumped to help her after he learned that a love-struck boy from Buffalo, New York., traveled to her home in California to kidnap her.
The lad’s plan backfired when he called the cops himself and confessed, but from then on, the FBI started a file and kept a close eye on Garland’s safety.
Tragic Garland, who died at age 47 in 1969 from a drug overdose, needed Hoover’s help. She was often the object of adoration from deranged fans. The most bizarre case involved a letter sent to her in a code even the FBI was unable to crack.
The first line, “Miss Garland,” was clear, as was the signature, “Drevo,” and one other word, “torture.” But despite his best efforts, Hoover and his team of codebreakers never deciphered the note – or discovered who sent it.
The Patty Hearst kidnapping was one of the most frustrating and costly episodes in FBI history.
It began on the evening of Feb. 4, 1974, when Patricia Campbell Hearst, 19, was abducted from the Berkley, California., apartment she shared with her fiancé, Steven Ward, 23. She was carried off by a group that called itself the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) — an organization of black and white radicals whose stated goals were the destruction of the capitalist state; state control of industry by the people; the establishment of communes; and the end of all prison systems.
The FBI entered the case immediately. Much of the Hearst file consists of letters and tapes sent by the SLA. In a letter claiming responsibility for the crime, the group described Hearst’s father, millionaire publisher Randolph A. Hearst, as “a corporate enemy of the people,” and threatened, “Should any attempt be made to rescue the prisoner or arrest or harm any SLA members, the prisoner will be executed.” The SLA demanded that the Hearsts provide $70 worth of food for every needy person in California. This gesture, said SLA leader Donald DeFreeze, who called himself Field Marshal Cinque, would be considered an act of good faith.
On Feb. 16, a tape arrived with a message from Hearst. “Mom, Dad, I’m OK,” she said. I’m with a combat unit that’s armed with automatic weapons… these people aren’t just a bunch of nuts — they’re perfectly willing to die for what they are doing… I want to get out of here, but the only way I’m going to is if we do it their way.”
She also expressed her fear that “the FBI would come busting in on me,” adding, “this act of war on the part of the FBI will result in many deaths.” At that point, FBI Director Clarence Kelley wrote in his memoirs, he realized that Hearst was being brainwashed.
In fact, Hearst was kept imprisoned — tied up and blindfolded in a 2-by-6-foot closet — in a house in Daly City, a suburb south of San Francisco. During her initial eight-week captivity, she was regularly threatened, raped and subjected to a brutal brainwashing of “ruthless, mind-altering Marxist-Maoist ideology.”
On April 3, the FBI received a tape in which Hearst announced she was changing her name to “Tania” and was joining the SLA. “I have chosen to stay and fight,” she said. On April 15, the SLA robbed the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank; cameras activated during the holdup confirmed that Hearst was an armed participant. A federal warrant for her arrest was sworn out.
The SLA then moved to Los Angeles. On May 17, the FBI received a tip the group was holed up in at 1446 East 54th Street. The place was quickly surrounded by hundreds of policemen, SWAT teams and helicopters. When tear-gas canisters were fired into the house, the SLA responded with heavy machine-gun fire. After an hour of a ferocious gun battle, the house burst into flames. The SLA members continued to empty their weapons until they burned to death.
It was 24 hours before it was determined that the badly burned of a woman found in the rubble was that of Camilla Hall, not Hearst. In fact, Hearst, along with SLA members William and Emily Harris, had gotten lost and were unable to find their way to the hideout.
Afterward, Hearst made a 33-minute tape about her love for SLA member William “Cujo” Wolfe, who had died in the fire. “It was not easy watching our comrades die,” she said. “I know what I have to do.”
For 15 months, the surviving SLA members hid in Pennsylvania and New York. Eventually, they returned to California and, with new members they recruited, bombed a police station and robbed a post office and two banks.
The hunt for Hearst ended on Sept. 18, 1975, when Kelley received a call from San Francisco saying the FBI had found Hearst, who’d surrendered meekly. The Harrises were arrested at an apartment a mile away.
Following a two-month trial, Hearst was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison. In 1979, after serving 22 months and 17 days, the sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter.
The FBI set out to dig up dirt on music legend Jimi Hendrix when he spoke out on the political struggle of Blacks, American Indians and Vietnam veterans.
A rock guitar genius, Hendrix recorded five top-selling albums and was among the highest-paid concert performers ($125,000 per show) of the 1960s, but he was heavily into drugs, owed thousands of dollars to his record company and was the target of Myriad lawsuits ranging from contract disputes to paternity.
The FBI’s interest in Hendrix began in 1969 after he and two other black musicians formed the Band of Gypsys. That year, the Bureau learned of Hendrix’s 1961 arrest for car theft in Seattle. No deposition regarding the arrest is recorded. The rest of the file consists of memos notifying other bureaus of Hendrix’s record.
A week before the Seattle incident, he may also have been arrested in Toronto for illegal possession of narcotics. The Seattle police report mentions the arrest, but there are no further details.
Hendrix died at age 27 in 1970, after choking on drinks and drugs.
On July 30, 1975, former Teamsters Union Boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. Three days later, the FBI entered the case.
The FBI’s hunt for Hoffa was nearly as massive as the one they’d for the kidnapped Patty Hearst. Today, Hoffa is presumed dead — but there’s no shortage of suspects in his disappearance.
The consensus is that Hoffa was somehow caught in a murderous crossfire between union officials and underworld crime figures.
After his 1971 release from jail, where he’d been serving time for misappropriating union money and jury tampering, Hoffa wanted to regain control of the 2.2 million-member union, with its $2 billion pension fund. To do that, he was conspiring to replace his protégé, Frank Fitzsimmons, as Teamster president.
Teamster organizer Charles O’Brien (better known as “Chuckie”) and underworld figures Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano and Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone were immediate suspects. All three were close associates of Hoffa. Chuckie had been brought up in the Hoffa household as a son and was a union official. Tony Pro was the union’s link to organized crime, which had decided to back Fitzsimmons over Hoffa. He and Giacalone are believed to have been the men Hoffa was supposed to meet on the day he disappeared.
One of the Bureau’s first actions was to issue a search warrant for a borrowed car driven by Chuckie on the day Hoffa disappeared. The FBI found traces of flesh and blood in the car; Chuckie said they were from a 40-pound salmon he was delivering for a friend. The FBI was dubious about the claim — but scientific tests found the debris was not of human origin.
Chuckie also upset the Bureau by appearing on the TV news magazine “60 minutes,” where, during a lengthy interview by correspondent Morley Safer, he protested his innocence. The Bureau filed transcripts of all the interviews.
The FBI files include an abundance of conspiracy theories. One was that the alleged assassination was carried out by henchmen of Teamsters prez/protégé Fitzsimmons, acting without orders from their boss.
Another suggestion was that Jimmy Hoffa was bumped off by the CIA because he knew too much about a CIA to get the Mafia to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Yet another scenario had the killers acting under orders from the top echelons of the Mafia. Some believed the killers were small-time thugs exacting revenge for some unknown slight or white-collar thieves who felt cheated out of promised kickbacks from pension fund investments. One Teamsters official even insisted Hoffa ran off to Brazil with a go-go dancer.
The Bureau also followed up the myriad tips on where the corpse was supposedly stashed. The gruesome itinerary took them to places as far as far-flung as Pennsylvania, California and New Jersey. Hoffa’s body still hasn’t been found.
Late in 1978, the FBI uncovered a bizarre threat to assassinate the entertainment giants — including John Wayne, Johnny Carson and Bob Hope — by a person known as Unsub (unidentified subject). The mystery man said if the three stars didn’t speak out publicly against corrupt government, poverty, crime and drug abuse, they “would be taken care of.”
But, in an even stranger twist, an accomplice got cold feet and informed the Hollywood trio — then spilled his guts to FBI investigators!
Howard Hughes, the reclusive billionaire pilot, airplane manufacturer, film producer and star-maker, relished his role as a man of mystery. He shunned the spotlight from the time he hit Hollywood as a 20-year-old with a private income of about $2 million a year until he died at 70 of neglect in 1976.
In Hughes’ first six years in Hollywood, he made a spate of films, many of them now regarded as classics, including “Scarface,” “Hell’s Angels” and “The Front Page.”
He also made Hollywood his harem. He was reportedly “interested in” Gene Tierney, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Gail Russell, Jeanne Crain, Joan Leslie, Diana Lynn, Barbara Overton, Nancy Valentine and Yvonne De Carlo — as well as a horde of minor actresses, dancers, bit players, models and good-looking nobodies.
As long as he used these women for his pleasure, Hughes’ hijinks were regarded as merely fascinating gossip. But, when he started using beautiful as party favors during World War II — throwing lavish booze and beauty parties to woo top government officials and get lucrative wartime contracts for his aircrafts factories — the FBI turned a microphone on his behavior.
By the time the FBI became interested in Hughes, he was a nearly deaf, shy man too embarrassed to talk to people. He began using a glad-handing associate named Johnny Meyer. Affable Johnny introduced Hughes to all the right people and picked up the party girls and tabs. So, FBI agents turned their attention to the man who played monkey to Hughes’ organ grinder.
To help Hughes, Meyer set his sights on FDR’s son Elliot Roosevelt, then a top-ranking officer in the Army Air Force. Roosevelt had influence enough in high places to help Hughes wrest profitable transoceanic air routes from Pan American Airways and gift them the Hollywood billionaire’s TWA.
Meyer introduced Roosevelt to Faye Emerson, the busty, blonde movie and TV star, whose cleavage on TV quiz shows caused her to be known as “the woman who put V in TV.” Hughes, whose relationship with Roosevelt had become particularly close, paid expenses for the couple’s courtship, wedding and honeymoon.
The Bureau’s file on Meyer noted: “[Name blacked out] stated that Howard Hughes has an ear defect and is extremely hard of hearing. As a result, Howard Hughes follows the practice of lip reading which seems to give him an inferiority complex as far as his social life with women is concerned. [Meyer], through his extensive knowledge of girls, has served to acquaint Hughes with many young women. Practically all of them are ‘tarts and chippies’ according to [name blacked out].”
Another discretion that didn’t escape the vigilance of the ever-alert FBI: the allegation that Hughes had two-timing Lana Turner with “Forever Amber” star Linda Darnell. FBI wiretaps showed Hughes calling and professing his love to Darnell between trips to Turner’s suite at NYC’s Sherry Netherland Hotel, where he and Lana were holed up.
Michael Jackson abused at least 24 young boys – including five actors – and shelled out millions in hush money to silence his victims and protect his image, according to shocking FBI files.
The feds’ damning dossier includes private investigator reports, phone transcripts and audiotapes. The documents claim the “King of Pop” paid $35 million over 15 years to the boys he molested, many of whom were allegedly abused with their star-struck parents nearby.
The file says the “Thriller” star was once caught by a staffer groping a world-famous child star, watched porn films while watching while abusing another boy and fondled a third victim in his private cinema.
Ironically, Jackson himself commissioned much of the information contained in the thousands of pages on file at the FBI. Terrified parents of the boys who visited his Neverland Ranch might try to blackmail him or go to authorities, he hired private eye to the stars Anthony Pellicano to make sure the skeletons in his closet stayed hidden.
But the FBI seized the incriminating files while investigating Pellicano in 2002 for bugging stars like Sylvester Stallone. The disgraced investigator was sentenced to 15 years for racketeering and wire-tapping.
One of Pellicano’s top investigators broke his silence on the case, saying the list of potential threats to Jackson’s secret life as a pedophile was put together in the early 1990s. The files name 17 boys, who are not being identified for legal reasons, who were singled out for abuse by Jackson. At least three of them were paid for silence.
The sleuth says he was hired to find “the fires” that needed “putting out,” adding, “I have never worked on a case with as many potential victims as the Jackson case.”
Jackson’s legal team was scrambled in 1993 after the dentist father of 13-year-old Jordan Chandler went public with charges his son had been abused. Chandler received a big cash settlement opening the door to other damning accusations.
However, the FBI files were NOT available to prosecutors during Jackson’s 2005 trial that cleared the superstar of molesting a different child.
Jackson’s attorney Tom Mesereau insists, “The FBI never had any files alleging Michael sexually abused 24 young boys. Believe me, if they had such information, it would have been presented at trial.”