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From "Fire and Ice: The Story of Charles Revson - the Man Who Built the Revlon Empire." By Andrew Tobias.

"Just how much internal spying there was at Revlon is hard to assess. Bugging rumors ran rife, and when the company moved out of 666 Fifth Avenue, a network of wires was discovered in the walls -- installed, the story ran, for an intercom system that was never hooked up. After the 1955 New York State wiretap hearings, one good-humored executive took to cupping his hand over his mouth and leaning down into the space beneath his desk: "You hear that, Charles?" he would ask.

But it was not entirely a laughing matter. In November 1955, Bill Heller testified that for five or six years Revlon, with the cooperation of the phone company, had been monitoring conversations of certain of its employees to be sure they were handling calls properly -- a practice, he said, which resulted in better service to the public and "higher morale" among Revlon employees. Furthermore, he testified, on one occasion he and Jerry Juliber arranged to have the Madison detective agency hook up a tape recorder, kept locked in his closet, that would automatically record the conversations of a certain executive without his knowledge.

A dozen years later, Revlon's president, Dan Rodgers, noticed some clicking sounds on his phone and asked his secretary to ring the phone company and have it fixed. Jokingly he suggested that his line was tapped. Indeed it was, the phone company discovered. Soon there were six men from the phone company and an assistant district attorney in the basement of Revlon's building, tracing the tap from there on up to -- well, what do you know? -- the floor Bill Tracy, Revlon's security chief, had his office on. Tracy, an ex-FBI man, worked for Jerry Juliber.

The investigators asked to be admitted to Tracy's office, but he said no, not until he had a chance to consult the company counsel. The company counsel wanted to take a day to think about it, then said okay. The investigators found a little hole and some wood shavings down in the back of a credenza, but no wires or recording equipment. A cynic might suggest that during the day's delay such embarrassments had been removed, but Tracy explained to the grand jury that he had made the hole to plug in a radio so he could listen to the World Series. Witnesses claimed to have seen Tracy puttering around down in the basement; but Tracy explained that he was merely doing that in his capacity as security officer, checking to see that Revlon's lines weren't tapped.

There is no question that Rodgers' phone was tapped, that the tap led to Tracy's floor at Revlon, or that Tracy denied the investigators entry. (Tracy, moreover, has told friends after a drink or two that he had tapped "hundreds" of phones in his day.) But as there was no conclusive proof, the grand jury was persuaded not to indict anyone, which would only have hurt Revlon's innocent shareholders. How would it look to Wall Street to suggest that the chairman of the board had been tapping the president's phone? Surely Tracy wouldn't have been doing this work, if he did it, without instructions from someone. Revson may or may not have ordered the tap, but it was he who set the tone of his administration. "We don't have any friends," Nixon told his closest aides soon after being elected by one of the largest majorities on record. Revson, too, never knew whether people were really on his side, which he doubted, or whether they merely wanted something from him. Revlon executives were nicknamed "the Jewish Mafia" by one of their number; Charles was the Godfather. As anyone who goes to the movies knows, a Godfather can never be too careful."


"The biggest psychological blow was Spector's (Raymond Spector - owner of Hazel Bishop) discovery that someone -- he states categorically it was (Charles) Revson (owner of Revlon) -- had been listening in on his most private conversations for more than a year. He first grew suspicious when information that could not possibly have leaked to the trade did. Revlon kept beating him to market with his own ideas, he says. He then tried planting false tidbits to see if they, too, would come back to him and they did. Alarmed, he retained the services of two eavesdropping experts, Charles Gris and Carl Ruh. Ruh was awaiting sentencing on some other wiretapping work he had done. These were the same two men, as it happened, Bill Heller had engaged to tap Revlon phones. In fact, Spector testified, while Ruh was off checking the phones for taps, Gris told him about the Revlon job and offered the same service to him.

Ruh found that several of Spector's phones were indeed tapped, and his office bugged as well. It may even be that Gris and Ruh had themselves done the tapping they were now being paid to detect -- a dicey way of having and eating one's own cake if ever there was one."

From "Fire and Ice: The Story of Charles Revson - the Man Who Built the Revlon Empire." By Andrew Tobias.

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