Monday, 24 August 2015

Confidential - Muck Raking Magazine

Think of muck raking and you will think of the "News of the World" but there was once a magazine that ran for a few years in the fifties that really put the NOTW to shame.  That was "Confidential," a magazine about Hollywood that was completely independent from the studios.  The difference was, Confidential, dealt with sleaze, innuendo, scandals and out and out lies.  It could never have run in the UK due to our heavy duty libel laws.  In the USA, they had the First Amendment, a right to free speech or opinion.  This magazine actually held the stars in a state of fear, wondering what indiscretions may be revealed.

    Confidential began in December 1952, as the brainchild of a New York sleazy magazine publisher named Robert Harrison.  What was scary for the stars and the studios, was that Confidential obtained all their information from the bottom level of Hollywood; drivers, studio hands, barmen, local reporters.  They also had a Private Investigator working for them.  Fred Otash, a former Los Angeles cop with an extremely notorious reputation.  He was the Mister Fix-It for the magazine.  If somebody wanted a good fee for a "scoop" Otash sorted it. If a deal had to be struck in order to keep a story buried, he thrashed out the deal.  If somebody needed beating up or needing some bones breaking, Otash "took care of business" as a certain bike club would say.  On a long ago documentary about Confidential, a deal was made by a studio to keep buried revelations about one Rock Hudson, and another actor was offered up as sacrifice.  A woman interviewed said that it was amazing it was kept hidden, considering Hudson picked up men from street corners.

    Otash was not the only intimidating figure working for Confidential.  His "colleagues" looked like a gathering of heavy villains or equally heavy cops.  Some were permanently armed!  But after a number of years terrorising Hollywood, one man decided to take a stand.  Robert Mitchum.  He sued Confidential over a story that he stripped naked at Charles Laughton`s home, smeared himself in ketchum and said that he was a hamburger.  The reality was claimed to have been very much raunchier,and too obscene even for Confidential.  Mitchum was said to have taken the action after bowing from family pressure.  The suit ran for considerable time and ultimately, Mitchum lost.  The magazine tried to get dirt on Mitchum to use against him, which actually was considerable but not pursued.  His actor brother, John,  was approached for information but tried to string them along.  He found himself facing Otash and his buddies, who really terrified him.  They probably would have been comfortable around Albert Anastasia!  He took his family away from Hollywood for a while.

    Despite the loss, other stars began doing the unthinkable; they started suing Confidential.  And they started winning in the courts.  One by one, it seemed that the men behind began receiving karma.  They were dying.  Editor Howard Rushmore shot his wife dead whilst in a taxi in New York, then ate a bullet himself.  Gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger.  The magazine folded in 1957 and so ended a Hollywood nightmare.