Before Britain's phone hacking scandal, Hollywood had Anthony Pellicano.
He was the private investigator Hollywood's rich and famous relied on and the one they feared most. An early adapter of audio surveillance, Pellicano dug up dirt on his clients' enemies to make them go away.
Actors Sylvester Stallone and Keith Carradine and comedian Garry Shandling were reportedly targets of his dirt-digging tactics.
Speaking for the first time since going to prison in 2008 for wiretapping, wire fraud and racketerring, Pellicano boasted to Newsweek in an exclusive interview that he was in a different league from the private eyes hired by News of the World to hack the phones of celebrities and others.
"I was the top of the ladder. Just to talk to me it cost $25,000," he said in the current issue. "These guys were stringers who worked with reporters to try to get information on a celebrity."
Sentenced to 15 years, Pellicano is currently at work on his autobiography ("Imagine trying to write a story with 100 guys around you," he told Newsweek.) but he wasn't giving up much on his former clients.
"When you are my client, you become my family," Inmate No. 21568-112 told the magazine. "That was the attitude I kept. I wasn't really a P.I. I was a problem solver. People came to me because they had a problem. The government wanted me to turn on them."
Pellicano certainly knows a lot more than he's saying.
"If you saw the stuff I found in celebrity homes: cocaine, heroin, Ecstasy, vials of narcotics. There was a doctor shooting up celebrities with morphine for $350," he told Newsweek.
But he let slip a few juicy tidbits about some of his former clients. Check out the following:
Pellicano made little effort to conceal his relationship with movie star-turned-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"I have personal stuff on Arnold," he told Newsweek while describing the scene when the FBI raided his office. "If they found that stuff, he never would have been governor."
Refusing to divulge details about Schwarzenegger's infamous relationship with his maid, with whom he fathered a son, Pellicano would only say, "I can't say one way or another if I knew it."
When pressed further about Schwarzenegger's soon-to-be ex-wife Maria Shriver, Pellicano declined to reveal any details, saying only "Would I have told her? Probably not."
Pellicano didn't hesitate to bare his hardened Chicago-upbringing to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
Hired to investigate the family accusing the singer in the 1993 child molestation case, Pellicano told Newsweek he only took the case after admonishing Jackson that he'd better be innocent.
"I said, 'You don't have to worry about cops or lawyers. If I find out anything, I will f--k you over," he told the magazine.
Pellican did work on the star's behalf but later backed out after discovering "some truths."
"He did something far worse to young boys than molest them," he told Newsweek, refusing to elaborate.
Pellicano boasted to Newsweek about how he discredited a gay porn actor and exotic wrestler who claimed to have had an affair with star Tom Cruise.
Working for Cruise, Pellicano said, "There was no truth to it, he wanted to exhort money."
Cruise, who was in the midst of a divorce from Nicole Kidman (another of Pellicano's reported targets) when the affair allegations surfaced, would later sue the man, Chad Slater (stage name Kyle Bradford), and win a multi-million dollar judgment.
|Bill and Hillary Clinton|
Pellicano's reach extended beyond Hollywood, reputedly into the upper echelon of politics.
Conservatives have long claimed that the Clintons hired Pellicano to investigate Gennifer Flowers during the 1992 campaign and Monica Lewinsky after Bill Clinton became president.
Pellicano didn't seem to dispute that when he told Newsweek that he chose to take his chances in court rather than rat out former clients and cut a deal with prosecutors.
"It was either I talked or go to jail and accept it like a man," he said. "I could have gone to the Clintons and senators and asked them for a favor. I am not going to ask them for a favor. You take your lumps and go on with your life the best way you can."
It's unknown whether actor Tony Danza was a former client, but he is one of the few Hollywood stars to keep in touch with the discredited detective.
Danza told Newsweek that the two write each other regularly.
"I'm actually reading the latest from him now. I often send some clippings or stories that I know will interest him," Danza said.
The actor visited the ex-private eye when he was behind bars in Los Angeles, but hasn't yet made the trip to Big Spring, Texas, where he's currently doing his time.
"I was about to make the trip to Safford, Ariz., where he was before Big Spring," Danza told Newsweek, before adding, "Anthony Pellicano in Big Spring, Texas. Incongruous."