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A Tale of Greed and Glitter Emerges in Cotton Club Murder Case

May 20, 1989 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A Hollywood murder mystery which has been the subject of movieland gossip for six years is unraveling at last in court, and the characters could have stepped out of a writer’s imagination.

In fact, a number of well-known wordsmiths are planning books and articles based on the tale of greed and glitter that led producer Robert Evans to invoke the 5th Amendment when asked to testify about the murder of theatrical producer Roy Radin.

Evans, the former head of production at Paramount Pictures, was only one of the colorful witnesses who drew authors, magazine writers and a cadre of celebrity watchers to the courtroom of Municipal Judge Patti Jo McKay on opening day of a preliminary hearing last week.

Author and magazine writer Dominick Dunne was there for ″Vanity Fair.″ So were writers Steve Wicks and Michael Fessier Jr., who plan books on the case. A Hollywood entertainment company announced it had already optioned the story for a TV movie-of-the-week.

The hearing, now entering its second week, will determine whether a woman who was a reputed drug dealer and Evans associate should stand trial along with two former bodyguards of ″Hustler″ Magazine publisher Larry Flynt in the ″Cotton Club Murder Case.″ A fourth defendant, also a former bodyguard of Flynt’s, is fighting extradition from Maryland.

The first witness, who had ties to drugs and Flynt’s security network, implicated all of the defendants in the killing of Radin, 33, a corpulent, cocaine-sniffing impresario. Police reports indicate that other witnesses will implicate Evans.

Evans, now working on a sequel to his movie ″Chinatown,″ was called as the first witness last week but refused to testify on grounds that he might incriminate himself. Tanned and tense, Evans sat nervously on the witness stand while his attorney won the battle for him not to testify. Evans refused to say even whether he knew Radin.

The case might have been invented by a Hollywood scenario writer. It has links to the secret deals of movie power brokers, the underworld of Colombian drug dealers and Flynt’s lurid porno publishing empire. Key figures in the drama are Evans; actor Demond Wilson, the former star of TV’s ″Sanford And Son″; and William Ryder, Flynt’s former brother-in-law.

The slaying of Radin became known as ″The Cotton Club Murder″ because it dates back to 1983 when Evans, a top Hollywood producer, was negotiating with Radin, a flamboyant New Yorker, to raise millions for the movie about a Harlem nightspot of the 1920s and ’30s.

A woman known as Elaine ″Laynie″ Jacobs had introduced the two men. That same woman, said to have ties to the Colombian cocaine network of Carlos Lehder, is really Karen DeLayne Greenberger, now charged in the Radin murder. Charged along with her are Alex Lamota Marti, William Molony Mentzer and Robert Ulmer Lowe, the former Flynt bodyguards. Lowe is fighting extradition.

When Radin disappeared in May 1983, he was en route to dinner with Mrs. Greenberger at the fashionable La Scala restaurant in Beverly Hills. The two had been quarreling over her demand for a share of the profits from Evans’ movie. But there were other problems. She had accused Radin of stealing $1 million in cash and cocaine from her garage.

A month after he was seen stepping into a limousine with Mrs. Greenberger, Radin’s body was found in a dry riverbed near Gorman about 65 miles north of Los Angeles. He had been shot repeatedly in the head.

His death made headlines, but until last year no one was charged with the murder. Then Ryder came forward and said he had new information. Authorities ″wired″ him with tape-recording devices and sent him to gather evidence.

Since charges were filed last October, Ryder has been a protected witness. He is expected to testify this week along with Radin’s former secretary, Jonathan Lawson, and Wilson. Wilson, whose career was being managed by Radin, has said the doomed producer feared for his life and wanted Wilson to follow him to La Scala. Wilson lost the car in traffic when the driver ran a red light, according to his earlier account.

Most of those details were corroborated last week by Carl Plzak, the first witness to link the defendants to the crime. Plzak, a body builder and sometime Flynt bodyguard, received immunity from prosecution in the Radin murder for his testimony. He said he heard the others make plans to ″grab a fat pig and take him to the desert.″ Later, he said, they told him about the murder.

Plzak’s motives have been attacked by the battery of defense attorneys who were to conclude his cross-examination Monday. They portrayed him as a drug user and dealer with a conviction record and suggested he would say anything to avoid serving jail time. He adamantly declared he was telling the truth.