The following account has been condensed from two biographies I wrote, Naked Instinct: The Unauthorized Biography of Sharon Stone and Eddie Murphy: The Life and Times of a Comic on the Edge, both published in 1997.
Names and identifying traits of some people mentioned here have been changed to protect the innocent but libel-wary - me.
Just as I was finishing my Murphy bio, an embarrassing incident involving the actor made headlines around the world in 1997.
In case you’ve forgotten:
The superstar was pulled over by the police in Hollywood with a transvestite hooker in his Minivan. Murphy had been on the prowl, ahem, for reading material at a newsstand…at 2 am after a long day and night on the set of his Doctor Dolittle remake, a monster hit that proves my theory, “Your only as good and bankable as your last (two) movies.”
Doctor Dolittle’s $300-million box-office in 1998 and its sequel’s near $200 million gross out in 2001 offer statistical proof of my theory.
While Murphy was shooting the first remake of Doctor Dolittle, I wrote a sappy ending for the my bio to fit my proposed title, Little Eddie, Happy at Last.
It was a teen zit of a fanzine bio about how the raw comic had become tender and blissful with age and a supermodel wannabe wife and three kids.
But then the interpersonal collision on Santa Monica Boulevard occurred, forcing me to rewrite the entire bio in a few days with a tabloidish leer along the lines of Eddie Murphy Scr**wed Raw. It could be a sequel to Eddie Murphy Raw, a 1987 film of his standup act that remains the highest grossing of the genre in more ways than one.
When Murphy was pulled over with the transvestite streetwalker, a private eye just happened to be driving by. Possibly a Scientologist seeking a new blackmail guest for its Celebrity Center which is near Hollywood.
Or was the detective an Anthony Pellicano hire pursuing the superstar for what only the imprisoned PI knows. Whoever hired the private investigator, he told Entertainment Tonight, “Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood’s red light district – that’s a look and a laugh, and you keep on driving. If you stop, you’re their buy.”
Murphy and the Latina Divine Mae Brown hadn’t had time to get up close and impersonal, so unlike Hugh Grant, the comic was only briefly detained while another Scientologist goon in search of another Celebrity Center visitor perhaps just happened to videotape Eddie’s humiliation in Hollywood’s red light district of street walkers on Santa Monica Boulevard.
For my bio, I interviewed Geoff Gann, a transvestite nightclub lipsyncher and a casual friend I didn’t know performed in drag on stage and in porn films under the name of Karen Dior. Gann’s home photocopier provided me with crucial evidence for my bio.
He told me that 10 years earlier, Murphy had picked him up in a limousine outside the nightclub where my friend had been lip-synching Dietrich by way of Helmut Berger in The Damned.
After the show, the two men fellated each other in the back seat of Murphy’s limo. Unlike Clinton, they both swallowed. By the time my friend told me his story, he had been diagnosed with AIDS but was thriving if exceedingly frail. Gann died of hepatitis in 2004.
The close encounter of the weird kind in the limo had taken place a decade before, the approximate period after which the AIDS virus becomes symptomatic and fatal without anti-retroviral therapy, which doesn’t save 30 percent of AIDS patients.
Since the two limo companions had exchanged bodily fluid 10 years prior, Murphy had possibly infected himself, his wife, and their kids. His 10-year grace period may be up. The implications of Gann’s story were horrific. If my friend’s story was true, and it was, Eddie en famille may be missing out on life-threatening therapy, condemned to anti-retroviral chemotherapy for life.
My interview passed muster with the publisher Carol Books and its vetting attorney. Gene Godard. The interview with Geoff Gann appeared in my Murphy bio only after I overnighted a photocopy of his polygraph results to the attorney.
My renamed bio, Eddie Murphy: The Life and Times of a Comic on the Edge, became a bestseller. Unfortunately, Carol declared bankruptcy, absconding with my royalties after selling reprint rights to both bestsellers. Insult added to financial injury.
My Stone bio was called “aggressively sleazy” by a subliterate Booklist “hobbyist” reviewer, like many of the self-styled writers who contribute to ezines. The book merited that slam because of its introduction’s XXX-rated teaser.
The opening passage describes how Sharon Stone lives the life of her femme fatale and alter ego, Catherine Trammel, in Basic Instinct. I endured three hellish lawsuits after Naked Instinct: The Unauthorized Biography of Sharon Stone came out in 1997.
AIG, Carol’s libel carrier, settled two of the nuisance suits out of court. And my attorney, Robert Lent, and the publisher’s, Jim Murphy, won the $30 million libel suit filed by Sharon Stone’s law firm, but not by Stone.
I made that distinction when Daily Variety’s eminent gossip columnist Army Archerd ran an item during the suit, repeating the distinction between the law firm’s litigation and Stone’s lack of litigiousness.
The actress did fire her blue-chip law firm after the book came out. I had quoted a dinner companion’s bragging about how Stone’s compulsive sex life had her using her Beverly Hills blue chip law firm, O’Grady, Cutler, Borgia, Sheister, LLC, (not their real names), multi-ethnic ambulance chasing millionaires with $100 Mount Blanc sharpies they used to redact documents submit at pre-trial depositions.
Stone’s 1996 film, Last Dance, came out in France the same day she arrived in Paris to promote the film. There was talk that she might win an Academy Award for her performance in the death-row drama, but the French media didn't want to talk about the film or its Oscar potential.
Carol’s publicist sent me a stack of press clippings I deciphered with the help of a French-English dictionary and two years of French 101-201 at the University of Chicago. The stories reported that at a press conference the media interrogated the actress about my allegations instead of lobbing softballs at her about Sliver, typical of the groveling that neuters “investigative” Hollywood reporters like me.
My star struck attorney and the publisher’s did not subpoena Stone for the grueling depositions that lasted two excruciating weeks, while a senior partner in the firm, Robert Green, deposed me.
Unlike everyone else involved in the trial, only Stone was not subpoenaed. But she was under oath during her deposition. Having a cagey celebrity who is compelled to tell the truth under penalty of perjury, a felony, is the ultimate wet dream of any celebrity biographer.
The sleazy connotations of the marketing gimmick, calling a biography “unauthorized,” has a non-sleazy explanation. “Unauthorized” does sell books, as Kitty Kelley’s millions prove. But unauthorized simply means that the celebrity in question has declined to grant a biographer an interview.
The reason is they are saving their best stuff for their autobiography, which can earn a six-figure advance from publishers. See Tim Allen, the noted TV thespian and star of Home Improvement and his 1994 New York Times’ bestselling autobiography, Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man. Unauthorized simply means the subject won’t talk.
The partner in the firm whose dinner time monologue about Stone’s dangerous private life and public behavior kept the other guests intrigued, especially me, still pursuing scoops after submitting the ms. to the publisher of Naked Instinct.
The attorney must have regretted his ethical lapse by betraying client-attorney privilege. His misstep led to the pre-trial depositions and three lawsuits I won or settled.
Under oath at the deposition, which the New York Post’s “Page Six” dully reported after I fed Richard Johnson blow-blow-blow accounts of my two-week deposition and month-long courtroom ordeal, Sharon Stone hedged but implied she had fired her law firm.
When I asked, “Why did you fire your law firm, she said to ask the senior partner. Or as Page Six, which the firm had harassed previously, crowed, “In other words, Stone believed Sanello. not her high-priced attorneys.”
After I prevailed in court, the Los Angeles Times decorously reported that the attorney had “left the firm” without elaboration. During his deposition, the attorney who mouthed “f*** in open court after the jury verdict with a 9-12 vote in my favor explained his reason for leaving a lucrative legal partnership.
Cutbacks, not dinner gossip, had motivated him to refuse an offer of contract work for fees greatly reduced. The attorney did remain “of counsel,” which means he got an office and support staff at the firm that had given him the Hobson’s Choice of take the lesser amount of money or run.
The implications of the anecdote the law firm’s ousted partner told me merited a $30 million penalty if untrue. My partner, another guest at the New Year’s Eve dinner party where the he testified in court and in the pre-trial deposition that the attorney told about 15 guests that it was “common water cooler gossip” at the firm that Stone used its A-list clients for one-time rendezvous.
The plaintiffs’ litigator and lead counsel made me repeat endlessly in an attempt to trip me up, the passage in the Stone bio that generated the libel suit. I quoted the gossipy attorney saying, “She makes it clear it’s a one-time deal. Here’s the time and place. Take it or leave it. She’s made the move on major names.”
When I asked him to name names, the Harvard/Stanford grad suddenly became circumspect. The libelous implication of the tale was that these blue chip lawyers were blue chip pimps.
My attorney told me not to write that. So sue me. I’m income challenged in the Age of the Internet, where Amazon sells my 30+ books for literally one penny plus S&H. Sounds like the kind of money ezines pay their amateur writers.
After my bio about Eddie Murphy came out, I didn’t have any problems with the comic. Or with Marty Singer, Murphy’s tabloid-chasing attorney who pursued favorable tablet press after the Santa Monica Boulevardier was pulled over by the LAPD.
My libel-proof bio about Murphy was the result of my capable vetting attorney who signed off on the interview’s inclusion with a gorgeous transvestite nightclub lipsyncher. He had to pass a polygraph test and did before a tabloid would pay him for his long ago Fatal Attraction in the limo á la Wall Street and Charlie Sheen.
I can’t resist ending this navel-gazing with a long joke that I hope will make reading this overly long piece worth your time.
Remember the iconic scene in 1953’s From Here to Eternity where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr make PG-rated love by moonlight on a deserted beach just before Pearl Harbor?
You probably don’t remember the scene right before that. When Lancaster asks Kerr to go swimming, she says, “Yes, I’m wearing a bathing suit.”
Lancaster says, “Me too.”
Now make a leap of imagination and cast a remake with Eddie Murphy and some classy, virginal leading lady like Deborah Kerr. Sorry, but I can’t think of any actress who fits the bill and isn’t Streep’s or Redgrave’s age.
Possibly Lindsay Lohan, if the remake were set in, say, a Thai brothel during the ongoing military police actions in Iraq and Afghanistan that are making the world safe for democracy—and Arab oil.
Keep From Here to Eternity’s pre-swim dialogue in mind and slightly tweak the conversation from the original:
Murphy: Let’s go swimming.
Lohan: “Ok, but I’m only wearing panties.”
Murphy: “Me too.”
Causes Frank Sanello Supports
ACLU, ASPCA, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders