The two subpoenas came by special messenger from a large law firm out of state. My instructions were to serve one to Kirk Kerkorian’s legal staff at Tracinda and one to Kirk Kerkorian personally. Kerkorian’s reputation made me feel that this could be a rather daunting assignment for a little woman PI. That day, two of his employees confirmed my apprehension. They had each asked in an ominous tone of voice, “Lady, do you know who you’re dealing with here?”
My first attempt was a direct assault on the Tracinda office building. In any office the first desk you encounter is the most difficult. A lowly receptionist has no authority to do anything but say no. I presented my business card from Francis Pacific Investigations and told the receptionist that I had some important information for Mr. Kerkorian. Of course she asked what this was concerning. That gave me the opportunity to use my magic door opener. I answered hesitantly. “This is about something of a confidential nature, I would have to have Mr. Kerkorian’s personal authorization to discuss it with anyone else in the company.”
Most of the people I serve have so many skeletons in their closet that this line gets me into their private office, Tout de Suite, but in this case she just told me that Mr Kerkorian was not in. I asked that she please give my card and message to Mr. Kerkorian’s Attorney. She said the legal staff was in a meeting and not to be disturbed.
Back outside, I was searching for a side door or an employees entrance to find my way around the front desk when I heard a man’s voice ask, “Are you Joan Francis?” I turned and saw three large men in business suits walking my way rapidly. My card and message had made it to the legal staff after all, and they were interested enough to go outside and find me. The magic still worked. I presented one subpoena to the attorney and ask to see Mr. Kerkorian to give him his. They assured me that he was not at the office but they would see that he got it. I explained that my instructions were serve Mr. Kerkorian in person. They tried to insist that I give the subpoena to them. When I refused, one of them said in a quiet but threatening tone, “Lady, do you know who you’re dealing with here?”
I left the office building in search of needed information. If he was not in his office, I had to try his home. Where did he live? At the county recorders office I looked up all property owned by Kerkorian and Tracinda. Out of the dozen or so properties I found, one was a large home in Beverly Hills. However a few minutes research in litigation documents told me that an ex-wife lived in that home, with her boyfriend. None of the other properties looked like residences belonging to a Billionaire.
Going over the list again, I discovered one little discrepancy. A large piece of property in the hills was supposed to be undeveloped, but it had an address. Undeveloped lots do not get assigned addresses. That could be it. He had somehow managed to keep it listed as undeveloped. Kerkorian’s penchant for privacy was legendary.
This was before GPS, Google Maps, and iPads, so I hauled out my AAA map of the area and steered my trusty grey Taurus up the mountain looking for the address. As I drove, doubt crept in. This did not look like billionaire country. It was a narrow road winding its way up a canyon. Middle class homes were wedged in every possible site, some dug into the up-hill side of the mountain and some dangled off the downhill side, supported on long posts.
I was about to give up when I reached the top of the mountain and found an iron gate and tall fence that looked like it came right out of a Sam Spade movie. I drove up to the speaker box and pushed the button. When a male voice answered, I said I had a delivery for Mr. Kerkorian. The giant gates opened and I drove just inside the property, but could see no home. The gate guard appeared at my car window and said I could leave the delivery with him. I said I needed to give it to Kerkorian personally and ask if I could wait for him to come home. The young man looked startled. “Lady, do you know who your dealing with here? If I let you wait for him, I’d lose my job and besides that, he’s at the Cannes film festival and won’t be back until tomorrow.” I smiled, thanked him, and backed out. As I watched the gates shut I thought it wasn’t a complete loss. I now knew where he lived, where he was, and when he’d be back.
I had read that he had his own plane. If he flew it to Cannes, that would mean he would fly back into a private terminal, but the question was where and when. I was down the hill researching the best place to intercept him when I got a call from the investigator at the law firm who had sent me the assignment. He was almost yelling. “What the F#&K are you doing?” I told him I’d served the Attorney and would soon serve Kerkorian. He told me that my noising around had Kerkorian’s attorneys so upset they were calling his attorneys saying they would accept the Subpoena, just call me off. In my defense I quoted my assignment letter saying Kerkorian must be served in person. He told me to forget that and gave me the name and home address of one of the Attorneys. I was to deliver the subpoena there.
It was dark by the time I found the Attorney’s house. I had started my day at seven in the morning and was tired. When he opened the door, the look on the young attorney’s face held such anger, I realized he must have had a much worse day than I had. When I offered him the subpoena he snatched it from my hand and shut the door in my face. Amazed at the degree of his anger, I stood there a moment wondering if this man still had his job with Kerkorian. Whether he did or didn’t, his reaction told me that he probably had a much deeper and more personal understanding than I did I of “who I had been dealing with here.”