Late one August night in 1962, actor Peter Lawford arrived at the L.A. apartment of private detective Fred Otash in a sorry state. “I think Marilyn is dead,” he blurted to the man Hollywood trusted to make all their most scandalous problems go away. 

A new book, The Fixer: Moguls, Mobsters, Movie Stars and Marilyn (due out April 16), seeks to tell the real story of Otash, a former L.A. cop turned private detective to the stars. “Fred was larger than life and stranger than fiction,” Manfred Westphal, who wrote the book with Josh Young, exclusively tells Closer. In fact, fictional characters, including TV’s Ray Donovan and Chinatown’s J.J. Gittes — as well as several books by author James Ellroy – have been inspired by Otash. 

While 60 Minutes host Mike Wallace once called Otash “amoral” for helping Confidential magazine fill its pages with gossip in the 1950s, the authors of The Fixer say the detective most often tried to help the underdog in a corrupt system. “He had a complicated relationship with Marilyn Monroe that lasted until the day she died,” says Young, who notes Otash and his cohorts likely saved her life when she went missing in 1956. “He found her unconscious in a fleabag hotel with a known drug dealer,” notes Young. The detective summoned an ambulance to discreetly ferry Marilyn to the hospital, and the dealer was given a one-way ticket out of town.

Otash also cleaned up at Lana Turner’s home the night her abusive mobster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato was stabbed to death in 1958. “The official story is that her daughter, Cheryl Crane, killed him,” says Young, noting that if Lana were found guilty of killing him, it might have ended her career. “As a result of Fred’s work, Cheryl took the wrap for what the coroner’s inquest later ruled as a justifiable homicide.”

If Walls Could Talk

Otash knew Marilyn from her early days in Hollywood, so when she wanted listening devices installed in her home, she turned to him. While he was there, Otash also secretly bugged her home at the behest of Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa. “He wanted to know what was happening with Marilyn since her home was visited by the Kennedys,” said Otash, who confirmed that the silver-screen star had a romantic relationship with both John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. The arguments Otash says he overheard among Marilyn, Bobby and Peter Lawford the day she died raised many questions. “She was really screaming, and they were trying to quiet her down,” he said.

Otash, who died in 1992 at age 70, always regretted that he had been unable to help Marilyn. “Fred was always willing to stand up to powerful men to support women,” says Young, who notes that the detective was “ultimately committed to serving justice for his clients.”

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