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Dead Man’s Float

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Next came a story that might have made Billy Ash blush. In fact, it’s a story that seems flat-out loony. As Tiger tells it, he was living in Los Angeles a few years ago when he went to get his hair cut in West Hollywood. Out front were two attractive women. Tiger, who says he is bisexual, chatted them up. He said the girls were interested in rough sex, and the trio headed back to his RV in Orange County. “We were tying each other up,” says Tiger. “When it was my turn, they handcuffed me and threw a blanket over my head. Then they let in a guy who starting beating the shit out of me and forced drugs in my mouth. I woke up in prison. Then when I heard about Seth, I listened to the 911 tapes and heard Phyllis’s voice. She was one of the women. She must have heard about my affair with Seth.” What Tiger was saying, in other words, is that a jealous Phyllis Tobias traveled all the way across the country, deliberately hunted him down, lured him into a lurid sexual tryst, and assaulted him. Jacknin emphatically denies it. “That story is such bullshit, I can’t even believe I’m answering it.”

I asked Tiger for the name of the hospital he was treated at, specific dates of the assault, or any other corroborating details. “I don’t know,” he told me. “My memory isn’t so good.”

On January 9, Billy Ash added yet another wild twist to the story. He told the New York Daily News’sRush & Molloy” that Phyllis had paid $100,000 to Madam Simbi M’Arue, a voodoo artist who sometimes goes by the name Mama, to place a hex on her husband while he was still alive. Two days later, he told the same column that Tobias liked to have his genitals sheared by another gay porn star named Angel. Ash claimed Phyllis had even FedExed him a lock of Tobias’s pubic hair. No Mama or Angel ever came forward.

That same week, I received an e-mail from Ash asking me if I wanted to come to his deposition. January 31 and February 1, in Beverly Hills. For the estate case. Ash told me this was my formal invitation, and no RSVP was required. He signed the e-mail, “Hugs, Billy.” I flew back to California.

An hour before the deposition was set to start, Debra Opri’s conference room was being prepped for television. A crew of four vacuumed up debris and installed a stylish new tabletop. An ugly hole in the wall was covered with a blue-sky backdrop. A curtain was removed so that reporters could watch through a glass wall. Ash was dressed in a black suit and white shirt, with a yellow tie. His face was covered in pancake makeup.

Despite Ash’s best efforts, the media turnout was disappointing, just a CNBC crew and me. Every now and then, Opri would get out of her seat for a cup of coffee and wink at me and the CNBC cameraman on the other side of the glass.

Ash worked the phones on his lunch break. “Call ‘Page Six’ and tell them what’s going on,” he told someone on the other end of his cell phone. He clicked off and then told me, “I’m glad to get this over with. This is a fight about money. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. I wish she had never told me she killed Seth. I’ve already cried twice today. I didn’t know I’d feel this emotional.”

Phyllis’s lawyers spent much of the first day poking holes in Ash’s story. By the end of the day, Ash looked exhausted as he headed toward a car and driver who would take him back to his Hollywood hotel. “Her lawyers are not nice people,” Ash said. “How many ways can they tell me I’m a fat pimp?”

Once again, Ash’s story continued to evolve. I asked him again when was the last time he had seen Seth. “In Las Vegas, over two years ago,” he answered. When we first talked, he had told me San Diego. I mentioned in passing his role as Phyllis’s online psychic, and he vigorously shook his head. “No, I was never her psychic, I was always their assistant.” I then asked him if he had brought the Krug Champagne bottle as evidence. He just laughed. “Oh no, I re-gifted that and gave it to someone who was very nice to me.”

If he had never met Phyllis in person, I asked him, if he had not seen Seth in the two years prior to his death, why would they confide the intimate details of their life to him? “They knew I had a dark past,” Ash said. “They knew I didn’t want that to come out, so I’d keep their secrets, too.”


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