Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Death threat, over-accessorized

Anthony Pellicano, a "celebrity private eye," was recently indicted on a smorgasborg of charges, including racketeering, unauthorized computer access, interception of wire communications and possession of a wiretapping device. By itself, this would not really trip my my carefully calibrated celebrity "news" trigger. However, the article contains this gem:

Pellicano's troubles began in 2002 when, prosecutors claim, he hired Alexander Proctor to threaten Anita Busch, then a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, who was working on a story about actor Steven Seagal and possible links to the Mafia. Proctor allegedly placed a dead fish with a rose in its mouth on Busch's car and made a bullet-sized hole in the windshield. He also left a sign with the word "stop," court documents show.
Picture the scene: Proctor, eager to please on his first job as a death-threat maker to the stars, has located the reporter's car and placed, let's say, a dead fish on it. Classic! The reference to the "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes" scene in The Godfather is unmistakable, and especially appropriate since the whole point here is that the reporter shouldn't mess with the mob.

But then doubt starts to creep in. What if, he thinks to himself, she thinks someone just dropped a fish on her car by accident? I'd better make it clear that this was purposeful. I know! I'll shoot through her windshield!

Bullet hole accomplished, he surveys his work again. Now he starts to worry that the overall message has gotten jumbled. The whole "sleeps with the fishes" thing isn't actually accurate given that nobody's has been killed yet, and the bullet hole has a similar connotative problem. One way to address that, he decides, is to spell out what threatened individual is supposed to do--in this case, stop investigating Steven Segal's links to the Mafia. Proctor finds a scrap piece of paper in his back seat and starts to write this down, but his printing is too big, so he shortens it to "Stop."

OK, now there's a fish, a bullet hole, and a sign that says "Stop." Surely the threat is now complete? Proctor isn't sure. He wants his work-product to be just perfect, and he's afraid he's neglected the fact that the reporter in this case is female. Is it really appropriate to threaten a woman with all these harsh symbols? A touch of femininity could make the overall scene more personalized, more attractive, and thus ultimately more frightening. He runs down to the corner store, buys a single rose, returns to the car and carefully arranges it in the fish's mouth.

When Coco Chanel said that you should look in the mirror before you leave the house and take one thing off, she may have thought she was talking about jewelry, but it is now clear that she was making a plea across the ages to Alexander Proctor, the Mary-Kate Olsen of the celebrity death threat world. Please, darling, less is more!

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