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In perhaps the most bizarre chapter of the Nikki Finke saga, photos and video of the famously camera-shy Hollywood journalist have been posted to NikkiStink.com, a mysterious website that has recently surfaced online. Adding to the mystery: 24 hours later, the photos and video had disappeared.
After teasing a placeholder message reading, “Something special is coming … trust us,” the site went live early Wednesday morning. “GOTJA!” a headline screams in red letters — a play on Finke’s “TOLDJA!” catchphrase — below which is embedded a parody music video and several recent photos of the reclusive Finke. Set to a version of Toni Basil‘s 1980s pop hit “Mickey,” the video features footage of Finke strolling to a car from the lobby of her West Hollywood condominium. A male vocalist sings “Hey Nikki!” and mean-spirited lyrics mocking Finke for her weight.
On Thursday, the YouTube video and paparazzi photos of Finke had been removed from the website. “It’s over … for now,” read a new message. “We think we’ve made our point. Should it become necessary to add even more powerful content we will.” Below that the site lists a series of Finke quotes in which she goes after celebrities for their physical appearance. (One example: “If he gets any fatter, he’s going to need his own channel,” an observation she once made about Nathan Fillion). The quotes are seemingly a response to widespread criticism of NikkiStink.com for brutally mocking Finke’s weight.
Taking credit for the website is a “group of concerned individuals” calling itself the Committee for Decency in Journalism. The anonymous group uses the online platform to list dozens of individuals it says Finke has maligned during her tenure running Deadline Hollywood and her recently launched site NikkiFinke.com and to issue Finke a stern warning in the form of an open letter.
“For years, you have threatened and bullied the Hollywood community into providing you information so that you could use it to ridicule, abuse and destroy people,” the letter reads. “You had an opportunity to be a decent person but instead chose to publicly attack industry people, co-workers and other individuals you did not even know without any regard for their personal lives and careers. You have reveled in the joy of letting the community know that people were being fired before they themselves even knew.”
“There is much more to be posted here in the next many months,” the website cautions. “However, what is posted and how much will be determined by your decision on whether or not you continue to hurt people.”
The site goes to great lengths to authenticate the footage. There are side-by-side photos comparing the nose and eyebrows of the woman in the video to those in Finke’s official headshot, which was taken decades ago and is one of only a handful of photos of Finke in circulation. “Right now you are thinking of a thousand ways to deny this is you,” the site taunts. “But really Nikki … it’s time to come clean. Like we said, we have been watching you for months.”
Capturing the elusive blogger on film has eluded Finke-watchers for years. In 2009, Gawker offered $1,000 in exchange for an authentic Finke photo. That bounty remains unclaimed. In 2011, the defunct iPad news app The Daily ran a telephoto shot of a blonde woman, asking, “Is this the most powerful woman in Hollywood?” Finke denied the photo was of her.
But according to two sources who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter on the condition of anonymity, one of whom has met Finke in person in recent years, the woman in the NikkiStink.com video is the real Nikki Finke. A call and email to Finke were not immediately returned.
To further strengthen its case, NikkiStink.com also hosts documents indicating that the building in the video is the same West Hollywood condo building where Finke’s former employer, Penske Media Corporation, purchased a unit for her in 2011 for $830,000.
Bret Easton Ellis, another resident in that building, incurred Finke’s wrath after tweeting in June 2012 that the two were neighbors. He later tweeted that Finke responded by calling Ellis’ agency, ICM, and threatening “to sue me AND to destroy them as well,” leading Ellis to hire litigation attorneys who fired off several cease-and-desist letters.
The video’s release could not come at a more sensitive time, with a deal reportedly nearing in Finke’s protracted legal dispute with PMC founder Jay Penske. Penske acquired Finke’s site Deadline Hollywood in 2009, but his acquisition of trade newspaper Variety three years later created an ugly rift between the two that led Finke to demand she be released from her contract.
Over Penske’s objections that she was violating a noncompete clause, Finke founded her own site, NikkiFinke.com, in June. There, amid her trademark snarky diatribes, Finke aired dirty laundry in posts like, “Penske Trying to Shut Me Down.”
But she has not posted to NikkeFinke.com since Aug. 11 — when she ran her obituary for Robin Williams — a sign that the parties are close to a settlement. According to recent reports in The New York Times and on IndieWire, one settlement scenario being discussed would require that Finke adhere to a 10-year noncompete clause barring her from reporting on entertainment news in exchange for a hefty payout plus ownership of her condo, which is currently property of PMC. Sources tell THR the amount paid to Finke would be in the seven figures.
Elsewhere on NikkiStink.com, the Committee for Decency in Journalism details what it claims are Finke’s worst professional offenses, which includes a list of about 90 individuals and organizations that Finke has attacked over the years. Among those singled out are Oprah Winfrey — whom Finke once called “the most insufferable hypocrite in Hollywood” — Sumner Redstone, hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, Jeff Zucker, Anne Hathaway, Sylvester Stallone and Conan O’Brien. Also named are Variety, Deadline Hollywood and THR.
Finke has long fiercely protected her anonymity. “[It’s] in part because it puts my sources in an awkward situation,” she explained of her social aversion in a 2009 NYT profile. Why Finke should be unmasked at this particular juncture — with her entertainment reporting days seemingly soon behind her — is unclear. Just as unclear: the identity of her online unmaskers.
Aug. 27, 9:44 a.m. Citations of Indiewire and independent sources were added to a paragraph about the terms of the settlement. THR regrets the error.
Aug. 28, 9:14 a.m. Story updated to reflect changes to NikkiStink.com, including the removal of the parody music video.
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Tracee Ellis Ross