Embattled Hollywood Reporter columnist forced out

George Christy, whose outside work put a trade paper into turmoil, leaving post he held for decades.

Published November 1, 2001 12:07AM (EST)

George Christy, the Hollywood Reporter's longtime society columnist, has been forced out of the paper. Christy, a fixture on the Hollywood party scene for the last 26 years, was suspended with pay six months ago after allegations surfaced for the second time that he had received sham movie roles from producers he had written about in his column.

Christy is also under investigation by the Screen Actors Guild and by a federal grand jury.

A source says Christy was offered a financial settlement to leave. On Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter released a statement saying that "George Christy has decided that he will no longer write 'The Great Life' column for the entertainment trade paper."

The statement also said that Hollywood Reporter publisher Robert Dowling "expressed his appreciation to George Christy for two-and-a-half decades of continual service."

In fact, the parting was anything but amiable. Shortly after he was suspended in May, Christy hired a team of lawyers and had threatened to sue the paper to get his job back.

His latest round of problems had begun in April. I was on the labor beat for the Hollywood Reporter at the time. I discovered that Christy, a bit actor in numerous films, had been given screen credit on six films in which he did not actually appear. (The most notable of these was the comedy "Kingpin.") All six films were produced by the Motion Picture Corporation of America, whose founders, Brad Krevoy and Steve Stabler, had given Christy free ocean-view office space from which to write his columns, at least a dozen of which favorably mentioned them and their company.

The fake movie credits allowed Christy to qualify for generous SAG pension and health benefits.

Dowling, the Reporter's publisher, refused to run the story, saying that I had lost my objectivity. He reassigned the story to two other reporters, prompting my resignation. A week later, the paper's editor, Anita Busch, and film editor, Beth Laski, quit in protest.

This isn't the first time that Christy's part-time acting career has landed him in trouble. In 1993, the SAG pension and health plans sued Christy, Krevoy, Stabler and several others, accusing them of taking part in a "sham employment" scheme. The suit alleged that Krevoy and Stabler had given nonexistent acting jobs to their friends so that they could collect SAG health benefits. That suit was later settled out of court, with MPCA agreeing to pay back more than $100,000 in health benefits paid out to Christy and several other sham employees.

Since then, however, Christy received screen credit on six other MPCA films in which he did not actually appear, which prompted SAG to launch yet another investigation. That investigation is still ongoing. The grand jury is also looking into whether Christy and the MPCA defrauded the SAG pension plan. Howard Bragman, a spokesman for Christy, declined comment.

By David Robb

David Robb covered labor for the Hollywood Reporter and Variety for 20 years.

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