Saturday, October 31, 2009

Palimony Trailblazer Dies

Why, you ask, would I do a post titled 'Palimony Trailblazer Dies'. How could that possibly be related to rock'n'roll, or me for that matter. Well, it seems I can relate myself to almost any story. So, here goes...

Yesterday, Michelle Triola lost her battle with lung cancer at the age of 75. My 0 degrees of separation from her is that we are both Scorpios. But that alone, a story does not make.

Michelle was the live-in girlfriend of Lee Marvin and was the first person to sue for financial compensation that was only available to spouses at the time. Through this lawsuit her attorney, Marvin Mitchelson, created the concept of palimony. Here they are at the end of the trial after she was awarded $104K... award that was later overturned and uncollected. No worries...she did fine for herself, spending the next 30 years living with Dick Van Dyke.

This story is not so much about Michelle as it is about my 1 degree of separation from her...Marvin Mitchelson. At the height of the Marvin v. Marvin trial - or maybe just after it - I had the occasion to spend a night with Mr. Mitchelson. How weird is that? Weirder than you can imagine.

I used to have this friend named Shadow - she deserves at least a whole post of her own but I'll save that for another time - and she seemed to know everyone. And one of those people she knew was Marvin Mitchelson. She was one of those girls that was kinda 'out there' but also knew how to work it. Most of the time I spent with her was spent with my mouth agape.

One night we were out doing whatever we used to do when she got a message (it seems like we had cell phones but it must have been a pager or maybe she called her answering service) and said we had to go to a party at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She could have told me it was a party or she could have said a friend needed her or that someone had some coke. I can't remember. But in any of those situations she didn't want to go alone, so she would drag me along.

As I recall, I think it was supposed to be some party at rock star attorney (albiet an old rock star attorney) Marvin Mitchelson's room. When we got there it was just the three of us. Some party. It was already late and Marvin was in a substance induced melancholy way...bordering on depression. We all got into a deep conversation (as I have always tended to do) and secrets were spilled...on his part. He wasn't a happy man. bet. Happy...not in the least. Here was one of the most powerful men in Los Angeles/Beverly Hills/Hollywood worn down to a sad little boy. I'm pretty sure tears erupted a few times throughout the night.

The biggest contributing factor to his angst was his job. He hated being an attorney. Even though he was really good at it. There was only one thing he ever wanted to do. Ever since he was a little boy. He wanted to be a conductor. No, not the kind of conductor most little boys dream of being. He wanted to be an orchestra conductor. I told him he should do it. He should give up everything and follow his passion.

Funny thing is, he sorta did...probably not in the way he initially wanted, and certainly not what I suggested. This is an excerpt from his wikipedia page...

He saw two rape charges dropped, but in 1993 he was suspended for failing adequately to supervise an associate and improper conduct in the use of a client trust account, in 1994 for failing to take the professional responsibility exam, had his probation revoked in 1995, and was disciplined in 1996 for failure to provide accountings or return unearned fees in 14 client matters. A 1993 conviction for not paying taxes on some $2 million in income resulted in suspension from the Bar, bankruptcy and eventually two years in jail from 1996 to 1998. The case was initiated by a former girlfriend of Mitchelson's and was investigated by IRS Special Agent James Lawrence Wilson.
He wept on his first day in Lompoc prison, but ultimately found white-collar incarceration stimulating. He organized an opera appreciation society, ran the library and helped other prisoners with their appeals.

I really like the part about he wept on his first day in prison...because that's the Marvin Mitchelson I knew.

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