Fred Otash

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Fred Otash (January 6, 1922 – October 5, 1992) was a Los Angeles police officer, private investigator, author, and a WWII Marine veteran, who became known as a Hollywood fixer, while operating as its "most infamous" private detective; he is most remembered as "the inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character Jake Gittes in the film, Chinatown."[1] He has been interviewed numerous times in the media, including, in 1957, by Mike Wallace, which can be viewed online via the University of Texas.[2]

Early life and family[edit]

Fred Otash was the youngest of six children born to Lebanese immigrants Habib Otash and Marian Jabour; his siblings were: Evelyn Abisalih, Grace Steiner, Selma Otash, Lila Merhige, and one brother, Mitchell.[3]


Otash worked for Hollywood Research Incorporated, which did business with the tabloid magazine Confidential.[4] He is also known for being hired by Peter Lawford to investigate Marilyn Monroe.[4] An FBI file released as part of the JFK Assassination Records suggest that Otash was investigating Lawford and John F. Kennedy, and attempted to talk a call girl into arranging a meeting with Kennedy in which she would wear a wire to record incriminating statements.[5]

Otash also was involved in the investigation of the "Wrong Door Raid" involving Frank Sinatra.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

On January 6, 1950, Otash married film actress Doris Houck, at the Beverly Hills courthouse. They were divorced twice: the first order was vacated following a November 1950 reconciliation,[6] and their final divorce was granted June 19, 1952.[7] He maintained residences at the Jockey Club, in Miami, Florida, and in Cannes, France. Otash suffered from emphysema and high blood pressure.


Otash died at the age of 70, on October 5, 1992, at his West Hollywood home. He was survived by his daughter, Colleen Gabrielle Otash.[6]


Otash wrote about his life in his memoir, Investigation Hollywood: Memoirs Of Hollywood's Top Private Detective.*Otash, Fred, Investigation Hollywood: Memoirs Of Hollywood's Top Private Detective, Henry Regnery Company 1976, ISBN 0809280132

Author James Ellroy has used a fictionalized version of Fred Otash in two of the novels in his Underworld USA Trilogy;[8] Otash appears in The Cold Six Thousand and Blood's a Rover.[8] Otash is also the main character in the sordid, fictional Ellroy story, Shakedown, which Ellroy was in development with for HBO, in 2013.[9] The 1974 film Chinatown's main character, played by Jack Nicholson, was also based in part on Fred Otash.[10]


  1. ^ "The real-life Ray Donovans: Fixers behind Tinseltown's dark secrets", by Tim Walker, Independent, July 14, 2013.
  2. ^ "Mike Wallace Television Interview". 1957-08-25. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
  3. ^ Oliver, Myrna (1992-10-08). "Fred Otash; Colorful Hollywood Private Eye and Author". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  4. ^ a b Galloway, Stephen (2013-06-06). "Rock Hudson's Wife Secretly Recorded His Gay Confession". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  5. ^ Jones, M.A. "US Government Memorandum" (PDF). National Archives. NARA. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Divorced Star Rejoins Her Cop a Week Later". Daily News. New York, New York City. November 5, 1950. p. B 10. Retrieved January 25, 2019 – via
  7. ^ "Vice Squad Officer's Wife Given Divorce". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. June 19, 1952. p. Part II - 10. Retrieved November 17, 2018 – via open access publication – free to read
  8. ^ a b Galloway, Stephen (2013-06-06). "Rock Hudson's Wife Secretly Recorded His Gay Confession". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  9. ^ "FX, James Ellroy Developing Drama Based on Famed Detective Fred Otash", by Lesley Goldberg, April 22, 2013.
  10. ^ Morales, Eric (2013-06-10). "Private Investigator: 'I listened to Marilyn Monroe die'". Digital Journal. Retrieved 2013-06-16.

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