7.8 C
New York
Friday, April 19, 2024

Sex Tapes, Hush Money, and Hollywood’s Economy of Secrets

When Georgia reported its first coronavirus case, Amber and Vinson had about three months of expenses saved. 

The couple met in high school in 2006, in a Yahoo chat room about hip hop. (Amber and Vinson have asked us to use their first names only.) She gave up a college scholarship and moved to Atlanta to be with him; he dropped out of college when she became pregnant. For more than a decade, he made sandwiches at Subway while she gave birth to two more kids and drifted through call center jobs. They were in love, but like most millennials they had little financial stability.

Then, in 2018, Amber landed a job at Public Storage. The gig involved overseeing auctions for the stuff left behind in unpaid storage units. Speculators could, if lucky, quadruple their money by flipping the contents. It got her thinking. As an employee, she wasn’t allowed to participate in the auctions, but since she and Vinson weren’t married, he was free to bid. 

The trick, the couple soon discovered, was to find the right buyer for each object you’d scored if you won an auction. Not everyone may see the value in film production lights or a particular brand of streetwear, but if you did some digging online, you might find someone who would pay a lot more than a pawn shop would. Amber and Vinson felt they’d found something they were good at. They talked about saving for a house—that is, until the pandemic hit, their car broke down, the auctions got canceled, and schools went virtual, meaning all three of their sons were home, 24/7. 

Two months into lockdown, Vinson was combing through stuff he’d bought in previous auctions and hadn’t sold yet. He found an old BlackBerry and fired it up. There, he saw photos of an engagement ring, then a funeral, and then, was that a naked woman? He looked closer. Yes, it was a naked woman; it was a famous naked woman, strutting around, and giving a blow job to a famous naked man, in a series of short video clips.

He showed the videos to Amber, and she wondered if they might be worth something. But where would they find the right buyer?

Amber thought for a moment. The biggest celebrity sex tape she could remember was Paris Hilton’s. Hadn’t that home video turbocharged the socialite’s career and made millions of dollars? Who was behind that, anyway? A few Googles later, she had her answer: a man named Kevin Blatt, who called himself a “celebrity sex tape broker.” She squinted at the avatar on his Instagram profile. He looked like a villain in an action flick, staring into the camera over the top of his black Ray-Bans.

At 2:31 am on May 14, 2020, she DM'd him. 

“Hey Kevin I have a sex tape involving some celebrities who are no longer together but want some advice on making the most money.”

As the couple went to sleep that night, Amber assumed they were wasting their time. A big shot like Kevin Blatt was never going to write back. Maybe that Instagram account wasn’t actually his. She noticed it didn’t even have a blue checkmark.

That same afternoon, a reply appeared: “Can u send me a number to call you?”

A movie star’s agent will never take a call from a stranger, but Kevin Blatt reads every message and follows up on every tip. You never know who might have the goods. Over the past two decades, Blatt has become a one-man clearinghouse for everything seedy in Hollywood—the fixer you call when you want to see whether the thing you have that could humiliate a famous person is worth anything. 

“If they have something really bad, enough to jeopardize a sponsorship or a new TV show, we try to turn it into money,” Blatt tells me. “Everybody gets paid if they come to me and we do it the right way.”

Most of this content is never released; scandal is generally worth the most to a star trying to protect their reputation, so Blatt’s primary hustle is to offer it back to the person it might embarrass—in exchange for cash and silence. It’s often a video, but he has also facilitated arrangements for text-message screenshots, pill bottles, photographs, and even just access to a newsworthy person telling their story. He figures most of what people bring him, around 60 percent, is evidence of infidelity; 10 percent is about drug use; 10 percent exposes some closeted sexual behavior, a fetish, or a queer identity unknown to the public; and 20 percent is what Amber and Vinson had: images of prominent people naked or having sex.


Dirt in hand, Blatt serves as a bridge between the lawyers, the tabloids, the celebrities, and the people with something to sell—pocketing a percentage or a consulting fee from as many of those parties as possible. Each deal is unique, and he is often surprised by how a situation plays out, but his goal is to capitalize on clickability, leveraging either the story or a star’s dread about its potential for virality to make as much money as he can. 

Over the years, he’s helped suppress proof of a married rapper getting head at a club; a former boy-bander’s penchant for drugs and sex dungeons; an entertainer’s alphabetized collection of hardcore BDSM porn; and two professional athletes playing video games, staring at the screen, while one woman goes back and forth performing oral sex on both. Guitarist Dave Navarro once told New York magazine that he was grateful to Blatt for helping him keep a bondage tape off the internet.

Blatt's sense of what will horrify and titillate the masses has allowed him to survive successive trends in technology and media, while both the stars and the moral standards we accuse them of violating have changed. He got his start in the scammy, spammy days of the ’90s, when pornography dominated the web, until the explosion of the Paris Hilton tape taught him how to manipulate a star’s pain for his gain. He is, in some ways, the Forrest Gump of 21st-century scandal, popping up over and over on the sidelines of new cultural lows and milestones in outrage. When reality TV was ascendant, he tricked Dr. Phil into letting him on air by claiming he was bankrolling a show where male virgins would compete to be the first to have sex. In the heydey of celebrity gossip sites, Blatt helped Tila Tequila’s ex leak a pornographic video to Radar Online. The early social media star promptly sued him. (The case was settled several months later.) In the wake of revelations about Harvey Weinstein, when many women were coming forward with #MeToo stories, Blatt represented a woman who said she’d felt pressured to give a mogul a blow job after a photo shoot.

When he isn’t screening clients or strategizing with lawyers, Blatt swans around Los Angeles in his white BMW, getting stoned, playing golf, and befriending bellhops who might one day prove useful. He dresses like a mafioso, or a cheesy dad: tracksuits, polo shirts, flat caps. Journalist Kurt Loder once described him as “flamboyantly unsavory.” He loves diners and hip hop and saying just the right thing to a celebrity when he spots one in public—even a minor one—to show he recognizes them, he appreciates them, and he remembers they were wearing that exact jacket on Jimmy Kimmel last night, because it looked great then and it looks great now. He’s slick and ingratiating to everybody. It works. People like him. He’s friends with Oakland rapper Too $hort; they did a podcast together.

Some of Blatt’s clients are just strangers looking for money, but many come from a star’s entourage or past. In 2017 it was a friend of Kevin Hart’s who came to Blatt with some videoclips of the comedian cheating on his wife. “This night he had over 10 women in his room,” Hart’s friend wrote in an email describing the tapes. “Of course his friends were there as well, but all 10 women wanted Kevin Hart.”

When the economy slumps, as it did during the Great Recession or as it has now during the pandemic, Blatt attracts more business. People look for valuables to sell off. Blatt’s first step is to vet the content. Footage of famous people fornicating is a legally complex commodity, to say the least, and Blatt has to navigate several potential hazards to avoid liability. He once felt compelled to flee to Mexico to evade possible charges of child pornography, after someone told him a video he’d acquired, allegedly of Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester, had been shot when she was a minor. (Eventually he figured out that the release date of a DVD in the background of the video proved the woman who appeared to be Meester was over 18.)


Last May he video-chatted with Amber, and she showed him what was on the BlackBerry. Blatt thought the situation seemed promising. For starters, they had gotten the phone legally; if it had been stolen, or even found at a bar, the videos wouldn’t be worth as much. They might even bring charges of theft, especially if someone had filed a police report. It also helped that both celebrities in the BlackBerry videos were visibly aware they were being recorded. If they had been shot with a hidden camera, use of the videos would violate their right to privacy—unless it was recorded in a public place.

Then Amber mentioned via DM that she’d been in contact with the famous man in the video, whose abandoned storage unit Vinson had acquired at auction—and she’d offered to sell the guy some of his stuff back.

“We told him 20,000,” she wrote. “He said we were crazy.”

Blatt balked. If he or a client names a price for a compromising video or image before the celeb does, asking for a specific amount in exchange for concealing the evidence, that’s extortion—a felony in both Georgia and California.

“Ah. So he already knows u have his stuff,” Blatt replied. “Does he know u have the sexy tape?”

“No he doesn’t know that.” 

“OK, good,” Blatt wrote. “Let’s not talk to anyone.”

This is the moment in a case when Blatt aims to resolve things without his own attorney. So he heads for the celeb’s rep. This can get dicey, but it can also mean he gets a bigger cut. He once flew to meet a billionaire's lawyer and his head of security, he says, to talk about some photographs of the tycoon with two sex workers. The lawyer took out a yellow legal pad, wrote “$50,000 cash now, $2,000 a month for ten years,” and passed it across his desk. Blatt thought of the potential tax liability and wrote the name of a company he controls underneath the offer, asking if the money could be sent directly there.

“Anything you want, partner,” the man responded aloud, Blatt recalled.

Next, Blatt was asked to remove all his clothes, so the head of security could ensure he wasn’t wearing a wire. Blatt then gave half the initial lump sum to the two sex workers and took the other half for himself. He flew back to Los Angeles that night with $25,000 in cash hidden in his shoes and his luggage. If he had brought in a lawyer to represent him on this deal, he might have gotten 10 percent or less of the eventual $290,000, instead of half. 

For Amber and Vinson’s videos, Blatt looked up the famous man’s manager on IMDBPro, gave him a call, and said something like, “I’m assuming your client might not want this out there.” The manager was appalled. He said he wasn’t interested.

Next, Blatt sent several messages to the woman’s representatives. He thought he could get Amber and Vinson money for agreeing to destroy the BlackBerry. But he wouldn’t advise them to upload the videos anywhere or charge for access.

Contrary to what many people believe about celebrity sex tapes, it is not legal in most states, California included, to distribute pornographic content without the subjects’ consent. You need to have signatures on two key pieces of paperwork: a copyright release, generally from whoever held the camera, and a release from each person onscreen, affirming they are over 18. 

At least that’s if you want to stay within the lines of the law. But, of course, the internet is an anarchic bazaar, filled with unmonitored corners. Even as the web has grown increasingly corporate over the past 25 years, there’s always a frontier—Silk Road to subreddits to Parler—where illicit nudes can spread. Blatt knows this. The stars know this. Call it the backdoor release threat.

The front-door release threat would be to share a video with a media outlet, which then, as protected under the First Amendment, could report on its existence and describe what it depicts. There is a lot of content—say, a racist remark or evidence of an affair—that a celebrity wouldn’t want to see mentioned in the press, let alone circulating on 8chan.

This was what Blatt was hoping the woman in the BlackBerry videos might fear. In the years since her relationship with the man in the video had ended, she had become more famous than he was. She had more to lose. For people like her, Blatt says, “You’re buying peace of mind.”

Blatt grew up in Cleveland in the 1980s. It was there he honed his skills at getting what he wanted. To get a private tour of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before it opened to the public, he affected a British accent and said he was George Clinton’s tour manager. When he and his younger brother Darren sold posters door to door, they told customers they were giving them a discount; they were in fact marking up the price.

In 1996 the Blatt brothers got in their Toyota Corolla, headed to Southern California, and vowed never to go back. To fit in, Blatt dyed his hair blond before a job interview. He got the gig: handling customer service for a teenager making $100,000 a month working out of his parents’ duplex selling server space where websites could store their files. “The kid paid me $50,000 a year, and I pretty much did nothing,” Blatt says.

The Blatts soon found the online porn crowd. The adult industry was pioneering new tech like videostreaming and web credit-card processing. Blatt worked in marketing, helping dozens of clients promote each other’s sites through links that paid a commission for referring customers. The money was easy, and the rules were loose. 

“People didn’t realize your credit card would get whacked,” Blatt says. In other words, the adult sites he worked for would rack up false charges in the hope that customers would be too embarrassed by their original purchase to report the fraud.

Shame, he noted, could be lucrative.

Darren and Kevin Blatt began going by the monikers D-Money and K-Bizzle (or KB) and throwing parties in Vegas around the Adult Video News awards. Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, and others flew in to perform and mingle with porn stars.

Blatt became the guy major newspapers would call for comment on X-rated news; when The New York Times wrote about penis enlargement pills and “email hucksterism,” Blatt said, “Who is going to take a penis pill maker to court and go in front of a jury of their peers to say ‘I bought a bottle of pills to enlarge my penis, and they didn't work?’” It was 2003. Late that summer, when some Seattle-based adult industry entrepreneurs acquired a video of hotel-chain heiress Paris Hilton having sex with her ex-boyfriend, a serial starlet seducer and gambler named Rick Salomon, Blatt was the person they called to do publicity.

From a young age, Hilton had been widely despised for her family’s wealth and the party-hard lifestyle it allowed her. But she also understood that vitriol sells, so the 22-year-old socialite played along, signing up for a Fox reality show, The Simple Life, that allowed her to emphasize her dumb-blonde persona.

Her rising fame made her a target for paparazzi and anyone looking to hawk information about her personal life. Salomon says he began to consider selling a tape he and Hilton had made while having sex two years earlier after Hilton crashed his Escalade and didn’t apologize. He even met with porn magnate Larry Flynt. But before Salomon could complete a deal, one of his friends swiped the tape and sold it to the Seattle guys for $50,000. The Seattle guys created a new company called Marvad to handle the Hilton tape, a common practice for new ventures in the porn world. (Marvad's founders did not respond to requests for comment.)

Marvad never intended to stream the video or sell it to the public, because, again, without the permission of Hilton and Salomon, that would be illegal. Instead, as Marvad’s former attorney Derek Newman confirms, the idea was to announce to the media that the company intended to sell the tape as a ploy to bring traffic to Marvad's website, Sexbrat.com.

In order to get news coverage about the tape, Blatt needed to prove to journalists that the company did in fact have a raunchy recording of Paris Hilton. At the beginning of November 2003, a month before The Simple Life was set to premiere, he emailed a three-minute clip of highlights to someone at US Weekly and someone at Entertainment Tonight.

What happened next was in part an accident, but it would lay the groundwork for the rest of Blatt's career. The journalists forwarded the video to their friends and coworkers, who in turn sent it to everyone they knew. News of the tape’s existence hit the tabloids, and soon people were crowding around to watch what Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger described as Hilton’s “raging indifference to being porked; her face vacant, her eyes glowing eerily due to the night-vision equipment.”

It quickly became, Blatt says, “the videotape seen around the world.”

In a recent documentary, Hilton described the experience as “like being electronically raped.”

By mid-November, roughly two weeks after Blatt sent the clip out over email, Salomon was suing Marvad, Hilton, and her parents; Marvad and Salomon were each suing the guy who had stolen and sold the tape; and Hilton got Marvad to give her its copy in exchange for her agreeing not to sue. Blatt did interviews with 20/20 and the Associated Press. “Paris Hilton” became the most-searched term on Google and Lycos. And many people assumed the tape’s release had been orchestrated by Hilton herself to promote The Simple Life. Hardly anyone cared whether Hilton’s or Salomon’s privacy had been violated. Even feminist writer Rebecca Traister, then a young culture critic, called the pair “narcissist strivers dying to get noticed” in Salon, mocking Hilton’s thin body as looking “best” when the camera’s “graininess adds texture and contour.”

At one point, Blatt did a phone interview with Howard Stern. According to Blatt, the folks at Marvad said they’d give him $1,000 for every time he said the name of their website, Sexbrat.com, on air, and $2,000 for every time he got Stern to say it.

“What did you think of it?” Blatt asked, about the highlights clip.

“I thought it sucked,” Stern said. 

No matter. Blatt managed to say “Sexbrat.com” 13 times and got Stern to say it five times.

After the three-minute clip went viral, Salomon’s brother set up a website on servers based in the Czech Republic: Trustfundgirls.com. The site began selling the full tape without Hilton’s permission. It promised “THE ORIGINAL TRUST FUND GIRL IN HER RAREST, HOTTEST MOMENTS.” Fifty dollars got you five plays.

As the lawsuits escalated, Salomon called around to people in the porn industry and found himself talking with D-Money, or Darren Blatt. Darren says he connected Salomon with people who could help him sell the tape legally and convinced him to hire Blatt to help do the publicity. All they needed was Hilton’s signature.

Hilton’s lawyer called the suggestion that her client allow the tape to be sold legally “beneath contempt,” but by the spring of 2004 Hilton had agreed to settle. (Hilton declined to comment.) The sex tape, now branded as 1 Night in Paris, was then released commercially, both online and in adult video stores.

After all, The Simple Life was a hit. The fourth episode attracted almost a million more viewers than the live interview with President George W. Bush talking about the capture of Saddam Hussein that aired at the same time. Within a few months, Hilton had a book deal, a fragrance line, a second season, and a series of high-profile guest spots on TV.

The tape eventually did over $20 million in sales.

For Blatt, the whole saga drew a blueprint he could follow time and again: generate as much press around a sex tape as necessary, thus pressuring the celebrity to either agree to a full-scale commercial release or agree to pay him to make it go away. Lawsuits from the star only further publicized the tape’s existence, Blatt realized, increasing demand—and value.

Whether the public was disgusted, turned on, reveling in schadenfreude, or merely curious, they always wanted to know more. Blatt kept his adult industry clients, but he was now heedful of a much bigger product: attention. He began reexamining the factors that led to the Hilton media storm and set about replicating them. He started with reality television.

In 2005, Blatt appeared in a documentary called American Cannibal. The film was supposedly about the making of a reality show where contestants would be abandoned without food and expected to, yes, eat each other to survive. “If that doesn’t get press, I don’t know what the fuck will,” Blatt says onscreen. He was featured for his purported $100,000 investment in the reality show. At the end of the documentary, a girl even appears to die during the filming of the reality show. But of course that didn’t happen. Most of the documentary was staged—a sort of reality show about a reality show—with the producers inventing scenarios and the participants ad-libbing dialog. Blatt wasn’t funding anything; he was paid to appear in the doc. Later, when American Cannibal premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, Blatt told the New York Post he intended to sue the producers. He didn’t; the whole thing was a publicity stunt, and the producers were in on it. But that news helped pack the screening.

American history is filled with carnival barkers and snake-oil marketers who put showmanship before truth. Blatt was the right marketer in the right circus. Soon clicks would come to determine what gets put in front of our eyeballs. When media follows consumer desire, audiences get outrage and vulgarity—and Blatt was more than happy to deliver. 

In the wake of the Hilton tape, every Hollywood hanger-on with a racy video got in touch with Blatt. Someone brought him decade-old footage of Cameron Diaz topless at a BDSM-themed photo shoot. The photographer even seemed to have Diaz’s signature on a release. It turned out to be forged, and he had already asked the actress for at least $2.5 million, making the situation a no-go. Still, Blatt got Diaz’s lawyers to hire him as a consultant. The photographer went to jail, and Blatt began to see new ways to insert himself into a drama and make money. 

Not long after, according to Blatt, he met with two men about a video of Colin Farrell having sex with a Playboy model. When he asked to see the tape, the men blindfolded him, put him in the back of a car, and drove to a house in Laurel Canyon for a discreet screening. A day or two later, Blatt says he got a call from a rival he didn’t know he had: the self-proclaimed “sultan of sleaze,” David Hans Schmidt.

Schmidt was a Phoenix-based scandal broker 10 years Blatt’s senior, a blowhard who had helped two women linked to Bill Clinton, Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones, get spreads in Penthouse, and who had arranged the release of a sex tape featuring the late Dustin Diamond (“Screech” from Saved by the Bell). According to Blatt, Schmidt was not pleased to hear that Blatt had also been shown the Farrell tape. “You better step off, or you might get hurt,” Schmidt bellowed into the phone. Schmidt then indicated he had several guns.

Blatt agreed to back off, but he reached out to Farrell’s agents. When copies of the tape appeared online, they hired Blatt to help track down the distributors. This impulse to follow the law and help the VIP would distinguish Blatt from Schmidt, who later agreed to plead guilty to extorting Tom Cruise over stolen photos from his wedding to Katie Holmes and hanged himself.


In 2006, Blatt heard from a childhood friend, Farley Cahen, who was working at Adult Video News. He was calling about a tape. The people in it didn’t sound like celebrities, but Blatt agreed to meet his friend and the person selling the tape for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. According to Blatt and Cahen, a guy named Ray J, the brother of R&B singer Brandy, pulled up in a Lamborghini, sat down, and proceeded to tell Blatt and Cahen about a video of him having sex with a woman Blatt had never heard of: Kim Kardashian.

“She’s gonna be bigger than Paris!” Ray J insisted, according to Blatt and Cahen. “I had to beg her not to release this for free.”

“Don’t release it for free.” Blatt said. But he hesitated to get involved. Kardashian was no one, and Ray J was no one.

Cahen ended up advising Ray J around the decision to release the tape through the pornography company Vivid Entertainment. (Through his manager, Ray J declined to comment.)

A few months later, in March 2007, Vivid released an edited version of the tape under the title Kim Kardashian: Superstar. It made over $50 million. Blatt was annoyed—“I don’t like to lose,” he says—though he was impressed by how Kardashian managed to distance herself: filing a lawsuit against Vivid that she quickly dropped and denying to this day that she had cooperated with it coming out. (When asked for comment, Kardashian’s lawyer maintained that she had strongly objected to the tape’s release.)

The Kardashian tape came at a turning point for porn, away from professionals releasing expensive content and toward amateurs uploading their own videos for free. With his adult website clients running out of cash, Blatt came to rely on his gossip work more and more, toggling between promoting and squelching a story. He started peddling scoops to tabloids, in particular Harvey Levin’s TMZ. He soon found that when he saw an actress at lunch and called it in, he got paid. When he arranged for a site to publish an image—such as when Whitney Houston died and Blatt paid someone to sneak into her room at the Beverly Hilton and take photos of the bathtub where it happened—he got paid.

For each new story the site published based on information he supplied (the one about a sex tape’s existence, then the one about the supposed bidding war over the tape, then the one about the lawsuit over the tape), he got paid. Never mind that he was the one manufacturing the story lines. (TMZ declined to comment.) And if the anxious star hired a lawyer to make sure the full tape never made it online, he might get a consulting fee and a cut of the hush money.

Beginning in 2011, Blatt spent nearly two years milking Charlie Sheen’s descent from highest-paid television actor in history to drug-addled sideshow who ranted about “winning” and “tiger blood.” He represented three different porn stars who partied with Sheen, even flying with one to New York to go on Howard Stern and Inside Edition.

He sold a story about a tape of Nadya “Octomom” Suleman whipping a man dressed as a baby in a ball pit. He flew to Oakland to meet a guy at a Kinko’s and watch a tape of Tupac Shakur getting oral sex in the middle of a party.

But by the early 2010s, the market for celebrity sex tapes and the public narratives around them were getting pretty confusing. With the porn industry in free fall, companies were releasing more “celebrity sex tapes”—the wrestler Chyna, Teen Mom Farrah Abraham—all of which were supposedly stolen, none of which actually were. Between lawsuits and denials, the average person had little understanding of what was real and what was legal. In 2008, Blatt sold TMZ a story about a sex tape featuring Austin Powers star Verne Troyer (aka Mini-Me) and his then girlfriend, Ranae Shrider. Troyer sued TMZ, Blatt, and Shrider for a combined $40 million. Blatt says that Shrider brought him the tape. But Shrider tells me that Troyer, who died in 2018, gave Blatt the tape and filed the lawsuit for attention, to boost a movie that came out the same week. She also says she signed away her copyright and the paperwork affirming she was over 18, making it legal to air clips.

It was in this environment, in 2012, that the website Gawker chose to publish a clip of Hulk Hogan having sex with his friend’s wife. Hogan was allegedly not aware he was being filmed: an invasion of privacy. No one had signed away the copyright. Hogan sued. Gawker editor A. J. Daulerio had thought, probably like many members of the public, that all celebrity sex tapes were fair game—and testified to this belief in court.

Blatt testified at the Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker trial too. In a video deposition, he explained to the court what he does and how most celebrity sex tapes never get released, because, like Hogan’s, they lack the proper legal documentation. 

Hogan won the trial. Gawker was shut down. Blatt’s work continued. 

By 2017, Blatt felt he understood all he needed to know about how Tinseltown worked. Then The New York Times and The New Yorker published explosive investigations about Harvey Weinstein. Blatt once again found himself trying to shape-shift.

In the months after the #MeToo movement took off, his business increased fivefold, as more and more women decided to remind influential men about their past transgressions.

Then, as the reporting around Hollywood’s harassment and abuse problems deepened, Blatt noticed that his specialty—hush money and binding legal agreements—was itself starting to attract attention. Pundits began to question the fundamental ethics behind paying women to stay quiet about what they’d experienced.

Blatt had always managed to think of himself as a good guy, saving all these famous people from embarrassment, but now he wondered: Was he actually a bad guy?

Blatt says he’ll call the police if he sees evidence of a crime in the content he’s shown, and during the months I spent following him around in the spring and summer of 2018, I did see him cooperate with federal agents. But this wasn’t to report some instance of powerful-male misconduct. It was to help identify a woman who was trying to extort former world champion boxer Oscar De La Hoya.

A looping video of influencers "selling" products to adoring fans.

The WIRED Guide to Influencers 

Everything you need to know about engagement, power likes, sponcon, and trust. 

By Paris Martineau

Blatt insists that he’s never handled anything as “bad” as what he thinks of as a #MeToo scenario: explicit proof of a professional quid pro quo, or, as he puts it, “Blow me and we will get you this.” But the more I push on this subject, the more he seems to contradict himself. He tells me about a video of a producer who “was banging hot little girls after auditions” together with an actor. Blatt says he never pursued the story, because neither man knew they were being recorded, and he later clarifies that the woman he saw in the video appeared to be over 18.

Like much of Hollywood, Blatt has resisted taking a close look at his own complicity in the ongoing dynamics that favor and enable powerful men. Instead, he’s become cynical about what he sees as the desperation for fame that drives women in Los Angeles to make bad choices. A lot of the women who spoke up around #MeToo, he says, simply have “buyer’s remorse”—women who slept with someone like Harvey Weinstein to get ahead and now look back on it with regret. “I’ve gotten a couple of those girls,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Well, why didn’t you say anything?’”

In general, Blatt will defer to the most powerful person in a room. He has avoided deals that involved seemingly omnipotent figures like Rupert Murdoch or the royal family. In Blatt’s slippery moral universe, might makes right—because the mighty are usually the ones who can offer him the most cash or inflict the most pain when crossed.

Sometimes he just gets lucky. Back in 2011, Blatt says, he was approached by mutual friends on behalf of adult actress Stormy Daniels, who was apparently looking to make some money off her alleged dalliance with the reality TV star Donald Trump. Blatt made a few calls, including to Stern, but nothing came of it. (Daniels did not respond to requests for comment.)

In the run-up to the 2016 election, as Trump’s stature rose, Daniels notoriously secured $130,000 from the candidate’s lawyer, Michael Cohen. But by the time the payment became public, in the post-#MeToo climate, any form of hush money paid to a woman was considered a sign that she had been involuntarily muzzled. 

Once again, after years of his intentional misdirection, the public couldn’t quite understand Blatt’s line of work.

Blatt often describes what he does as helping the stars. “I do a good service for a lot of people,” he says. But this is an oversimplification. As much as he likes to suck up to celebrities, the point of Blatt’s career isn’t to help famous people, the point is to monetize attention: feeding the public the stories we crave, or at least threatening to do so. If we weren’t clicking on it, Blatt wouldn’t be doing it.

When Blatt finally heard back from someone representing the famous woman in Amber and Vinson’s BlackBerry videos, it wasn’t good news. She had retained the celebrity-crisis-management law firm Lavely & Singer. In Hollywood’s hush-money ecosystem, lawyers and fixers work together again and again, and Lavely & Singer is usually in those loops. “It’s a small universe. There’s maybe six to 10 attorneys who know this stuff,” says Paul Berra, a lawyer who has worked both with Blatt and against Blatt and who spent several years at the firm.

Blatt had been hoping the famous woman would hire “some okey-doke lawyer from Atlanta” who didn’t understand copyright law. Lavely & Singer “knew what to do to shut this thing down.”

Still, Blatt connected Amber and Vinson with one of his go-to attorneys, who started negotiations, and quickly learned that the woman in the videos had no intention of paying up.

“She didn’t want to be bullied around with this thing,” Blatt says.

By now it was June, and Amber and Vinson had managed to unload some of the male celebrity’s jewelry for $16,000 to a collector, taking some pressure off their finances. When the lawyer that Blatt had brought in explained the situation to them, he conveyed the intensity of the woman’s response.

“If it were to come out,” Vinson recalled the lawyer saying, “they would come after us with full force.” The couple was a little freaked out.

Blatt called to suggest that the next step might be selling a story to the Daily Mail or another tabloid. It would give them some cash and bring more attention to the situation, he explained. And it would remind the famous woman that she wasn’t in control here.

Amber and Vinson weren’t interested.

All images sourced from Getty Images.

Related Articles

Latest Articles