Fred Otash was a notorious private investigator in Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s. He spied on some of the biggest stars of the day from Rock Hudson to Marylin Monroe. In this video, we’ll take a look at some of the most scandalous secrets Fred Otash investigated and exposed.
Otash was born in 1922, the youngest of six children born to Lebanese immigrants. He grew up in Methuen, Massachusetts but left home at a young age to serve in the U.S. Marines during World War II. He returned from his time in the service and joined the Los Angeles Police Department. After he left the LAPD, he established the Fred Otash Detective Bureau on North Laurel Avenue in Hollywood. His star-studded list of clients included Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Bette Davis, and prominent figures from both major political parties.
He also worked as a fact-verifier for the celebrity gossip magazine Confidential. During his time working for Confidential, he revealed many celebrity secrets including outing Liberace. The team at Confidential also threatened to out movie star Rock Hudson. Hudson’s agent Henry Willson, stopped the publication by giving them secret information about other celebrities. It includes Tab Hunter who had apparently arrested at what the magazine called, “a pajama party,” insinuating it was a gay orgy.
Otash is quoted as having once said, “I’ll work for anybody but communists and I’ll do anything short of murder.” Mike Wallace, a journalist, once called him the most amoral man he had ever interviewed. He also served as the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in the 1974 film Chinatown, a movie about a morally ambiguous spy.
Otash wore a gun strapped to his ankle and drove a specially designed truck full of surveillance equipment. The American crime novelist, James Ellroy, who met with Otash several times before his death, once called him a con artist. Asserting that he did a lot of bad things. And it including revealing the sexual lives of celebrated people, causing them to endure shame, emotional trauma, and financial hardship. Otash is used as inspiration for many of Ellroy’s novels. It includes his book Shakedown in which the Otash-esque character describes himself as a rogue cop and “the hellhound who held Hollywood captive. The man with all the sicko secrets you irksome earthlings want to hear.”
In 2013, Otash’s daughter, Colleen, unveiled for the first time the contents from some his secret files. The records filled 11 boxes that were hidden inside a storage unit in the San Fernando Valley and has since revealed just how involved Otash was with exposing some of Hollywood’s biggest secrets. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the secrets he exposed.
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He Recorded Rock Hudson’s Gay Confessions
Rock Hudson was one of the most popular movie stars of all time who reigned during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Although he remained secretive about his sexual orientation throughout his life, many Hollywood insiders knew that Hudson was gay.
In 1958, Rock Hudson’s wife, Phyllis Gates, confronted him about his alleged homosexuality. Phyllis hired Fred Otash to secretly record the conversation. A transcript of the recording was found in the stash of secret files. In it, she grilled him about a Rorschach test that he took where he saw flowers and snakes, which apparently represented femininity and male anatomy. She claimed she wasn’t condemning him, but felt like he should seek help to change this tendency.
She also pointed out that he was quick with her in bed and asked if he was as sexually fast with boys. His answer was, “Boys don’t fit. This is why it lasts longer.” She then proceeded to accuse him of picking up boys off the street as he backpedaled and denied her allegations. It is speculated that she hired Otash to record the conversation so she could use it as blackmail against him.
She divorced him that same year, citing mental cruelty as the reason. Rock Hudson never publicly came out. In 1984, he was diagnosed with AIDS and was the first major celebrity to die from the illness. In this video, we’ll take a look at some of the most scandalous secrets Fred Otash investigated and exposed.
He Taped Marilyn Monroe the Night of Her Death
Marilyn Monroe hired Fred Otash to install recording equipment so she could tape her own phone calls. However, Otash admitted in his notes that he used the recording devices to spy on her. Allegedly, Howard Hughes also hired Otash to spy on John F. Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Peter Lawford, in order to get information that would discredit the democrats. Otash claimed it was only ever meant to be a way to get general information on behalf of Hughes and Nixon but Marylin Monroe became a by-product of the investigation. Monroe had romantic ties with both John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Otash claimed he listened in on JFK and Marilyn having sex.
He also was apparently conducting surveillance on the movie star on the day of her death. He wrote in his notes that he listened to Marilyn Monroe die. Only a few hours before her death, Otash claims he listened in on a violent argument between Monroe and Robert Kennedy and Peter Lawford. She was screaming, saying she was passed around like a piece of meat and claiming Kennedy had made false promises to her. According to Otash, she was in the bedroom and Kennedy tried to muffle her with a pillow on the bed.
When she eventually calmed down, they left her. Otash only learned she had died when Lawford called in the early hours of the next morning and asked him to remove any incriminating evidence from her house. These alleged tapes that Otash wrote about in his files have disappeared. And also there is no record saying specifically what evidence was removed from her home.
There has always been some speculation concerning her death, though authorities determined it was a self-administered drug overdose.
He Was Judy Garland’s Guard
Judy Garland hired Otash to protect her after she separated from her third husband, Sid Lift, in 1963. He acted as Garland’s body guard, even moving in with her and befriended her daughter, Liza Minnelli.
Fred wrote of this experience in his 1976 autobiography, Investigation Hollywood. He said after he moved in, he quickly realized Garland was acting strange and was likely abusing some sort of narcotics. Fred took action and locked up all of the alcohol in the house and searched for the pills. He stated, “You wouldn’t believe the cleverness of that woman in stashing her drugs so nobody could find them.”
According to Otash, there was a wide variety of drugs and she had cut holes in mattresses to hide them and even had a secret way of hiding some in the sink pipes by attaching an invisible string and pulling them up when she wanted them. Otash flushed all of the drugs down the toilet. Garland was not happy about this but he assured her that he was protecting her because narcotics and alcohol were the best evidence her husband could produce in court.
He Cleared Lana Turner of Murder
Otash might have also involved in the murder of the famous gangster Johnny Stompanato. Stompanato was dating the movie star Lana Turner at the time. On the night of the mobster’s death, Lana Turner’s attorney, Jerry Geisler, called Otash and asked him to come to Turner’s house.
When police called to her home, they found the body of Stompanato who had stabbed to death. Lana’s teenage daughter took the blame, claiming Stompanato had attacked her mother and she was trying to defend her. In court, this explanation accepted and the death ruled as justifiable homicide.
There is evidence to suggest that Otash arrived on the scene of the crime before the police and that he removed the knife from Stompanato’s body and placed it in Turner’s daughter’s hand, assuming Lana Turner was really the one who had murdered him.
Bette Davis Hired Him to Spy on Her Cheating Husband
The famous starlet, Bette Davis, once hired Otash to spy on her husband, Gary Merrill. She was in the process of divorcing him and two men who worked for Otash ended up testifying in court against him. And claiming they saw Merrill leaving hotels with other women.
The End of Otash
Fred Otash was the leading private investigator during the Golden Age of Hollywood. He continued working as a P.I. until his license revoked by California’s Bureau of Investigators because he convicted of partaking in the doping of a horse at the Santa Anita racetrack. The felony later downgraded to a misdemeanor but his California P.I. license was suspended indefinitely. He then moved to New York where he continued his work as a private investigator for a year until he wrote his first book, Hollywood Confidential.
Later in his life, he became head of security at the cosmetics company, Hazel Bishop, Inc. The company moved him to Miami but he eventually made his way back to Hollywood and managed the Hollywood Palladium in the 1970s and 1980s.
On the night of Otash’s death in 1992, he left his West Hollywood apartment to attend a dinner to celebrate his first completed draft of his unpublished book, Marilyn, the Kennedys, and Me. When he returned home later that night, he called a taxi to take him to the airport. No one knows where he was planning on going in the early hours of the morning. But when the taxi arrived, there was no Otash. The doorman called his neighbors who entered the apartment and found him lying dead under the kitchen table. He had died of a heart attack. Shortly after the discovery of the body, Otash’s attorney and executor arrived and removed the apartment of its contents.
All of his tapes and most of his files have seemingly vanished forever. There may still be a chance of discovering some of the lost files and finding out more of Hollywood’s biggest secrets. Which of these incidents surprised you most? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this video, make sure you give it a like and subscribe to our channel if you haven’t already.