Before I go any further, I want to mention that you can hear the accused woman answer all my questions on a special edition of The Strip. Click here to play that or right-click here to download it and hear it at your leisure. It's, uh, unusual.
To review, over the weekend, the new Tropicana headliner told celebrity journalist Robin Leach that he was being stalked by a "he" who was impersonating him on Twitter under the name BaddGarrett. The same person, Garrett said, was calling ticket brokers pretending to be him, seemed to have uncomfortable access to images of him and his family and may have even been at his comedy show in the first week. Leach not only took to his blog to report Garrett's accusations without comment from the accused person, but he also was on his Twitter telling the BaddGarrett Tweeter that she was sick, twisted and heading for the slammer.
I interviewed Garrett on Tuesday for this coming Saturday's regular edition of The Strip, and we discussed this. He seemed aware by that time that the "he" was actually a woman and he knew, as I do, her identity and location. Yet he refused the suggestion that her mischief was nothing more than a Twitter parody or, at worst, a fraudulent impersonation. He thinks it's active stalking.
Having spoken to this woman twice now, I admit that it's really, really hard to know. Much of what she claims is zany and time after time what she said about what she's been up to on Twitter does not comport with reality. She initially claimed she had never impersonated Garrett but only intended to do some loving parody and help promote the comic's endeavors.
That may, in fact, have been largely true in the public Twittersphere, but she engaged in several private chats, known as direct messages, in which it is clear she is permitting and encouraging people to believe she is actually the comic. One person misled was Vegas comic Keith Lyle, who shared with me several DMs received from BaddGarrett over the course of weeks.
During the week of June 6, for instance, Lyle wondered why this account was not "verified," meaning the Twitter puts a blue check on it to indicate it really belongs to a celebrity or notable person. These were three responses from BaddGarrett:
I honestly don't care who people think I am. I don't do the ego thing. This is for fun, to test drive material, sharpen skills and PR.
Who wants the checkmark and the associated assholes that come with it. I can achieve evrything I want here without it
The correct answer, of course, would have been, "Oh, I'm not really him."
At one point, BaddGarrett about family to Lyle: "I kid abt my ex, but she's really a wonderful lady & we're still friends. You have to for the kids too."
So, OK, let's posit that this woman was pretending to be the actor in some instances on Twitter. Oddly, in others she was not. Both Las Vegas Sun ace John Katsilometes and the PR team at the Tropicana had asked and were told forthright that she was just a fan, and the Trop folks told me as late as last Friday in a public Tweet -- BEFORE the ruckus began -- that they considered @BaddGarrett to be a great advocate for the show.
When I confronted the woman about the Keith Lyle direct messages in my interviews, her answers were all over the place. First she claimed she never led him to think she was the real star, then she said she didn't want to disappoint him by saying she wasn't, then she admitted she had "used bad judgment" and that "it snowballed and I didn't know what to do."
The question is, does any of this make this woman a stalker? Does it make her physically dangerous? Here, again, matters are more complicated than they appear. This woman pleaded guilty in 2006 to stalking a cop in her hometown, and she explains the details of what she did quite openly on the podcast. She says she learned her lesson, would never do that again. But Garrett knew and mentioned that, so clearly that influenced his alert as to whether she was dangerous to him.
That's understandable. So I asked her this set of questions:
Friess: Have you ever had any personal contact with Brad Garrett?
Alleged Stalker: No.
Friess: Never met him?
Alleged Stalker: Never met him.
Friess: Never seen him in person?
Alleged Stalker: Never seen him in person.
Friess: Have you ever been to Las Vegas?
Alleged Stalker: Never been to Las Vegas.
Friess: So when Brad says you’ve been taking photos of him and his family and his children, where did you get those pictures from?
Alleged Stalker: I got them off Google. Off blogs, websites, Twitpics people take and post on Twitter. That’s it. I have no way of getting any other pictures of Brad.
I asked the alleged stalker to show me her credit card statements to prove where she's been. This got weird, too, as what she showed me were charges up until June 25, often more than one a day. She claims in the interview that after that she using all cash, but that's also coincidentally the same weekend the Garrett show opened in Vegas. What she provided didn't prove anything regarding her whereabouts in the time period during which Garrett says she might have attended the show.
I totally understand why Garrett is unnerved. But as inconsistent and strange as this woman's version of events is -- and you must listen to the interviews and see for yourself -- I've also never heard of a dangerous stalker who gives interviews to reporters or provides her phone number and address to them. The most likely scenario here is that this is a woman with a bit of a fantasy life and celebrity fascination who got carried away.
As you know, Robin Leach has taken great umbrage at my decision to examine this thing more closely, to question his decision to attack this woman so viciously and publicly and to try to tease out what made sense and what didn't. I forget sometimes that Robin isn't just some colleague but someone who enjoys celebrity himself. I'm not even sure he'd deny he has an obvious bias toward believing what longtime celebrity friends tell him.
This may be precisely where my background as a classically trained reporter clashes with his approach: People are innocent of crime until proven guilty. For powerful journalists to publicly declare someone a criminal without there even being any charges trips a switch in me. That's not what we're supposed to do.
If Garrett had wanted to avoid publicity over this, he could have dealt with it privately or quietly through the authorities. Instead, according to Leach, he asked Leach to trumpet the problem all over the place. Once that happened, following up by analyzing what is going on and trying to make sense of inconsistencies on every side of this debacle was a journalistic duty.
Who knows? If Garrett has a criminal case to file, we may some day know more. If not, odds are good this is where this will end.