Newly released FBI files show agency cast wide net in tailing celebrities
The portfolios contain innuendo and allegations, with the occasional revelation thrown in. The Beach Boys' penchant for psychedelic drugs and Sinatra's alleged sex parties with President John F. Kennedy are old news. But who knew of Liberace's reputed fondness for gambling?
Celebrities and criminals, rock stars and mobsters, athletes and artists -- scores of high-profile Americans have their very own FBI file, a bold-faced universe rife with dirt and scandal. It's no surprise that gossip columnists such as Walter Winchell turn up as sources.
The files chronicle mass marketer Walt Disney and mass murderer Ted Bundy, comic genius Groucho Marx and cosmic genius Albert Einstein. There are reports of canoodling (although the FBI prefers ''extramarital affairs"), heavy boozing, mob ties, drug use, and the rest of the requisite dish.
The sheer volume became clear in response to a Freedom Of Information Act request by the Associated Press for every FBI ''High Visibility Memorandum" filed between 1974 and 2005, allowing a lengthy traipse through the lives of celebrities from A (Louis Armstrong) to Kaye (Danny) to Z (Efrem Zimbalist). The AP's request produced more than 500 redacted memos totaling nearly 1,500 pages -- a stack of documents six inches high.
Tucked inside the pile of paperwork were FBI memos on spouses/stars Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball; football stars Dexter Manley and Walter Payton; mayors Marion Barry and Frank Rizzo; mobsters Carlo Gambino and Mickey Cohen.
The memos even contain information never made public. The February 2001 paperwork on film director Otto Preminger's file mentioned ''all of the information on Preminger's desire to be a source for the FBI is being withheld."
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