Shandling testifies in Pellicano trial
EmptyGarry Shandling painted his former manager Brad Grey as a Svengali of sorts, keeping his contracts in lockdown and not allowing Shandling or his attorneys to look at them. That was the tantalizng gist of the testimony the comedian gave Thursday for the prosecution in the wiretapping and racketeering case against former private eye Anthony Pellicano and four others.
Shandling said during his hourlong testimony that he thought the contracts "were for one thing but turned out to be something else."
It was a dispute with those contracts and commissions that led Shandling to file a civil lawsuit in 1998 against Grey, who is now CEO of Paramount Pictures. Grey hired his longtime attorney Bert Fields to defend the case.
Prosecutors have not charged Grey and Fields with any crime, but both are on the list of potential witnesses.
Pellicano is accused of wiretapping and running a criminal enterprise with four others. Among them is former Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Mark Arneson, who allegedly ran illegal records searches on Shandling and several in his circle, including his ex-girlfriend; his accountant; and his best friend, fellow comedian Kevin Nealon. Nealon, Shandling said, also was repped by Grey and had been one of his main confidants during the litigation with the former manager.
Federal prosecutor Kevin Lally, who questioned Shandling, posted on an overhead projector a list of record searches allegedly done by Arneson in 1999.
Shandling, wearing a black suit with an open-necked white shirt, appeared uncomfortable as he was asked to look over the list and pick out how many times his name appeared on one of the pages.
"This bothers me as much as the first time I was shown this," Shandling said.
On cross-examination by Arneson's attorney, Chad Hummel, Shandling admitted that he was shown the list by prosecutors and was told it came from the LAPD database. He said he never was told what kind of information, if any, was obtained from those searches.
Although Shandling came face-to-face with the people accused of using illegal tactics to investigate him, it was his testimony regarding the breakdown in his longtime relationship with Grey that was the most explosive.
It was the first public testimony given in the dispute; the case was settled in 1999 before going to trial.
Shandling and Grey met 25 years ago. For 18 years, Grey was the comedian's manager, until the dispute involving commissions over his HBO series "The Larry Sanders Show," which starred Shandling. Grey was a producer on the show.
Shandling testified that his accountant, Warren Grant, brought to his attention that a portion of his commissions was going to Grey. Grant tried to get financial information for the show from Grey but ran into roadblocks. Shandling and his transactional attorney, Barry Hirsch, hit the same wall when they asked to see his contracts. He said Grey told him, "Anything you need to know is on a need-to-know basis." Shandling added, "And I needed to know."
Shandling testified that he later learned from Hirsch that Grey was "triple-dipping" on his commissions, including collecting producer fees for "Larry Sanders" as well as management fees for Shandling as a writer and as an actor.
"He was really looking out for his best interests and making the deals for himself," Shandling testified.
He later explained that the deal with HBO was made over the phone between him and HBO exec producer Michael Fuchs. When Shandling told Grey of the 13-episode deal, Grey said, "I'll take half," he testified.
"He had nothing to do with it," Shandling said. "He said, 'Let's do this as partners.' I trusted him."
Under cross-examination by Pellicano, who is representing himself, Shandling said he and his attorneys eventually were able to get copies of the contracts and found that some were forged, some were signed by employees of management agency Brillstein-Grey and some he signed under false pretenses early in his career and without an attorney.
Shandling testified that he had known of Pellicano through Grey five years earlier, before the contracts dispute surfaced. Grey, he said, told him, "With Bert Fields, you get Anthony Pellicano.
"I don't know what he meant by that," Shandling continued. "Grey said, 'I don't think you want to work that way.' "
After filing suit, Shandling testified that Grey and Fields mounted a public attack against him in the tabloids, which he said was "a spiritual test." Pellicano allegedly was part of that "smear campaign."
He said there was "a creep factor" in the situation as he wondered whether his phones were tapped and read stories about him that were untrue.
In response to Shandling's testimony, Fields said through a spokesman that he never knew of any wrongdoing by Pellicano.
"Mr. Fields responds to media when it's appropriate to his clients or the case, but as far as a campaign, there's certainly nothing there," spokesman Lonnie Soury said of Shandling's smear campaign claims against the veteran lawyer.
Said Grey: "I am extremely saddened by Garry's recollection of events dating back more than a decade. His representation is very different than what I remember and what I know to be true. Garry and I had a long personal and professional relationship, which frankly ended when he hired (attorney) David Boies and sued me and Brillstein-Grey for $100 million."
Pellicano also asked Shandling how he learned that the former private eye was involved in a smear campaign against him.
Shandling said he had a reporter or two mention it to him, including Anita Busch, former editor of The Hollywood Reporter.
Some giggles arose in the courtroom as Pellicano questioned Shandling about his career but couldn't seem to get the name of his HBO show correct: " 'The Larry Shandling' -- 'The Larry Shandler' -- 'The Larry Saunders Show.' "
Shandling later pushed Pellicano's buttons when the former private eye kept asking about "monumental changes" in the comedian's career.
Shandling said hosting "The Tonight Show" was monumental, but when Pellicano asked what was monumental after that, Shandling, known for his dry wit, quipped, "I consider monumental a big enough word to use one time."