Remembering the Man Who Defended Hollywood’s First Tabloid

There’s a fantastic profile piece by Daniel Miller in the March 30th issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine about Arthur Crowley, an attorney who passed away last spring with barely a media mention. But in his heyday, Crowley was very much at the center of big-time Tinseltown divorces as well as a landmark battle between the studios and trailblazing bi-monthly gossip rag Confidential.

Miller retraces Crowley’s crafty tactics relating to the 1957 criminal libel trial of Confidential, an action brought by California Attorney General Pat Brown on behalf of the studios. With Hollywood charging that stories about Marlene Dietrich’s lesbianism and many other scandalous accusations were false, the attorney decided to try and force famous actors to take the stand:

Crowley tasked famed private eye Fred Otash with delivering more than 100 subpoenas. Many actors successfully avoided Otash, including Frank Sinatra and Gregory Peck, who headed for Las Vegas…

But not everyone was so lucky: Actor Tab Hunter, then a 26-year-old closeted heartthrob, was subpoenaed and ordered to appear in court… “I was scared to death,” Hunter says today. He came out publicly in his 2005 autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential. “You had to be under oath, and I don’t lie.”

In the end, a settlement was reached that put the kibosh on Confidential. All these years later, the attorney’s Holmby Hills mansion is on the market for a cool $23 million.

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.