Randall Sullivan

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Randall Sullivan
Sullivan on the set of City of Lies in 2017
Sullivan on the set of City of Lies in 2017
BornLos Angeles, California
OccupationWriter, Producer, Actor
EducationUniversity of Oregon (B.A.) Columbia University (M.F.A.)
Notable worksThe Price of Experience

Randall Sullivan is an American author and journalist[1][2] who has also worked as a screenwriter, film and television producer and on-camera television personality.[3]


Early life and education[edit]

Sullivan was born in Los Angeles and grew up in North Bend, Oregon. As a teenager, his family moved to Portland, Oregon where he attended Sunset High School.[1][2] "In high school, he was a football jock who was always in trouble."[1] After high school, Sullivan enrolled at the University of Oregon and went on to graduate with a bachelor's degree in English (with honors) in 1974.[1] In 1976 he accepted a two-year writing fellowship at Columbia University; he left with a master's degree a few years later. While he was at Columbia he took courses at the Columbia School of Journalism.[1][2] After graduating from Columbia University, Sullivan took his first journalist position at the New York Daily News "for ten months."[2] He later moved to Los Angeles to further his journalism career at the Herald Examiner and Rolling Stone.[2]

Writing career[edit]

Randall Sullivan has “been making a living by writing since 1979."[1] Sullivan has written for a number of nationally recognized publications, including Esquire; The Washington Post; The Guardian; Rolling Stone; and Wired.[3] He "has written three books nominated for the Pulitzer Prize... [and] won a number of national awards."[3]

The Billionaire Boys Club and The Price of Experience[edit]

In 1986, Sullivan wrote an article for Esquire[4] detailing the corruption and criminal activities of the Billionaire Boys Club; the article “exposed the whole fascinating mess and briefly made Sullivan the brightest light in town [Los Angeles].”[1] Sullivan was paid $250,000 to write a book based on the article; and, according to Jeff Baker of The Oregonian, this was “at that time... the highest advance ever paid to a first-time author.”[2] The rights to the Esquire article were also used as a basis for the NBC television mini-series, Billionaire Boys Club. Although, the mini-series was nominated for two Golden Globe[5] awards and four Emmys,[6] it was considered "factually inaccurate" and did not stay true to the source material.[2]

In 1996 Sullivan published The Price of Experience: Money, Power, Image, and Murder in Los Angeles, his long-awaited book about the Billionaire Boys Club. He spent ten years researching and writing the book; a book that Dick Adler of The LA Times described as “monumental."[4] Sullivan's research included “hundreds of sources… eight former BBC members,” and personal jail-written letters from BBC ringleader Joe Hunt.[7] The Price of Experience received positive reviews from the LA Times; The New Yorker;[8] and The Boston Globe,[9] among others.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16] However, the release of the book was not without controversy; Sullivan received an anonymous death threat before a scheduled public book reading (which was subsequently cancelled); it is speculated that the threat could have came from someone affiliated with former members of the BBC.[2][17][18]


In 2002, Sullivan published LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the Implication of Death Row Records' Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal. The book was met with controversy and acclaim, for it connected (former) Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight and The Los Angeles Police Department with the deaths of prominent rap artists Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie).[19][20][21][22][23][24][25] The book was based largely on Sullivan's interviews with retired LAPD detective Russell Poole, who was “convinced that Death Row Records impresario Suge Knight orchestrated the killing of both”[20] and that the LAPD helped cover up Suge Knight's association with the murders. Sullivan's book included “130 key players, a detailed timeline of events, and reference to 224 supporting documents,” making it one of the first detailed investigations of the murders available at the time of publishing.[21] The book helped raise “publicity” surrounding the unsolved murders.[21] Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer at Salon, argued that too much evidence was based on Poole's oral testimony, and that Sullivan's timeline of the events didn't matchup entirely.[19] "Poole left the LAPD in 1999 after growing disagreements with the police force on numerous homicides, including the B.I.G. murder,"[26] but he continued to investigate the murders as a private detective. The FBI opened an investigation into the murder of Biggie in March 2003,[27] in part spurred on by Poole's theory, but the FBI closed the investigation eighteen months later.[28] In 2005, a key informant in the investigation "admitted hearsay... casting doubt" on the LAPDs involvement in covering up the murders.[29] Poole was preparing to re-open the investigation with the LAPD in 2015, but he died suddenly from a heart attack.[30] In 2016 it was announced that a film based on the book was in production.[31] City of Lies, starring Jonny Depp and Forest Whitaker, was scheduled to be released in September 2018 but was later pushed back.[32][33] Sullivan recently hinted in an interview that he is working on a follow up book to re-examine the murders twenty years later.[20][34]

The Miracle Detective[edit]

In April 2004, Sullivan publishedThe Miracle Detective, his book about his investigation into the apparition of 'Our Lady of Medjugorje' which is claimed to have appeared before six children in Medjugorgje, Bosnia, in 1981.[35] His book was not only an investigation into the history of the apparition—and how other villagers and visitors since, have had similar visions at Medjugorgje—but also about his personal experience there, where he claims he experienced a miracle.[36] The book has been called a "conversion narrative" by some,[37] and met with skeptical criticism by others,[38] however, it has also received positive reviews,[35] especially from the Christian community[39][40] where it remains a top seller (currently ranked in the top 150 books on Amazon for the category Mariology).


Published in November 2012, was Sullivan's book on the life and death of pop star Michael Jackson: Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson. The book was met with some controversy,[41][42] mainly because Sullivan argued that Jackson was not a "child molester" and rather, that he was "pre-sexual" having never engaged in sexual intercourse at all. The book also detailed much of Jackson's drug abuse in his later years,[43] money trouble, and "spending habits"[44]—which upset many of Jackson's diehard fans. Some fans started an online campaign against the book's sale on Amazon.[45][46] However, as Guardian columnist Deborah Orr points out: many of Jackson's more fanatic followers tend to criticize any negative press about Jackson's life, regardless of evidence or argument.[47] Others called into question Sullivan's source material, and though Sullivan "does an adequate job of chronicling Jackson’s over-the-top fame," he relies on too few verifiable sources to draw his conclusions.[42][48][49] Nonetheless, Jackson's long time attorney, Tom Mesereau, who was also one of Sullivan's main sources for his research on Jackson, came to Sullivan's defense and praised the book for its insight and accuracy.[45] Still others praised the book; for example, there was "a glowing recommendation from broadcaster and journalist Danny Baker" who called it the "best" book about Jackson;[50] and The New Yorker praised the book's in-depth research, viz., for bringing to light the "financial profligacy and wrongheadedness" of Jackson's life and business choices.[51]


Sullivan is a long time member of the Writers Guild of America. He was co-writer on the made-for-TV movie, A Friend to Die For (based on Sullivan's article, "Death of a Cheerleader").[52] As a producer, he co-produced the documentary Reckless Indifference,[53] and he was an executive producer on the Oprah Winfrey Network mini-series, Miracle Detectives.[54][55] Sullivan also appears on the History Channel reality-TV show, The Curse of Oak Island.[56] He is currently executive producing the upcoming film, City of Lies starring Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker.

Personal life[edit]

Sullivan lives in Portland, Oregon.[20] For most of his life Sullivan identified as an atheist, but in 1995 he underwent a spiritual conversion to Catholicism while he was in Medjugorje reporting on the Bosnian War.[57] This experience was influential to his research, writing, and co-hosting of the Oprah Winfrey Network show, Miracle Detectives.[55] Sullivan is married to fashion model turned social activist Delores Sullivan (formerly Delores Teller) whom he met while writing a profile of her for Rolling Stone magazine.[58]  



  • The Price of Experience: Money, Power, Image, and Murder in Los Angeles (1996) (nominated for Pulitzer)
  • LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the Implication of Death Row Records' Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal. (2002) (nominated for Pulitzer)
  • The Miracle Detective: An Investigative Reporter Sets Out to Examine How the Catholic Church Investigates Holy Visions and Discovers His Own Faith. (2007) (nominated for Pulitzer)
  • Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson (2012)
  • The Curse of Oak Island (2019)

"Best of" Anthology Works[edit]

  • The Best of California Magazine (1986) [ISBN 0-88496-245-8]
  • The Best of Rolling Stone: 25 Years of Journalism on the Edge (1993) [ISBN 0-385-47051-7]
  • Outside 25: Classic Tales and New Voices from the Frontiers of Adventure (2002) [ISBN 0-393-05186-2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Buckley, Peter (January 15, 1987). "The Dark Side: When California's rich and mighty take a fall, this intrepid young writer is there to chronicle it all". The Sacramento Bee.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Baker, Jeff (May 19, 1996). "Going for broke on the Billionaire Boys Club". The Oregonian.
  3. ^ a b c "Randall Sullivan". To the Best of Our Knowledge.
  4. ^ a b Adler, Dick (1996-04-21). "Billionaire Boys Just Wanna Have Fun". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  5. ^ "Billionaire Boys Club". www.goldenglobes.com. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  6. ^ "Billionaire Boys Club". Television Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  7. ^ Burke, Anne (April 21, 1996). "Busting the Billionaires". Los Angeles Daily News.
  8. ^ Ross, Alex (August 19, 1996). "The Shock of the True: Crime and why we can't stop reading about it". The New Yorker.
  9. ^ Eisner, Robert (April 21, 1996). "California scheming: Murder and money in Tinseltown -- Joe Hunt and the Billionaire Boys Club". Boston Globe.
  10. ^ Barnhill, Mark (April 21, 1996). "A hunt for clues about BBC boss". Los Angeles Daily News.
  11. ^ Rule, Ann (June 11, 1996). "The Most Brutal Club". The Washington Post.
  12. ^ Himmelsbach, Eric (May 10, 1996). "The Rules of Attraction: Exposing the Heart of the Billionaire Boys Club". Los Angeles Reader.
  13. ^ Bothe, Elsbeth (April 14, 1996). "Billionaire Boys Club: the ultimate true crime?". Baltimore Sun.
  14. ^ "The Price of Experience". Publishers Weekly. February 12, 1996.
  15. ^ "The Price of Experience". Playboy Magazine. May 1996.
  16. ^ "Best Bets: Book". USA Today. May 17, 1996.
  17. ^ "Threat cancels bookstore reading". Culver City Independent. May 2, 1996.
  18. ^ "Threat causes reading cancellation". The Vindicator: Youngstown News. May 12, 1996.
  19. ^ a b Boehlert, Eric. ""Labyrinth" by Randall Sullivan". Salon. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  20. ^ a b c d "Portland Journalist Randall Sullivan Wrote the Book on the Conspiracy to Kill Tupac and Biggie". Willamette Week. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  21. ^ a b c "LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the Implication of Death Row Records' Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal". EW.com. 2002-04-19. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  22. ^ "Books of the Year: Music". Uncut Magazine. January 2003.
  23. ^ "Book of the Month: Killer Cops in LA". Arena Magazine. November 2002.
  24. ^ Sullivan, Randall (2002-04-25). "In harm's way". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  25. ^ LABYRINTH by Randall Sullivan | Kirkus Reviews.
  26. ^ "Russell Poole, Notorious B.I.G. Murder Investigator, Dead". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  27. ^ "FBI Joins Investigation Into The Murder Of Notorious B.I.G." MTV News. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  28. ^ "FBI Ends Investigation Into Notorious B.I.G. Murder". MTV News. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  29. ^ "Informant in rap star's slaying admits hearsay". Los Angeles Times. 2005-06-03. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  30. ^ "Notorious B.I.G. Murder Detective Russell Poole Dies". Billboard. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  31. ^ "Johnny Depp's Next Role: Notorious B.I.G. Investigator". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  32. ^ "Forest Whitaker joins Johnny Depp's hunt for Tupac's killer". 2016-11-16. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  33. ^ Jmix/JesseSurratt Productions (2017-06-14), Author Randall Sullivan Speaks On LAbyrinth The NEW Russell Poole Movie Starring Johnny Depp, retrieved 2017-07-13
  34. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (2016-11-17). "'Straight Outta Compton's Neil Brown Jr. Heads To 'LAbyrinth'". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  35. ^ a b THE MIRACLE DETECTIVE by Randall Sullivan | Kirkus Reviews.
  36. ^ "'Miracle Detectives' On The Hunt For Answers". Huffington Post. 2011-01-29. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  37. ^ "Randall Sullivan's The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions – The Revealer". wp.nyu.edu. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  38. ^ "Donal Anthony Foley reviews, -The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions, by Randall Sullivan". www.theotokos.org.uk. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  39. ^ "Book review: The Miracle Detective | The Dubious Disciple". The Dubious Disciple. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  40. ^ http://www.washingtontimes.com, The Washington Times. "Sorting the holy from the crazy". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  41. ^ "Review: 'Untouchable,' a shallow Michael Jackson bio by Randall Sullivan". The Mercury News. 2012-11-19. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  42. ^ a b Kakutani, Michiko (2012-11-12). "'Untouchable,' Michael Jackson's Life, by Randall Sullivan". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  43. ^ Lee, Chris (2012-11-14). "Michael Jackson: 'Untouchable' by Randall Sullivan touches nerve". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  44. ^ Lee, Chris (2012-11-19). "'Untouchable': A prosthetic-nose-and-all look at Michael Jackson". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  45. ^ a b "Bookmarks: Angry Jackson fans attack 'Untouchable'". OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  46. ^ "Attack reviews on Amazon: An epic Michael Jackson biography sparks debate". GeekWire. 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  47. ^ Orr, Deborah (2013-01-26). "Beware of Michael Jackson's online thought police". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  48. ^ MJJJusticeProject (2013-01-10). "Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson (REVIEW)". mjjjusticeproject. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  49. ^ "Michael Jackson Fans Declare Troll War Against Salacious Biography". Spin. 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  50. ^ "'Untouchable' Review | Michael Jackson World Network". Michael Jackson World Network. 2014-01-09. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  51. ^ "The Pale King". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  52. ^ A Friend to Die For (TV Movie 1994), retrieved 2017-07-06
  53. ^ Koehler, Robert (2000-10-20). "Review: 'Reckless Indifference'". Variety. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  54. ^ Miracle Detectives (TV Series 2011– ), retrieved 2017-07-06
  55. ^ a b "Miracle Detectives Randall Sullivan's Divine Intervention". Oprah.com. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  56. ^ The Curse of Oak Island (TV Series 2014– ), retrieved 2017-07-06
  57. ^ "Randall Sullivan: A Godspy Interview". oldarchive.godspy.com. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  58. ^ ""The Bastard Chronicles, Part Two: The Birth Mother's Story"". Rolling Stone (861). March 1, 2001.