Steven Seagal Russian citizen, hair plug cautionary tale, international bro of Aikido, 21st century direct-to-video DVD icon, and one-time Hollywood blockbuster star whose ticket sales through the ’90s garnered more than $1 billion.
Seagal, no matter what’s befallen him in the past couple of decades, remains forever enshrined in the pantheon of B-tier 1980s and ’90s action stars, alongside the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, and Michael Dudikoff.
At his peak, Seagal was, quote, “no Harrison Ford,” according to Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, but still, he did well enough.
“You still dangerous?” “Mmmmmmm.”
In a real-life reversal of his typical vigilante roles, though, Seagal himself was once embroiled in a controversy brought forward by one of the United States’ chief legal authorities: the FBI.
One could say the FBI were… Out for Justice. They thought that Seagal considered himself… Above the Law. But even though Seagal was Under Siege, and may have had a journalist’s car Marked for Death, ultimately, the FBI made an Executive Decision not to attribute the car’s bullet-hole Exit Wounds to him. OK, enough joking around.
Officially, Seagal was never charged, but he was also never cleared, and has been all but blacklisted in Hollywood ever since. But even though Seagal never got the apology he believes he deserved, he will, to himself, always remain the ultimate badass.
Seagal’s extended saga with the law began with Anthony Pellicano, who was once Hollywood’s chief detective to the stars. But really, Pellicano was always more of a strongarm than an investigator, who, as The New York Times says, would drive around Los Angeles with a baseball bat in his trunk, in case he needed to conduct some impromptu intimidation.
In 2019 Pellicano was released from prison after a 15-year sentence for operating a vast surveillance network that conducted illegal wiretaps on actors such as Sylvester Stallone.
Pellicano worked with a lot of people, including Chris Rock, Courtney Love, and yes, Steven Seagal. That is, until the early ’90s, when Seagal said they stopped being on speaking terms.
A decade or so later, in 2002, Anita Busch, reporter for Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and later The New York Times, was working on a story covering, quote, “unflattering” information about Seagal and a former business associate. At the time, per The New York Times, Busch was also collaborating with The Los Angeles Times in a piece about, quote, “organized-crime links to the entertainment industry.”
On June 20, Busch found a note taped to her car in the morning telling her to stop the investigation, beside a dead fish and rose in a tin tray on the windshield. However, more disturbingly, Busch also found what appeared to be a bullet-hole in the windshield, next to the troubling note.
When Busch first reported the incident, she received little but mockery, especially from New Times in Los Angeles, a rival Los Angeles newspaper that has since gone out of business. In fact, she was even accused of having made up the entire incident. As Busch herself put it to The New York Times:
“I was telling the truth, and no one was believing me. People started questioning whether I had somehow lost my mind.”
Eventually, the FBI approached Seagal as a suspect in the case, and the actor immediately said it was absurd that he would hire Pellicano to terrorize Busch. “That’s not something that, uh, credible people talk about too often.”
In a public statement, Seagal blamed this accusation for crippling his career, saying: “These kinds of inflammatory allegations scare studio heads and independent producers — and kill careers.”
Admittedly, Seagal passed a polygraph test that indicated he was telling the truth, though some saw this as more of a publicity stunt than a demonstration of innocence. The investigation moved to Pellicano himself.
Six years later, in 2008, Busch finally took the stand in a trial whereby Pellicano and six associates were brought up on no less than 110 charges of spying and illegal wiretapping. As a result, Pellicano served time in prison all the way until 2019, when he was released. Seagal, for his part, got off completely free.
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