At the center of the Bernard Weinraub-Luke Ford episode is a passage about private investigator Anthony Pellicano possibly robbing the grave of Mike Todd, who had been the husband of Elizabeth Taylor. Yesterday's flurry of activity traced it to a 1994 Los Angeles magazine story, but it was told the year before in an L.A. Times story by Shawn Hubler and James Bates, excerpted here:
Streetwise Gumshoe to the Stars
When Hollywood's A-list wants protection from gossip and lawsuits, they put Anthony Pellicano on the case. Some see him as a pushy showoff, but he says he likes to play hardball.
Saturday September 11, 1993
Home Edition, Main News, Page A-1
57 inches; 2034 words
By SHAWN HUBLER and JAMES BATES, TIMES STAFF WRITERS
......Then there was the matter of producer Michael Todd's bones, which disappeared in 1977 from a Forest Park, Ill., cemetery. Todd had been married to actress Elizabeth Taylor when he died in a 1958 plane crash.
The grave robbery made headlines. Police scoured the cemetery in vain. Then a phone rang in the detective division. Pellicano said he had an informant; he knew where the bones were buried. Police met him at the graveyard. Pellicano had an anchorman in tow.
Todd's remains--a few bones and a melted belt buckle--were right on the cemetery grounds, under a pile of leaves and dirt about 75 yards from the grave. The grave robbers, Pellicano told police, had been after a 10-carat diamond ring, a gift from Taylor that they mistakenly had believed was inside Todd's casket.
A 1983 government sentencing report maintains that a mobster-turned-informant told authorities that two mob figures were the ones who exhumed Todd. But the story making the rounds in Chicago even today is that Pellicano orchestrated the event to gain publicity in hopes of being hired to help find Chicago candy heiress Helen Brach, who disappeared in 1977.
"I've been hearing that story for years. It's a great story, but there's no way I would know if it's true. The guy is a legend here," said lawyer Glen Crick, former director of enforcement for the state agency governing private investigators.
But Pellicano's critics--Chicago archrival Ernie Rizzo among them--gleefully refer to him as "the grave robber." And police say the story has become part of the city's detective lore although there is no evidence linking Pellicano to the disappearance.
Pellicano--along with his defenders in Chicago--says the tale is fueled by professional jealousy.
"Ernie Rizzo is a fruit fly," Pellicano said in one of his more printable comments about the man.
Update 11:20 a.m. Jack Shafer at Slate has appended the 1993 LAT story to his original piece from yesterday.