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.
The FBI knew the Mob was aware of the chats between Marilyn Monroe and Bobby Kennedy. The conversations were about all things political and Bobby’s future aspirations.
“Fourteen days after Monroe’s death, FBI wiretaps picked up an underworld conference call during which three mobsters threatened to release evidence about Monroe and the attorney general,” said Monroe biographer Peter H. Brown. “The three wiseguys were looking for a way to stop the feds from prosecuting them. The wiretaps recorded their proposed blackmail scheme.”
But, J. Edgar Hoover biographer Curt Gentry maintains that the Bureau had no involvement in causing or covering up Monroe’s death — because the FBI knew no more than the average person about the strength of Bobby and Marilyn’s relationship. “Had he [known more], Hoover would almost certainly have used this information against Kennedy at a later date, when he ransacked his files for every bit of derogatory material he could find.”
Gentry says Hoover learned about the couple’s involvement from Bobby himself two weeks after the actress’ death, when the Attorney General confided to a Hoover underling that, as noted in a Bureau memo, “he was aware there had been several allegations concerning his possibly being involved with Marilyn Monroe” and said he had met her at least once [but] that these allegations just had a way of growing beyond any semblance of truth.”
Thereafter, Hoover delighted in gathering material about Monroe’s demise and her Kennedy dalliances. Until 1982, the Bureau kept a copy of every word printed about her death, as well as transcripts of radio and TV reports. Her file eventually bulged with thousands of pages, which Hoover locked in a special file cabinet hidden behind a bookshelf. Agents pored through books about the actress. “Some of these FBI reports went so deeply into their contents that they resembled Reader’s Digest Condensed Books,” said biographer Brown.
Hoover used the material as blackmail. Each time rumblings about his ouster leaked from the Attorney General’s office, Hoover trotted out a fresh tidbit from his avalanche of intelligence about Monroe and the Kennedys and had it hand-delivered to Bobby. Any thoughts of booting him were quickly squelched.
At least Hoover held nothing personal against Monroe. While his only close friend throughout his lifetime was a man, the poker-faced director proudly displayed at home an original copy of Monroe’s nude calendar.
FBI files on the legendary New York Yankees slugger Mikey Mantle showed that he received a threatening note in 1960. “I have a gun with a sight and I’m going to get you through both of your knees and it’s going to happen soon,” the note said.
Mantle also came under fire from the FBI in two probes involving prostitution and illegal gambling.
ANNA NICOLE SMITH
The FBI investigated Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith in an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill her tycoon husband’s son E. Pierce Marshall, her heavily redacted 100-plus-page file showed.
Oil mogul J. Howard Marshall, 89, raised eyebrows in 1994 when he married Smith after meeting the dancer at a Texas strip joint.
Following his 1995 death of natural causes, Smith became embroiled in a bitter court battle with Marshall’s son over a $550 million portion of her late husband’s massive estate.
The documents don’t reveal what triggered the murder-ploy probe, but during a July 2000 interview with the Bureau, the busty blonde “began crying and denied ever making such plans,” an agent wrote. The files also show that a .357-caliber revolver was confiscated from Smith’s home during the investigation.
In an April 26, 2001, letter to the FBI, assistant U.S. attorney Sally Meloch said, “There is insufficient evidence… that there was a murder-for-hire plot by Ms. Smith.” The ex-stripper died Feb. 8, 2007, of a drug overdose, at 39.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis was lucky. The FBI had a file on the former first lady and her children out of genuine concern — even though protecting them after JFK’s assassination was the responsibility of the Secret Service.
When Hoover learned Jackie might have hired an unstable stable hand to care for her horses, Hoover investigated. The man was found to have a criminal past and was fired.
When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent Jackie a case of rare Russian wines, Hoover – worried that the KGB had spiked the vintages with mind-altering drugs – ordered the wine analyzed. It was safe.
When JFK Jr. was given a turtle for a pet, Hoover conferred with a biologist who advised him that turtles carried salmonella and other diseases. He told the Secret Service.
And by the time Jackie wed Aristotle Onassis I in 1968, Hoover already compelled a massive dossier on the Greek shipping magnate, including information about Onassis’ extensive business dealings with the Japanese during World War II.
Hoover’s files also indicate he kept tabs on Jackie’s romances.
According to one insider, Secret Service Agent Clint Hill was Jackie’s lover. When Hill was replaced, the new agent became Hoover’s informant, with instructions to report directly to the director about Jackie’s relationship with another rumored lover – her brother-in-law, Robert Kennedy.
The “greatest thrill” in Hoover‘s long career came on July 22, 1934, the night his Bureau gunned down John Dillinger, America’s Public Enemy No. 1. But the morning after turned into a nightmare. The egotistical director awoke expecting to see his name blazoned in headlines. Instead, diminutive agent Melvin Purvis was christened as Public Hero No. 1.
Hoover never forgave him. Purvis was an unusual agent. Although he stood barely more than 5-feet tall and weighed just a hair over 130 pounds, well below the Bureau’s standards — making him one of the few agents shorter than Hoover — “Little Mel” quickly rose through the ranks to become chief of the Chicago field office, the FBI’s second largest.
Purvis was 31 years old when agents under him ended Dillinger‘s bank-robbing career. His role was to stand beneath the marquee of Chicago’s Biograph Theater and alert his men to Dillinger’s approach by lighting a cigar. His hands shook so violently that Public Enemy No. 1 made a run for it before agents shot him dead.
Purvis never claimed to have fired the shots. But the press needed a hero, and he’d been in charge, so he got the lion’s share of the credit the next morning. “Overnight, Melvin Purvis became more famous than J. Edgar Hoover,” says Bureau chronicler Curt Gentry.
Two months later, Purvis was hailed for gunning down Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd on an Ohio farm. Again, Purvis denied it, but again he got the headlines. And Hoover got more agitated — so much that he decided to derail Purvis’ career.
“Hoover could neither demote nor fire him,” says Gentry. “But he had another alternative: to make life in the Bureau so uncomfortable for him that he would resign.” Purvis took the not-so-subtle hint and resigned for “personal” reasons in July 1935. Hoover tried to upstage the news by announcing that the Bureau had arrested a major extortionist, but the next day’s newspaper headlines were devoted to Purvis, dubbed the “arch-enemy and captor of some of the worst criminals of modern times.”
The Bureau kept track of Purvis for the rest of his life, and did all it could to downplay his contributions. His FBI file contains the entire “manual of instructions” for the junior agent corps sponsored by Post Toasties cereal, for which Purvis was the official spokesman. Hoover must have been enthralled by the group’s secret whistle and handshake.
Purvis tried to keep in touch. In 1952, he visited Hoover’s office. When told the boss was out, he asked that Hoover contact him to arrange a meeting. Scrawled in Hoover’s handwriting beneath a memo of the conversation is a terse, “I am not available.”
Ill and depressed, Purvis killed himself in 1960. The FBI didn’t send condolences to his widow. But she telegraphed Hoover: “We are honored that you ignored Melvin’s death. Your jealousy hurt him very much, but until the end, I think he loved you.”
The King, Elvis Presley, was an unflagging patriot who served his country well in the Army, yet the FBI had been spying on him for years!
In a 1974 memo, one of Hoover’s agents stated: “Presley is currently psychologically addicted to and a heavy user of cocaine.”
The bombshell report says Elvis’ supplier was “one of his former girlfriends.”