By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
For all Brotherton's attempts to promote the book by trumping the Norris angle, the work only devotes the last four chapters to that Moscow casino and the subsequent fallout. (The remainder mostly details Brotherton's work in the Louisiana gambling world.) Recently, Brotherton also served as an FBI witness, testifying that former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards was involved in extorting money from riverboat casino licensees. As for those charges against Norris, Brotherton devotes more space to describing Russia's sights than to actual quotes from the man. What Brotherton attributes to the actor are such innocuous lines as "Good to meet you, John" and "I appreciate the job you're doing for me here."
Brotherton also writes that it took the power of U.S. Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana to get him and his wife out of Russia. The reality is less dramatic, according to Breaux's office. Brotherton's mother-in-law simply called the senator's office saying that the couple was having trouble getting out of Russia. An aide then made a quick, routine call to the State Department, which expedited Brotherton's return. Soon, he and his wife had return tickets courtesy of their alleged captor, Vissokovsky. (In his book, Brotherton does acknowledge this latter fact.)
For this story, Brotherton was told that the Observer would attempt to contact that Moscow casino to speak with Vissokovsky. Brotherton wasn't happy. "All you're going to be doing is escalating his attempts to kill me," he says.
Calculating that a news story was no more provocative than a book or billboards, we called anyway. The head of the casino's security, Vlad Scachefski, said that Vissokovsky is away for the week in Tel Aviv.
"John Brotherton was involved in a theft, and the police asked him not to leave the country," Scachefski says. "Mr. Brotherton skipped out and never came back to face his court date." (He also says that there's a warrant in Moscow for Brotherton and two other Americans implicated in the theft.)
Was Brotherton held hostage in a hotel? Scachefski laughs. "No, ma'am...it's a bunch of nonsense. The hotel bill was paid by Mr. Fishman, the airline tickets were paid by the casino at Mr. Vissokovsky's request. The company limousine...he [Brotherton] went to the airport in a Lincoln stretch so I don't know about any agents helping him leave the country. In fact, I'm the one who dispatched the limousine to leave."
Brotherton claims he was in Moscow for about eight months. "That's another lie," counters Scachefski, who claims that it was more like five or six weeks.
Fishman, the Players' International chairman who worked with Brotherton in Louisiana and recruited him to start a talent show in the Moscow casino, says simply that Brotherton "has a very good imagination. A lot of it [the book] is not accurate; let's put it that way." No one was holding Brotherton, says Fishman, speaking from his home in Malibu, California, and no one even confiscated his passport. Fishman--a 30-year friend of Norris with whom he operated the now-defunct Dallas smoking lounge Lone Wolf--adds, "I have no investment or ownership in that casino, and Chuck was a minority, minority, minority owner. Chuck had absolutely nothing to do with the payroll, with knowing who's working. He met John one time when Chuck came over there, and that was it.
"Honestly, I think [Brotherton] used his name for publicity."
That doesn't sit well with Norris. Now, when he says Brotherton's name, the first half comes out as "Bother."
As Norris explains it, his involvement in the casino began in 1992, when he went to Moscow for a kickboxing event. There he met Vissokovsky, who suggested that Norris' popularity there could lead to a viable business deal.
"I invested a million and a half dollars into the casino," says Norris, who in all traveled to Russia about 10 times to promote the business. When he saw that it wasn't making a profit, he spoke to Fishman, who in turn, suggested recruiting Brotherton--already feeling the heat in Louisiana from the FBI's investigation of Edwards--to breathe some life into the place. Soon, though, Norris decided to write the investment off. To solidify that decision, he went to Russia to speak with Vissokovsky, and it was then that he met Brotherton.
"What I don't understand," Norris says, "is if Bother-ton was having a problem, why didn't he tell me at that time? You know, 'I'm not getting paid.' If he would have told me then, I could have approached Niky [Vissokovsky]." (Brotherton says that approaching Norris then about the pay would have been "inappropriate.")
Upon his return, Norris says that "I tried to get my name off the casino, but it's still there...because what can you do in Russia? There's no one you can sue."
"I hope this clarifies this a little bit," he says before heading to the Walker, Texas Ranger set. "Bye-bye, honey."