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.
President Ronald Reagan never denied that he once served as an FBI source. He even had his own ID: Confidential Informant T-10. Reagan began assisting the Bureau in the 1940s — and his FBI file is 155-pages thick.
During the time Reagan, who began his career as an actor, was president of the Screen Actors’ Guild, he regularly informed on his fellow actors and actresses. As early as 1941, Hoover targeted the president-to-be as a person “who might be of assistance to the Bureau.”
In his memoirs, Reagan coyly referred to the FBI agents who debriefed him as “representatives of a well-known government agency.” As Agent T-10, he revealed that he packed a loaded .32-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol, which he carried in a shoulder holster.
In 1947, Reagan and then-wife actress Jane Wyman (Confidential Agent T-9) supplied information about the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, which Reagan quit the previous year, claiming the leadership was Communist. According to an FBI memo, Agents T-9 and T-10 named names, supplying the Bureau with “information regarding the activities of some members of the Guild whom they suspected were carrying on Communist Party work.
“Reagan and Jane Wyman advised for the past several months there are two cliques of members, one headed by [name blacked out] and [name blacked out], which on all questions of policy that confront the Guild, follow the Communist Party line.” Reagan supplied the names of the members of the respective left-wing cliques. A 1947 memo stated, “T-10 advised Special Agent [name blacked out] that he has been made a member of a committee headed by Louis B. Mayer, the purpose of which allegedly is to purge the motion picture industry of Communist Party members.
“T-10 stated it is his firm conviction that Congress should declare, first of all, by the statute, that the Communist Party is not a legal party, but is a foreign-inspired conspiracy. Secondly, Congress should define what organizations are Communist controlled so that membership therein could be construed as an indication of disloyalty. He felt that, lacking a definite stand on the part of the government, it would be very difficult for any committee of motion picture people to conduct any type of cleansing of their own household.”
In true Reagan-wife style, Wyman weighed in with adulation for her hubby. An FBI memo says: “The Screen Actors Guild seems to be waging a successful fight to keep out radical actors and actresses from executive positions. [Agent T-9] said that there were a few, however, who mysteriously seemed to remain in positions of prominence within the organization, which enabled the radical group to bring about discord. Some of the radical actors identified as possible Communists were [long list of blacked-out names]. Agent T-9 was of the opinion that Ronald Reagan, executive officer of the Guild, had ‘seen the light’ and was sincere in his efforts to keep the radical members out of controlling positions.”
Nevertheless, the political goings-on in Hollywood remained a thorn in J. Edgar Hoover’s side. He scribbled on a report from his L.A. field office: “The picture industry still continues to be a stinking mess.”
Hoover was known to refer to FDR’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, as “the old bitch” and “old hoot owl,” and to entertain his colleagues with imitations of her shrill voice. He would also say that one reason he never married was because “God made a woman like Eleanor Roosevelt,” and chortle at the rumors that the president’s wife had engaged in lesbian relationships.
When he was forced to apologize for the Bureau’s investigation of two of Mrs. Roosevelt’s social secretaries after she complained to her husband that “this type of investigation seems to me to smack too much of Gestapo methods,” Hoover was furious.
Things got even worse when he found out that she’d referred to him as “that smug would-be Himmler.”
Yet this mortification only served to make the director more vicious. A set of tapes obtained by Army intelligence, whose agents bugged Mrs. Roosevelt’s hotel rooms, became one of Hoover’s prized exhibits. They seemed to suggest that Mrs. Roosevelt had a sexual relationship with one of her protégés, Joseph Lash, an outspoken anti-Fascist and a radical student leader.
A “Do Not File” memo dated Dec. 31, 1943, reads: “[T]he material contained a recording of the entire proceedings between Joe Lash and Mrs. Roosevelt which had been planted in [her] hotel room. The recording indicated quite clearly that Mrs. Roosevelt and Lash engaged in sexual intercourse.”
The memo went on to say that when Mrs. Roosevelt was confronted with this information, it resulted in a terrific fight between her and the president. A later FBI document admitted the sounds of lovemaking may have been made by Lash and his fiancée, Trude Pratt.
The FBI also broke into Lash’s offices at the American Youth Congress and stole letters written to him by Mrs. Roosevelt. An FBI memo dated Feb. 2, 1954, states: “G-2 files contain Mrs. Roosevelt’s letters to Lash, which invariably start with ‘Joe Dearest’ and end with ‘All my love, ER.’”
Hoover later leaked this information to President Dwight Eisenhower when he was looking for an excuse to remove Eleanor from the U.S. delegation to the United Nations.
The Lash incident incensed President Franklin Roosevelt. His relationship with Hoover deteriorated to the point where he no longer spoke to the director, and even told several confidants he planned to sack him as soon as the war was over. He didn’t, however, live long enough to do it.
Jackie Robinson, the brave man who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, was blasted by the FBI as being a communist simply because he agreed to help integrate Levittown, the nation’s first large-scale home development in Long Island, New York.
Gutsy Joan Rivers refused to back down when haters threatened her life, according to her secret FBI file. Joan decided “the show must go on,” despite two horrifying death threats from anti-semitic bigots, the bombshell documents revealed.
One letter, addressed to “Queen Joan Rivers,” was postmarked in Brooklyn, New York., and mailed in August 1991.
In it, a “Mr. Clean” promised then 58-year-old Joan that he’d be “watching … your every move.”
The letter continued: “I am on a crusade to clean the world of the 2 biggest Jew money making promoters of homosexuality on television and radio.”
Mr. Clean added: “Just to let you know that I purchased a piece of exterminating equipment. It is big and powerful. It will be messy but pain free almost. If I don’t see you by the
Jew New year, I promise you it will be soon after.”
Chillingly, the FBI couldn’t track down Mr. Clean, whose identity remains unknown to this day.
Mr. Clean wasn’t the only lunatic who targeted Rivers. In December 1973, while she was performing at Miami’s Deauville Theater, Joan gave the FBI a telegram from someone who promised, “to put a stop to your Polish ‘joke’ routine at the Deauville.”
The maniac continued: “My people will no longer sit back supinely while a human cesspool spews her dirt on them. And for a Jews you should know better.”
The writer concluded by promising to return to Miami to silence the legendary entertainer.
According to her FBI file, Rivers contacted the agency about the telegram after a man identifying himself as a member of “The Polish Underground” called the theater on Dec. 29, and vowed to blow up the venue.
When the FBI spoke to Rivers in her suite two days later, she was being protected by off-duty police officers hired as bodyguards.
Buddies of Mafioso Sam Giancana, who blamed JFK pal Frank Sinatra when the new attorney general, Bobby Kennedy, began attacking the Mob, talked about “whacking” Sinatra and his buddies. As the Rat Pack strutted its stuff in the 1960 film “Ocean’s 11,” wiseguys fantasized about putting them on their hit list.