They may not have topped the FBI’s Most Wanted List, but a number of celebrities and famous people have nonetheless attracted the G-men’s attention. Most recently, the Monkees’ last surviving member, Micky Dolenz, made headlines after filing a lawsuit against the agency to retrieve records they kept on the band during the 1960s. Even famed deaf and blind activist Helen Keller, who was a socialist (considered dangerous in the early 20th century) had a file with her name on it. Also, artists like Sam Cooke, Richie Havens, and Nina Simone.
Of course, who can forget John Lennon being threatened with deportation on a narcotics charge and spied on under suspicion for his relationships with Vietnam War activists. While department head J. Edgar Hoover was notorious for surveilling famous folk, it was Richard Nixon who had a vendetta against the former Beatle. Here’s a look at others who have had files held within the cabinet drawers of the FBI.
The Bureau opened up a six-page file centered around two concerts the R&B crooner gave in Richmond and Norfolk, Virginia in1977. Upon arriving for the shows, Gaye claimed he hadn’t been paid. According to the file, the Bureau was looking into a redacted name businessperson “whose check for $75,000 was allegedly responsible for enticing Gaye” to travel to the gig, and whether it would involve conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce.
In 2013, the Bureau released a 128-page file on Houston that touched on several inquiries. In 1988, the agency investigated an obsessed fan who wrote several letters to the singer, one claiming he “might hurt someone with some crazy idea,” who later claimed he only wrote them to elicit a response from Houston. In 1992, Houston was the subject of a failed blackmail attempt by an unnamed lawyer who first demanded $100,000, then $250,000, claiming he would “reveal certain details of the private life …. to several publications.” In 1999, a Dutch resident was interviewed by the Bureau after he sent a tape to Houston with a song of hers that he claimed to have written, but he denied any threatening letters.
According to his file, released in 2012, the late Bee Gee was alleged to have been responsible for “a potentially threatening telegram sent to the London law firm representing Gibb’s then-wife in divorce proceedings.” As reproduced in the file, the telegram — attributed to “Robin Gibb” — said, in part, “What you have done is just about the limit, I warned and warned you. Know [sic] one walks all over me … I have had enough. I have taken out a contract on [name redacted].” Gibb’s unnamed manager told the FBI that Gibb’s ex-wife’s attorneys may have themselves been responsible for the telegram and were “attempting to use the FBI to embarrass Gibb and to bring pressure on him in their divorce proceedings.”
The “Sunshine on My Shoulders singer’s file (released in 2011) includes a report on the Bureau tracking his participation in a 1971 “Dump the War” rally in Colorado, alongside Vietnam vet John Kerry. In 1979, Denver’s file contained a report that a “female speaking German and English” had been calling Denver every day (for a total of 17 “threatening calls”), all to say that her mother’s boyfriend was “coming to Los Angeles to kill Denver.”
Thanks to her anti-apartheid activism and her marriage to Black power proponent Stokely Carmichael (called a “Black extremist” by the FBI), the late South African singer was awarded a 292-page file finally made public last month. The documents show how the FBI tracked her and Carmichael’s travel and touring itineraries, even their 1968 purchase of “a new household refrigerator, two washing machines and a range stove.”
Hendrix’s file includes reports of a 1969 pot bust in Toronto and even his 1961 arrest for “taking a motor vehicle without permission.” Interestingly, the file also consists of the FBI’s report on 1969’s Woodstock festival, in which Hendrix participated.
Photo: Jimi Hendrix (Getty)
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