First off, you should know that this all started because I’ve been rewatching classic Star Trek episodes. Why are you not surprised?
Okay, so I’ve been re-watching classic Star Trek episodes on Netflix as I’ve been listening to the Mission Log podcast, and in each episode of the podcast they discuss one episode of the series. Recently, they (and I ) watched the 3rd season episode “And the Children Shall Lead,” and the podcast hosts discussed guest star Melvin Belli.
And here is where I took my first step down the rabbit hole.
You see, when I watched this episode as a kid I had no idea who was playing the “space angel” character. I just knew that he was an old guy in a sparkly muu-muu kind of outfit:
Then I watched it again recently, and I still didn’t know who he was, but at some point over the last year I’d heard that he was some kind of lawyer. So I listened to the podcast and looked him up online and — WOW! He was a CELEBRITY lawyer!
His clients included Mae West, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Tony Curtis, The Rolling Stones, Jim and Tammy Fae Bakker, and … Jack Ruby??? He wrote lots of books, did stuff in the courtroom that set precedents for future generations of lawyers, he stirred up controversy, he received a letter from someone who probably was the Zodiac Killer, and he had a huge FBI file … hmmmm …
So I went through my library catalog to see if I could get a copy of his autobiography but there weren’t any circulating copies available. However, I DID find my way to … his FBI file! Woo-Hoo!
So now I’ve spent several hours reading through these documents, and I’m not even halfway through. There’s a lot of quaint phrasing here — people are contacted “by airtel” and “telephonically”, one of Belli’s wives used to work as an “air line hostess”, he defended a judge who was accused of offering “leniency for love” to several women, and there’s mention of a client — a 17-year-old girl who was referred to as Errol Flynn’s “protoge”. Um … protoge? Really?
So then I had to look up Errol Flynn and the then 17-year-old Beverly Aadland who was with him when he died of heart failure (?) at age 50. Anyway, there’s a LOT of stuff available on Errol Flynn online, including a great article from The Hairpin:
Scandals of Classic Hollywood: In Like Errol Flynn
(Speaking of rabbit holes, if you read one of those “Scandals of Classic Hollywood” articles, you’ll want to read another, and another, and another …)
If you look up Beverly Aadland online, you can read an interview with her in which she admits that she lost her virginity to Errol Flynn when she was 15! Aigh! And it really wasn’t consentual! Aigh! But afterwards he apologized profusely, and she forgave him, fell in love him, and promised to marry him. So … that’s okay, then?
Oh, and FWIW, I happened to hear on the Stop Podcasting Yourself podcast (which is based in Vancouver, where Errol Flynn died) that he ACTUALLY died in a whorehouse there but his body was moved afterwards to try to preserve his reputation. I have no idea if this is true or not; I’m just throwing it out there.
Okay, so now I have to finish reading the Melvin Belli files. Then I have to check out Gimme Shelter (Belli appears in the film because he was the Rolling Stones’ lawyer during their disastrous concert at Altamont) and re-watch Zodiac (I saw this film already, but totally missed how the TV host who’s about to interview Belli about the letter he received from the Zodiac Killer mentions the Star Trek episode that started my research rabbit hole). I also have to read the Errol Flynn autobiography that I just reserved online, and … hmmmm … I wonder if Errol Flynn has an FBI file? Hey, whaddya know, he does!
And OMG, the rest of the old FBI files I could read could keep me reading for the rest of my life … talk about losing myself in research!