The Paper Chase
A gutsy new book from the creators of the Smoking Gun website tears pages right out of pop history
The Smoking Gun
It’s a hazardous job, telling the truth. William Bastone learned that the hard way when mobster Ralph Gigante pinned him against a wall and cordially suggested he stop following Vincent ”Chin” Gigante, his brother and reputed boss of the Genovese crime family. At the time, Bastone was working the organized-crime beat for ”The Village Voice,” where, by his own admission, he never wrote a kind word about anybody. ”I’ve been chased in cars, chased by guys with shovels,” he reminisces. ”The standard stuff.” Nervy stuff, too; but not half so nervy as publishing private documents from the files of Tom Cruise.
That’s Bastone’s latest job. Along with Daniel Green, 38, the 40-year-old journalist edits ”The Smoking Gun” (www.thesmokinggun.com), a Court TV-owned compendium of devastating documents from court records, law enforcement agencies, and the occasional reliable source. Past scores include Tim Allen’s 1997 sobriety test at the hands of the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., police; an invoice for ten ”#1 Mom” pendants purchased by rap impresario Suge Knight; even a 1998 invitation sent by a ”Roseanne Show” producer to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (for ”a platform from which you can speak about the injustices that you feel have been dealt to you and your family”). The pair, with designer Barbara Glauber, 38, will publish a book of the same name in September, but EW readers can jump the gun with these exclusive excerpts.
At first glance, it’s all about as thrilling as a Form 1040. But closer inspection reveals rare and raw on-the-record insights into the lavish lifestyles and wacky neuroses of Hollywood’s most enigmatic and spin-controlled denizens. Consider one call girl’s blow-by-blow account of an allegedly violent night with Jack Nicholson, or the 1961 police report filed after Norman Mailer stabbed his wife, Adele, with his pocket knife. Or peruse one of Bastone’s faves, an affidavit filed by Parker Stevenson in his divorce proceedings against spouse Kirstie Alley.
Of course, the ”Gun”’s targets are not only the most idiosyncratic of people, they’re also the most litigious. But Bastone isn’t worried: ”It’s not keeping us up at night. We’ve never put something on the site that we’ve had to take down. We’ve never had to retract a story. We’ve never been sued.” And besides, he notes, everyone’s interested in the facts. Even Ralph Gigante, who approached Bastone on the street a year after their encounter and whipped out…a newspaper clipping. ”He said, ‘You wrote something about me that wasn’t true,”’ recalls Bastone, who holds this episode as evidence that what really matters isn’t honor or shame or secrecy, but the integrity of the record — even in the case of a major celebrity.
The Smoking Gun