Private eye faults bodyguard in crash

September 07, 1997|By GREGORY KANE

DON Crutchfield dived into the chicken salad, telling his stories between bites. In his navy blue sports jacket, blue polo shirt, blue jeans and brown loafers, he looked every bit like Joe Average. And you can bet that's the way he wanted it.

Crutchfield, you see, has to blend in. He's a private investigator, a job he's had for the past 35 years.

"I once tailed a woman for six months," Crutchfield said, "and she never knew I was tailing her." In that incident Crutchfield was following the woman to get evidence for her husband of her infidelity.

"I never finished the case," Crutchfield continued. "The guy I was working for leaped from a window to his death. I always suspected she pushed him."

All these goings-on occurred out Los Angeles way. Crutchfield is not only a private investigator. He is, he claims, the "private investigator to the stars." He's also worked as a bodyguard and has crossed paths with the paparazzi types who have recently been blamed in Princess Diana's and Dodi Fayed's deaths.

"I've dealt with the paparazzi," Crutchfield said. "I've dealt with them in every way you could imagine."

The easiest way to deal with such characters, Crutchfield believes, is to make some concessions to them and let them take some pictures.

"Eddie Murphy invited some paparazzi to his wedding reception and let them have cake and champagne," Crutchfield recalled. "What was the result of that? Great pictures. And they [the

paparazzi] all left after the reception. As a private eye and bodyguard, I try to accommodate to these guys if they'll be gentlemen. But they must go home afterward. If not, I'll have them arrested. Or I'm going to deal with them myself, and they don't want that."

Crutchfield responded with disdain to the notion that he was a Monday morning quarterback, but he said part of the blame for the tragic crash lies with the bodyguard.

"I would never have let that car reach those speeds," he emphasized. "Unless the paparazzi were doing something life-threatening, there was no reason for it. It's inconceivable to me to allow something like that to happen."

How would he have handled the situation? According to Crutchfield, there would have been no chase in the first place.

"I would have flattened their tires," Crutchfield said. "Again and again. I would have offered them pictures if they acted like gentlemen, but, if they didn't take the offer, all they would have gotten was a mechanic's bill."

Crutchfield was in Baltimore Wednesday as part of a 40-city tour to promote his book "Confessions of a Hollywood P.I." His claim that he is a "P.I. to the stars" is no idle boast. Among his clients have been Charles Bronson, the Beatles, Jody Foster, Marlon Brando and Jerry Lewis. Judy Garland hired him to protect her from a homicidal fan. Carroll O'Connor hired him to find the man who sold the actor's son, Hugh O'Connor, the drugs that would eventually kill him.

Being a private eye is what Crutchfield wanted to do since he was 14. His role model was Nick Duber, a man who was the "original private eye to the stars." Duber's son and Crutchfield were best friends. They both grew up in and hung around the movie sets in Culver City, which was near the MGM studios.

"At the age of 10, I sat on Judy Garland's lap and she sang 'Over the Rainbow' to me," Crutchfield remembered. "At 22, she sat on my lap, and I was her bodyguard."

The Beatles were early clients. He helped their manager, Brian Epstein, recover his briefcase. Inside it were some of Epstein's contracts, $20,000 and "drugs for the Beatles," Crutchfield recalled.

The man who stole the briefcase called Epstein demanding $25,000 for its return. Crutchfield urged Epstein not to pay it if he didn't want the guy blackmailing him the rest of his life. Instead, Crutchfield had the guy arrange a drop and nabbed him with the help of two policemen.

Epstein identified the briefcase and its contents - it was minus the $20,000 - but denied the bag of marijuana and cocaine was his. Officers assumed the drugs belonged to the last guy who had the briefcase - their suspect.

"They dragged this guy away screaming," Crutchfield said. "He did time for the Beatles' drugs."

Crutchfield's book is filled with such anecdotes, some amusing, some serious. Those who believe O.J. Simpson was incapable of losing his temper and murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman will find Crutchfield's chapter on the former football star revealing reading.

But there is one major lesson we can all learn from Crutchfield's book: Celebrities are basically just like the rest of us. They just have more money. And money and fame are no substitute for integrity and a sense of ethics.

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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