Jack Palladino, the flamboyant private investigator whose clients ranged from presidents and corporate whistleblowers to scandal-plagued celebrities, Hollywood moguls, and sometimes suspected drug traffickers, died Monday at age 76. Palladino suffered a devastating brain injury Thursday after a pair of would-be robbers tried to grab his camera outside his home in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. He held on to the camera but fell and struck his head, and the photos he took before his attackers fled were used by police to track down two suspects. They were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and other crimes. “He would have loved knowing that,” his wife and business partner, Sandra Sutherland, told the AP on Monday. She added that she had told her husband while he lay unconscious in the hospital: “Guess what, Jack, they got the bastards, and it was all your doing."
In a career spanning more than 40 years, Palladino worked for a who’s who of the famous and the sometimes infamous, alternately hailed as a hero or denounced as a villain, depending on who his client was at the time. He was hired by Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign to put a lid on women who were coming forward to claim they had had sex with the future president. He was also the investigator for the family of a 14-year-old boy who won a multimillion-dollar settlement against Michael Jackson after accusing the entertainer of molesting him. Jackson was never charged with a crime in that case. Two of his most prominent clients were former tobacco company executive and whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand (Palladino played himself in The Insider, the 1999 film about that case) and former automotive executive John DeLorean. Also among his and his wife's clients: the Black Panthers, Hells Angels, Courtney Love, Robin Williams, Kevin Costner, and the Grateful Dead. (Click for much more on his life.)