There are many dubious characters in the upcoming Six Degrees of Paris Hilton. Brandon Davis is one of them.
"One of the worst ones that ever happened to me was Brandon Davis," says Jack Ninio, a professional gambler and former Vegas bookie who divides his time between Mexico and Costa Rica, discussing the times Davis has burned him over the years. "Paying him out an astronomical amount of money, and then just having him turn around and pay nothing.
"I was with my wife in New York a few years ago, and we were in a limo with George Maloof [owner of the Palms Casino in Las Vegas], Joe Francis, Brandon Davis and a few other people that I didn't know. And somehow, I heard that Brandon was doing great:
"I honestly have no idea what you're talking about," said Brandon when I asked him about Jack Ninio, moments before he hung up on me. Which is funny, considering that when I was interviewing Ninio and his wife Heather in a Mexican resort community last spring for my upcoming book (Six Degrees of Paris Hilton, Simon Spotlight, February 2009), Brandon happened to call, announcing himself to an assistant as "the asshole who owes Jack $400,000."
"And I still like the guy," adds Ninio. "In some delusional way, I think that someday he's going to pay me."
As Paris Hilton's on-again-off-again Best Friend Forever, Brandon Davis is one of those odd beneficiaries of drive-by fame who, for reasons that elude us, we seem to know every last detail of their daily lives.
And it's in this capacity that he learned the parlor trick that has made him a mainstay of the tabloids and YouTube: Say the most outrageous thing you can think of on camera, and the cameras will follow you anywhere, if only so they don't miss the next outburst. He famously called Lindsay Lohan "firecrotch" outside a Los Angeles nightclub in May 2006, launching into an extended meditation on her genitalia and relative net worth ($7 million - "which means she's really poor"), with Paris and Nicky Hilton seen tittering on either side of him. He reportedly made fun of Paula Abdul's Middle Eastern surname at Paris Hilton's 26th birthday party in February 2007, hounding her until she was forced to leave, and most recently was seen leveling the epithets "nigger" and "faggot" at paparazzi from the back of a limo in New York. (All but the Abdul incident are widely available online.)
But even this reprehensible behavior would have been eclipsed by a mysterious digital videotape of Paris Hilton which reportedly surfaced in September 2004. British tabloid reporter Carole Aye Maung of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World claims she was approached at a Los Angeles boxing gym by Darnell Riley, a soft-spoken light-skinned black man who claimed to be in possession of 14 hours of footage of Hilton engaged in various sexual and illicit activities, and who showed her a 15-minute highlight reel to back up his claims, which was later viewed by Joe Francis and others. As Riley describes it, in the tape's most notorious scene, Paris Hilton and Brandon Davis are approached by two effeminate black men at an MTV party who invite them to an event for singer/actress Eve's new clothing line. Davis asks if there will be any women at the party, while Hilton is initially charming, and they all exchange phone numbers. Then, according to Riley,
Corcoran State Prison
(Riley, the subject of my book, is currently serving ten years, eight months in Corcoran State Prison for staging a home invasion of Girls Gone Wild mogul Joe Francis and forcing him to participate in a graphic, homoerotic videotape at gunpoint. The 14 hours of Paris videotapes, allegedly the byproduct of a robbery at Paris and Nicky Hilton's home in the Hollywood Hills which Riley claims no part of, were never released, and Riley maintains they were returned to the Hiltons. Following the incident and its fallout in the ancillary press, Hilton and Davis were briefly estranged, renouncing each other in the tabloids to preserve their own tattered reputations, before publicly reconciling some months later.)
This is the sort of boorish, entitled behavior the rich have always gotten away with - a dog-bites-man story at best. Except the legendary Davis family fortune - like the "Hilton family fortune" before it - may have been no more than a media construct and gossip columnist's wet dream.
Recently published examples of Davis's epic profligacy include having borrowed $80,000 from Matthew Mellon, heir to the Carnegie Mellon fortune, to pay a hotel bill, and run up an additional $110k on a "borrowed" American Express card; having gambled away $100,000 on student David Kur's tab; taking art dealer Andy Valmorbida for $75,000 in stolen paintings and credit card purchases; and having pocketed record producer Scott Storch's $100,000 diamond-studded watch, only offering to return it once he was informed the act was caught on a home security system. Given the financial sector's recent precipitous fall from grace, is there any better symbol of our era than a reckless sybarite who's addicted to borrowed money?
Brandon Davis is the grandson of Marvin Davis, the Denver-based industrialist, philanthropist and CEO of Davis Petroleum, who was worth an estimated $5 billion during his lifetime. With financier Marc Rich (later indicted on charges of tax evasion and illegal arms trading with Iran, and controversially pardoned by Bill Clinton in 2001), Davis purchased 20th Century Fox in 1981 and built Fox Plaza in Century City (the building decimated in the original Die Hard), before in turn selling the studio to Rupert Murdoch four years later. Davis was also the acknowledged role model for patriarch Blake Carrington on the prime-time soap opera Dynasty. But according to Forbes, that figure had dwindled to at most several hundred million dollars by the time of his death in 2004, and his widow and wife of 53 years, Barbara Davis, soon after sold the family's legendary Beverly Hills mansion, the Knoll, for $46 million. In addition, according to a 169-page lawsuit filed by his oldest daughter, Patricia Davis Raynes, Davis looted her private trust of hundreds of millions of dollars, at one point forging her signature, and at another, physically intimidating her into signing financial papers. ("You're poor, Patty," Raynes remembers her mother telling her after her father's death.)
This anecdote should tell you everything you need to know about Marvin Davis, which I would not have believed if I hadn't witnessed it with my own eyes. Twenty-two years ago, when I first arrived in Los Angeles, I had a job as a waiter at Le Dome, the proto-power restaurant on Sunset, where I could broker the odd celebrity dish to Spy magazine. Among Le Dome's regular clientele were Marvin and Barbara Davis, who one memorable evening hosted an intimate dinner in a private dining room for ten of their closest friends, including Sidney Poitier, Jackie Collins, super-agent Swifty Lazar and Le Dome silent investors Elton John and Rod Stewart. To signal the end of the meal, as we were clearing the dishes, Davis - all six-foot-four and 300-plus pounds of him - stood up, lifted his plate with both hands and licked it clean of lemon butter sauce, then let loose a tremendous fart. With that, the entire party rose and wordlessly sauntered out single file. Given Brandon's similarly loutish and inexcusable behavior, it seems the apple hasn't rotted far from the tree.
The son of Nabil Zerif, a Turkish-American wine importer, and Marvin's middle daughter Nancy (Nicole Richie's godmother), Brandon led a privileged upbringing in Bel Air and attended high school at the exclusive Montclair Prep in Van Nuys, just over the hill.
"In high school he was nothing like he is now," says another child of privilege who attended high school with Brandon.
"This behavior goes way back," says Donald Thrasher, a former friend of Rick Salomon's who was initially accused of stealing and releasing the first Paris Hilton sex tape, but in his one public statement on the matter, claimed he was merely a prearranged fall guy. "Six or seven years ago we went to Vegas, and [Brandon] convinced Harry Morton - he's dead now - to give him a $200,000 line of credit at the Hard Rock. He never paid that back." (Davis claims to have repaid the loan the next day. "I paid every single casino debt I've ever had," he says. "You go to jail if you don't pay it. Period.") Like many who orbited through the Paris Hilton galaxy, Thrasher was briefly good friends with Brandon, before an inevitable falling out which, in his case, took the form of a harassment lawsuit, filed in July 2001.
"The lawsuit was over stupid stuff," says Thrasher today, preferring to forgo the details behind Davis allegedly threatening his life. "He apologized for that, but he had no sense of honor about it. He went to private school but, for lack of a better characterization, he's an idiot. [His mom] has MS, and she was always nice to me. Stress triggers the symptoms of MS, and he is the cause of her stress. I feel sorry for his mom and his one normal brother, Alexander, the good brother. He was his grandfather's favorite. His other brother, Jason - they call him 'Gummi Bear' - is not normal. He's definitely cut from the same cloth. He's messed up." [Nancy Davis sponsors a charity called Race to Erase MS, which seeks to find a cure for the disease.]
Tales of drug abuse and gambling debts have long clung to Brandon's legend.
Darnell Riley considered Davis a favored gambling client in his capacity as a collector for and reputed investor in BeverlyHillsBookie.com, whose high-profile commercials and Sunset Strip billboards (one of which featured Pauly Shore with the caption "Got Bookie?") may have hastened the decline of online gambling altogether. Riley notes that Brandon had access to unlimited amounts of cash, only bet on favorites and couldn't pick a winner if his life depended on it. "He would bet just to be able to brag that he lost $300,000 to his bookies this month," says Riley. He also claims that when Brandon's parents cut him off financially, as they often did, in lieu of payment, he would offer up his credit lines to Beverly Hills stores like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Fred Segal and, particularly, Chrome Hearts - a designer boutique up the street from the Ivy that specializes in biker or Goth-influenced silver jewelry and leather clothing, where his creditors could shop at a steep discount.
Ninio's wife Heather recalls a similar arrangement to manage Brandon's gambling debts to her husband. "I remember Kristen [actress-model Kristen Williams] saying, 'Everything you do with Brandon will be fine,' and she took me to Chrome Hearts. I didn't know Chrome Hearts; I know Harry Winston. I'm not a biker chick. And she goes, 'Oh, this is how he pays you back. He buys you clothes. His mom has this credit line.'"
"He's been screwed up for so long, and his grandmother doesn't help matters," says Thrasher. "She opens up charge accounts at stores thinking that he'll buy stuff for himself, and he turns around and takes people he owes money to out shopping, for eighty cents on the dollar."
And then there's former club promoter Dillon Jordan, who secretly ran a Hollywood escort service on the side and is currently rotting in a Havana prison for child pornography and/or sex with a minor. Among the financial records Jordan left behind was a list of ten debtors on which Brandon clocks in at number two, with an outstanding balance of $12,000. According to Jordan's notes, "Brandon Davis is paying $1,000 a week vig on debt with clothes from Maxfield's [a designer store on Melrose, and Chrome Hearts' parent company]... The balance was $9,000, but he has missed three payments totaling $3,000."
"I have a lot of thoughts about him because I know his father is a horrible guy," says David Reich (pronounced "rich"), a second-generation sports agent better known as a member of producer Ted Field's entourage in Aspen in the '90s who invariably rolled with a posse of available women (and whose upcoming tell-all Under the Bus promises to set off a nuclear reaction somewhere in the vicinity of Rodeo and Wilshire).
According to eyewitness reports, in his current incarnation hiding out in Manhattan (on Page Six, apparently, where creditors would never think to look for him), Davis has been reprimanded at Nobu midtown on 57th St. for chopping up lines of cocaine on the table. But why rely on civilian testimonials? Ex-drug dealer Louis Ziskin (Kristen Williams' ex-boyfriend) was part of the largest ecstasy bust in history, and he ruled the roost in the nascent years of the L.A. nightclub scene. Currently residing in federal prison near Tucson, Arizona, Ziskin recalls the halcyon days of the late '90s, when club orphans like Paris and Brandon invariably fell under his de facto guardianship.
"You know, he's a fucking funny kid, and I do have a soft spot for him - if only for the entertainment value," says Ziskin, echoing a familiar refrain of proprietary fondness that eventually curdles into exasperation. "He lived at my house for awhile when he was in between rehabs. We were playing pool - $1,000 a rack. He won the first game. We went double-or-nothing, and I got him up to 50 grand. I told him, 'If you stay clean and sober this time out of rehab, I'll call the debt off.' Well, we all know how that worked out."
"Brandon gets himself into situations, but he's a good kid - a really good guy, with a good heart," says film producer Giovanni Agnelli, who once considered Brandon his best friend. But Agnelli claims that Davis, who gives his profession as "art dealer," supported himself by buying paintings from sellers like Ron Valdez at the Hamilton-Selway Gallery, across the street from club du jour Villa, and then resold them to his family at a huge markup, often well into six figures. ("I don't really deal that high, but it's possible," says Valdez, who claims a professional relationship with Nancy Davis as well. When I call and tell him Brandon is in trouble, the first thing he says is, "Again?") And ex-lawyer Brandi Young, a well-connected source on this community, despite a history of drug arrests, remembers pervasive rumors that Brandon sold stories about his friends to the National Enquirer. Although the opportunity has presumably presented itself, Davis has never acted in films or television. (Another actor by that name has had recurring parts on series like Even Stevens and First Monday.) Nor, in fact, outside of the odd celebrity endorsement (Replay's $400 "Brandon Davis Jeans," circa 2003), can I find any record of him ever holding a job.
When I finally reached Brandon in Manhattan, he sounded like he had just gotten up, despite it being late afternoon, and sported one of those suspicious late-summer colds so common among the cocascenti. "They just like to pick on me," he said of the uniformly negative buzz he generates across the entire publicity spectrum. "They have it out for me... I just don't know what the point is. I'm not a public figure. I'm not an actor, I'm an art dealer. Like, you know, fine - I come from some high-profile family, but I don't see how [commenting] would benefit me. See what I'm saying? I'd rather not have my name out there at all." (His celebrity publicist Eddie Michaels more or less confirmed that.)
Fair enough. And it's probably worth noting that some of us had the good fortune of being major screwups at 29 in an era before ubiquitous online video could capture our every indiscretion, and without the burden of evanescent wealth in our recent past. Except that his name is out there - every time he makes a waiter fill his drink order first before taking anyone else's, or cuts in line for the bathroom, or shrieks at a desk clerk for refusing his credit card. In fact, perhaps the only enduring purpose of the rich and feckless - is that of schadenfreude, the ability to take pleasure at their inevitable downfall.
"The website, style.com used to have gossip message boards where rich kids and their friends talked about each other," says Thrasher. "Lawsuits by the parents started flying, and they eventually pulled the message boards down, but Brandon would go style.com and, like Paris Hilton, obsessively check the boards to see what people were saying about him. He just wants any type of press."
"Now he's 29 and he will never change until he has to," says the woman who grew up with him and has observed the long arc of his formative development. "Something horrendous needs to happen. It's so much harder for him to hit his bottom. Everyone knows what he's doing, and that only makes it worse because he reacts with this fuck-you attitude. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the more publicity Brandon gets, the worse he gets. He doesn't know what 'no' means. It's all of them - the Davises, the Richies, the Hiltons. It's a curse."Add to: Digg it · del.icio.us · Reddit · Netscape
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cry me a river. It's soooo hard being a Davis, a Hilton, a Ritchie... boo hoo fucking hoo.
I want to punch him in the face.
Posted by: UGLY PUNK GURL! at November 11, 2008 04:17 PM
Re the previous post, i know many people from those sorts of families and it can be hard. The previous poster seems to assume that just because a person has money they have things easy. I know Brandon personally, he's genuinely a good guy with a lot of problems and an addiction. I wish him well in sorting himself out and hope he manages to do that.
Posted by: devin at November 12, 2008 09:10 PM
He can sort himself out with a punch to the face. He might have problems...but that is not a valid excuse for his behavior. I don't care if you're rich or poor.
Posted by: JugHead at November 14, 2008 07:47 AM
He's stiffed several escort services in New York and has been cut off from more than a few.
Posted by: Annie at November 20, 2008 09:33 AM
You want problems...try going to bed wondering how the hell you're gonna feed your kids tomorrow...I'm s sick of people makinng these socialites the victims...if they were smart they would put thier fortune to good use
Posted by: Lulu at December 3, 2008 09:38 PM
We can agree Brandon has issues.
I feel bad for his family, he makes them look terrible.
It's not easy growing up in the shadow of your parents and grandparents. But that doesn't mean you make a fool or yourself and rob people, humiliate your family and trash your name.
We all have to face down the demons, I hope he can find the strength.
Posted by: luxury at December 9, 2008 12:14 AM
Those who idolize these idiots are just as bad. This brandon guy was truly a Turkey lol. It's funny how no matter what your background is you're not belittled but when you're an average person of an uncommon ethnic background you are driven to a hole in the ground for being so. I have no thought for these people's kids or them. They are scum no matter how dressed up they are and to God they are not anymore important than any human being. It's funny how this Turkey thinks he's the shits just ask him how Russians look so down on Turks. Yep, just like crap.
Posted by: joesteel at December 26, 2008 05:46 PM
i know him and hes one of the people i know with best feelings in the us , seriously i dont know why poeple that doesnt know him talks , u have no idea how people bothers him with no reason i think his a good kid with an amazing hard and the people that talks shit u SOULD LIVE UR LIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: jessica at January 8, 2009 07:54 PM
somebody get this kid on Lithium asap.
Hes obviously been untreated for way too fucking long.
Posted by: -grymes at January 15, 2009 12:12 AM
After reading this, it reminded me of the name Josh Flagg. Anyone here know him? He's good friends with Brandon's brother Jason. I had no idea how out of control Brandon's life really was with drugs, theft, debts, etc etc etc. Josh Flagg was arrested for art theft as well, it's no wonder why these guys are friends. Anyone have anymore info on Flagg? I wish we had an article like this on Josh Flagg, after seeing him on "Million Dollar Listing" and hearing rumors about art theft and now reading about this, I'm thinking Mr. Flagg has an interesting story behind him as well.
Posted by: mr. hollywood at June 13, 2009 01:50 AM
Subject matter aside (douchebag), I just wanted to say that this was a very well-written and well-researched article. It's just not that common to find such thoroughness in blog posts, especially ones that deal with celebtards.
I really enjoyed reading it, and I had never heard of this dickhead before now....so, y'know... Woot.
Posted by: A. Non E. Moose at October 8, 2009 06:38 PM
Well written??? This is a horrible piece of journalism. It is near impossible to follow and utterly BORING.
Posted by: JP at October 16, 2009 06:25 AM