Is It ‘Who Gets on First?’

Rhett Pardon
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- After nearly 46 years stuffed in a filing cabinet, an FBI document has been released detailing an investigation brought on by a Los Angeles Police Department vice squad informant who said Bud Abbott, of Abbott and Costello fame, owned some 1,500 reels of porn.

The FBI memo, published Tuesday on thesmokinggun.com website, said that the informant was approached by Abbott to “furnish some girls for a private party he is having at an early date” and that the vice squad “intended on raiding the party when and if it is held and will confiscate all films they are able to find in their search.”

The memo, recently released by the bureau pursuant to a Freedom of Information request, said that Abbott was a collector of porn and had a projector.

The FBI opened a file on the matter and investigated the case for possible future prosecution on interstate transportation charges of pornography, which at the time were felonious.

Abbott’s sidekick, Lou Costello, also was targeted by the FBI. In one memo recently released, the comedian was said to have “sizeable libraries of obscene motion picture film.”

Throughout the 1930s, Abbott and Costello performed together in burlesque, minstrel and vaudeville shows, as well as in movie houses. The pair later got into radio and TV, and are best known for “Who’s on First?” routine.

The FBI, under the supervision of J. Edgar Hoover from the 1924 to 1972, spent much of its energy on investigating political activists and Hollywood celebrities who were not accused of any crime.

Charlie Chaplin was under surveillance by the FBI for decades, according to historical archives. The first known FBI memo on him was written in 1922, but the actor was convicted of violating a young woman’s civil rights under the then-White Slavery Act. Chaplin bailed the U.S. and didn’t come back because his re-entry permit was rescinded. He reentered once more to receive a “lifetime achievement” Academy Award.

Other celebrities, including Wilt Chamberlain, Billie Holliday, John Lennon, Ernest Hemingway and Jimi Hendrix, were all under FBI investigation at one time or another.