By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"'Pay nothing' it says," claims Amnon, stabbing at the phrase with his finger. "How do he get away with this?"
Punching the store's number into a speaker phone, Amnon is soon engaged in a verbal battle with JJ's clerk, who admits that, yes, there really is a $10 processing fee.
"Why do you write in the paper 'Pay nothing'?" demands Amnon. "If it's nothing, it's nothing. Nothing means nothing!"
"I understand, sir," stammers the voice on the other end of the phone. "I'm just telling you what I've been told to say, okay?"
"Bingo!" hollers Amnon, who slams down the phone after instructing the clerk to tell his boss to wise up. "You hear that? Nothing is $10? This is unbelievable. I would never do such a thing.
"With all this noise he's making, he's so small. He's spending millions on his limo and his advertising, but he doesn't realize that this state is conservative." Thwacking his finger at the beeper girl's image, he adds, "This is not Los Angeles or Las Vegas where he can get away with that stuff."
In spite of the old adage that any publicity is good publicity, even a hype hound like the King of Beepers has to draw the line somewhere. And Home Box Office apparently crossed that line in October when the company repeatedly broadcast Heidi Fleiss Hollywood Madam, a made-for-cable documentary about Fleiss' prostitution ring. In a $1 million invasion-of-privacy and libel suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court last December, JJ (identified in court records as Juda Alszeh, an Anglicized version of his given name) charges that the documentary erroneously portrayed him as a gun-wielding, wire-tapping henchman in the Tinseltown drug-and-smut underworld.
One of the more intriguing lawsuits to hit the Hollywood trade papers in recent months, the litigation centers on a shadowy character known as "Cookie," a much-talked-about (but never-seen) figure whose villainous presence hangs over much of the documentary.
At one point in the film, Ivan Nagy, Fleiss' onetime boyfriend, points to four bullet holes in his ceiling that "Cookie" and another man reportedly fired through his window. In another interview, a former porn actress refuses to discuss "Cookie" because she "won't jeopardize [her] life." Later on, a retired madam identifies "Cookie" as a onetime member of the Israeli Mafia who operates a Hollywood beeper shop.
When narrator/director Nick Broomfield seeks out the elusive strong-arm man, the quest takes him to a Sunset Strip business called J&J Beeper. Inside the store, Broomfield's camera picks up a poster advertising the store's 800 telephone line, a number ending in the word "KING."
Coincidences pile up on coincidences. Although the film does include a fleeting shot of a newspaper clipping revealing the actual identity of "Cookie" to be one Jacob Orgad, that detail is probably lost on casual viewers--most of whom have no idea what the King of Beepers' real name is anyway.
Instead, JJ-savvy audiences are treated to a much more memorable sequence in which narrator Broomfield drives through the streets of Los Angeles: "With Cookie on my mind, I imagined I saw him everywhere," says Broomfield as the camera zooms in on several of JJ's famous billboards, including a screen-filling shot of the King himself.
As a result of the alleged mistaken identity, JJ is suing HBO for at least $100,000 for "humiliation, embarrassment, hurt feelings, mental anguish and suffering." The suit also asks a minimum of $420,000 for loss of beeper sales, as well as $86,100 per month from disconnection of beeper services. Lawyers for HBO did not return calls regarding the suit, but categorically deny all those charges in court records.
Although the film's billboard images were subsequently "pixilized" for the documentary's theatrical release earlier this year, the electronic doctoring didn't fool many people who saw the picture during its weeklong run at Valley Art Theatre last month.
Or so claims one Tempe moviegoer, who reports scattered "titters" of recognition among the audience at the screening he attended.
"Everybody knew that was JJ up there," he grins. "Hell, yeah!"
Hearing about the Valley Art incident, JJ slaps a hand to his head.
"That movie, they show it in Phoenix, too?" he groans. "Listen. It was not me, but they use my picture. I'm not Cookie."
That statement appears to be true: Various records on file in L.A. County Superior Court indicate that JJ and Jacob "Cookie" Orgad (who is named as CEO of the rival beeper dealer in California incorporation papers) are indeed two different people.
Ironically, however, one of those documents also blows holes in JJ's story that he never even heard of Jacob Orgad until the Heidi Fleiss documentary. According to a civil suit over a lease dispute filed in 1991, JJ and Orgad were once partners in a Los Angeles electronics store called J&J Imports.
"Partner? I wish I had a partner," responds JJ. "He was never my partner."
On second thought, though, maybe "Cookie" did work for him.
"You have to understand that we have about 120 employees in L.A.," JJ continues. "My lawyer find out that he used to work here. I didn't know it."