Exhuming ‘Big Warry’

On Feb. 14, F. Warrington Gillet III-known as “Little Warry” to his friends-plans to file a motion in Baltimore County Circuit Court in Towson, Md., to get his father’s body exhumed from a Maryland churchyard and an autopsy performed. For the past several months, the 43-year-old former stockbroker and Manhattan resident has been telling friends that his father-F. Warrington Gillet Jr., or “Big Warry”-died under mysterious circumstances last May at his Palm Beach estate, and that Big Warry’s wife, Elesabeth Ingalls Gillet, might know more about it than she’s letting on. In addition to trying to get his father’s body exhumed, Mr. Gillet has hired a private investigator.

Mr. Gillet’s sleuthing over his father’s death coincides with his attempt to break back into Manhattan society. His barbs at his stepmother have recently landed him some short mentions in the Daily News and New York Post gossip pages, with one item coming from a November e-mail Mr. Gillet sent to his friends, in which he wrote: “Watch how this unfolds. She is not going to get away with this. This will be the biggest bomb to ever hit Palm Beach. You watch.”

In the mid 1990’s, Mr. Gillet occupied a more comfortable slot in the social pecking order: The handsome step-great-grandson of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, he was making $300,000-plus a year as a stockbroker, living in a big place on Central Park South and driving a red Ferrari. He could tell a colorful story at a cocktail party-maybe about his years as a struggling actor in the 1980’s, when he’d played the killer Jason in Friday the 13th Part Two . In 1995, The New York Times called him one of the city’s “princes of the moment,” along with John F. Kennedy Jr. and David Lauren. In 1996, he married a Swedish model named Martina Jeansson and they were photographed for the cover of American Baby magazine with their cute blond-haired boy, F. Warrington Gillet IV.

But things got real bad real fast: On June 27, 1997, he was busted by the F.B.I. for being part of a stock scam that involved some of New York’s crime families. (He says he was hoodwinked and didn’t realize until it was too late.) His wife left him, and while he waited to see what the feds would do with him, he moved down to work in the stables, his father and stepmother’s horse farm in Maryland, where he had lived as a boy.

Now he’s back. Sort of. He’s subletting a one-bedroom apartment on Central Park West, giving out his card at parties and trying to sell a TV-show idea called EQ , about the equestrian lifestyle. He sent out a promotional pilot to the Discovery Channel and E!. He is good friends with his ex-wife and, by all accounts, a devoted father to his son.

Meanwhile, he’s saying some not-so-nice things about his stepmother, always careful to add that “I’m not accusing her of anything. I just want to know the exact cause of death.”

Reached at Pelican Hall, her Palm Beach estate, Elesabeth Gillet-who goes by “Eles” (pronounced “Liz”)-said, “There was never, ever, ever any foul play. Young Warry is not very smart. I mean, I feel sorry for him, because he’s kind of on the stupid side …. It doesn’t make me angry. I can’t let him make me angry. He hasn’t got any brain cells to rub together.”

About her late husband, who was 71 when he died, she said, “I never even knew another man existed when Warry and I married, and we had 27 happy years of our life. And I would do it all over again. We did everything together. Every single thing there was to do together-we traveled together, we ate together, we did every single thing together.”

But Mr. Gillet’s sister, Susan Chewning, and her husband, William Chewning, said they have their own unresolved questions about Big Warry’s death.

“I’d like to try to find out how he died,” said Ms. Chewning, “which means, unfortunately, exhuming the body.”

“I’m sure the story will progress,” said Mr. Chewning. “I’m from Newport, R.I.-I happen to live two houses down from the von Bulows …. I’ve seen how these situations go, and it does take a bit of time for, all of a sudden, people to wake up.”

Eles Gillet said she isn’t worried, and that Mr. Gillet and his sister are motivated by something else: Neither received any money from their father’s will.

“Don’t you know they’re after me because they were mad that they had been left out of the will?” she said. “Believe me, people will be tired of this story in a while. What’s in the paper today is trash tomorrow. Little Warry can do nothing to hurt me, and I’m not going to try to hurt him. That’s not my aim. He can try and try and try; he can say whatever he wants to. He will eventually get bored with it, I would think.”

Warrington Gillet III grew up as a rich kid in a Social Register –listed family. There were two Democratic Senators from Maryland in the family-his maternal grandfather was Millard Tydings, his uncle was Joseph Tydings. His father, Big Warry, was a wholesale liquor salesman for a family-owned business; later, he would sell real estate for Sotheby’s in Palm Beach.

Little Warry’s parents divorced when he was young and both remarried, leaving him, he said, to be “raised by a cook.”

He attended the all-boys Gilman School for 12 years, living at times with the headmaster. Otherwise, he lived with his mother and her new husband, a wealthy racetrack owner named John Schapiro. His stepfather owned an enormous estate, but living there, Little Warry said, he felt “somewhat tormented.”

“All this money and wealth was not ours,” he said. “I’m a normal guy; this was his money. You could enjoy it when you were present, but you leave the lap of luxury and then you go back in the subway. And then you go around thinking you’re of a certain ilk, when in reality you are not. You think you belong to these clubs, but you don’t- they do! You look at the Corniche in the driveway-you can’t drive it, you look at it. It’s dangling.”

He attended Villanova University for two years, but in 1979 he moved to Manhattan to become an actor. With his father’s financial support, he got a studio apartment on Sutton Place and studied at Lee Strasberg.

Mr. Gillet said he became “hooked on the city,” going out nights to Xenon and Studio 54. “One night I can remember there,” he said, “I’m on the dance floor and there’s explosions and snow is coming down, and the man in the moon comes … and I look at Bianca Jagger, and she’s in a G-string on a white horse, and I say, ‘You know what? I love this city. This place is for me!'”

Ernie Garrett, a fellow actor at the time who is now married with six kids and living in Oregon, said Mr. Gillet was an “incredible player” back then.

“Dude, he had the hottest women in New York,” Mr. Garrett said. “He is like Elvis, I’m telling you. We double-dated numerous times. This guy would always have young, hot, incredible women. World-class. Cover girls. Like no one I’ve ever seen …. He’d take six, seven, eight girls-all these young models-out to dinner. You know what? It was free. The restaurant owners knew him, they would say, ‘Bring the girls, bring the girls!'”

Mr. Garrett said his young friend always wanted to “live up” to his parents.

“Sent off to boarding school, it’s like the guy never had the love,” he said.

Mr. Garrett said he recalled hearing Mr. Gillet’s father, Big Warry, tell his son, “‘You don’t marry a good-looking woman and then be hurting for money. You marry for money, son, and you can have good-looking women all your life.’ No shit. This is his old man telling Warrington that. I thought that was fucking bullshit.”

Through the 1980’s, Mr. Gillet traveled back and forth to Los Angeles doing commercials and other minor work. His biggest role was as Jason in the Friday the 13th sequel. Years later, while working as a broker on Wall Street, Mr. Gillet was featured in a National Enquirer article on all the Jasons, with a picture of him in front of the New York Stock Exchange gripping a machete.

In 1982, he said, he was recruited by a small investment bank, Global America, which soon went out of business. He was hired by an investment bank, Gruntal & Co., in 1990. Meanwhile, he’d met his future wife at the then-trendy restaurant Coffee Shop on Union Square.

By the mid-1990’s, Mr. Gillet said, he was a “top producer” for the firm. In 1995, at a New Year’s Eve party on a boat in St. Bart’s, he met a Wall Street guy in his mid-30’s named Cary Cimino, who would later tell him about a lucrative business opportunity that involved Nasdaq-listed stocks. Back in Manhattan, the two men met at Harry Cipriani’s restaurant on Fifth Avenue and found they got along well. Mr. Cimino drove a 12-cylinder Mercedes-Benz, dated models and had worked at Bear Stearns. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both published lifestyle stories in which Mr. Cimino was quoted approvingly about his use of growth hormones to stay young and his taste in Pratesi sheets and Louis XVIII furniture.

In Mr. Gillet, Mr. Cimino apparently saw a rube.

“I was his dream,” said Mr. Gillet. “A young guy eager to make a lot of money, a little naïve, a little green, coming off the farm … I was the wrong person to ask, ‘Would you like to make a couple million dollars?'”

They made a deal.

Mr. Gillet did well, he said. His new friends gave him an envelope of $25,000 in cash and a Mercedes 560SL. He said he only became suspicious when he met his colleagues in person.

“They’re generally fat, out of shape,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. Where would I meet these people? I would never meet these people. How would I know them? I’ve never been to Brooklyn.

“The money was intoxicating, and being raised in all this different environment, I was really trying to win the approval of my father and Palm Beach,” he added. “I didn’t realize the scope of what was going on.”

Within about a year, his firm asked him to resign. Then, one morning in 1997, the F.B.I. broke in the door of his Central Park South apartment and took him in for questioning. He said he found himself in a cell with 20 other inmates and a steel toilet in the middle of the room.

“It’s terrifying,” he said. “You are in the scariest moment of your life. You think your life is over.”

His wife didn’t stick around. Their divorce will be final this year.

Mr. Gillet cooperated with the U.S. attorneys. The prosecutor thought he’d make a credible witness.

“I certainly look and act and appear very believable to any jury, more so than the Brooklyn gangsters,” he said.

He moved back to Maryland and waited. Over 100 people had been arrested in the stock scam, and it took a while for the government to prosecute the cases. For five years he lived on the farm, working in the stables, doing construction jobs and not sleeping well.

“You’re always thinking somebody’s going to kill you,” he said. “I mean, that’s not healthy.”

And it seems he was right. The F.B.I. convinced a man who was arrested in the stock sting to wear a wire to a meeting at Sparks Steak House with Mr. Cimino, who was taped saying, “Have Jimmy take care of [Mr. Gillet]. I don’t care how it’s done, go down there, put the gun in his hand, put it in his mouth … pull the trigger, make it look like suicide.” [Mr. Cimino would later say he had been joking.]

It turned out that Mr. Gillet never had to testify, but was hit with over $1 million in fines and restitution. Mr. Cimino was sentenced in 2002 to a 10-year sentence for securities fraud and fined $7 million; he tried (without success) to use the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to claim that he was too traumatized to do any jail time because his office was near the World Trade Center.

Does Mr. Gillet worry about what will happen when Mr. Cimino gets out?

“It has been told to me by the government that hopefully when he leaves his maximum-security prison, he will have learned his lesson,” said Mr. Gillet. “However, no one knows.

“I never should have allowed this to happen,” Mr. Gillet continued. “And every day it haunts me that better judgment allowed something like this to happen. But you’ve got to look into someone’s psyche: What was their childhood like? What is their state of mind? Why?”

He said that all “the catastrophes that have unfolded” in his life would not keep him from a bright future.

“Do you admit what you did?” he said. “Are you sorry for what you did? Do you have remorse? Are you a better man now? Are you at the bottom? Are you working your way back up? Why was I going down this wrong path? I had parents of extraordinary net worth and lifestyle, and so I was on a journey to win their approval. I’m not making excuses …. And what are you doing now with your life? What could benefit society?”

“Warrington has always been attempting to prove himself to his parents,” said his lawyer, Philip Pitzer. “He got involved with a wrong element and was overcome by greed, which was motivated by his need to show his parents, ‘Look at me-I can have nice things just like you.'”

Was his client taken advantage of?

“No. He decided to do something that was criminal,” said Mr. Pitzer. “All he had to do was say no …. On the other hand, if you come from a certain psychological spot, you can be blinded by your greed and your need, and I think that’s what he was.”

Mr. Gillet said he became suspicious about his father’s death because it was his understanding that Big Warry was in good physical shape.

“You’ve got to admit it, this is very sudden,” he said. “People don’t normally have lunch and then go upstairs and die. That’s unusual.” When he took his concerns to the Palm Beach Police Department, he was told to file a complaint but, according to the police, has not done so.

Ms. Gillet said that her husband died last May because “his time had come.” The Baltimore Sun reported the cause of death as “complications of heart disease.” According to Mr. Gillet, his father’s death certificate listed the cause of death as natural causes.

In the weeks after Big Warry died, Ms. Gillet said, she didn’t leave her room or eat, and at the suggestion of friends, took a cruise to Russia. When she came back last fall, she aroused her stepson’s suspicions when she spent some time with a 49-year-old Cuban shoe designer named Andy Avello. Mr. Gillet would claim that Mr. Avello had moved into Pelican Hall and was wearing his late father’s suits.

“Andy? You’ve got to be kidding,” said Ms. Gillet. “Andy and [Big] Warry were good friends. I came back from Russia this fall, and Andy started taking me out. I did have a barbecue about three weeks ago-he had nothing to do with it. He did come over and help me set up the grill and do some of those things that Warry used to do. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. We’ve always been close friends, and we’re still close friends.”

“I never lived with her; I have my own house,” Mr. Avello said. “We’re like old friends. C’mon, she’s 20 years older than me.

“I wish they both could sit down and work something out, because it’s stupid,” said Mr. Avello of the impasse between stepmother and stepson. “The whole thing is dumb. I like Little Warry, and I always have-we’ve chased a lot of women, we have a good time together.”

“Eles is a spoiled brat,” Mr. Avello said. “It’s her way or the highway, and that’s the way she is. She’s a great person, she has a big heart, but she’s very spoiled.”

“Well, I think all of us, in my group especially, are spoiled,” Ms. Gillet said. “And we were spoiled due to the fact that we were raised the way we were raised. But I’m not too spoiled that I haven’t done a lot of charity work down here. I’ve worked for this hospital. I was the first one who gave a fashion show for St. Mary’s … So if that’s spoiled, I’m glad I’m spoiled.

“There’s nothing to work out,” Ms. Gillet said of her stepson’s situation. “I’m happy to talk to him, but the will was written as it was, and that’s it. I’m not going to break the will myself, especially because everything was left to me.

“Warry left everything to me,” she said. “Little Warry did not give me a chance to give him anything. I gave him 10 or 12 suits. There was more to come, but not now. I’m not going to do it now. I had a ring I was going to give him that belonged to his father. But to heck with it. I had it cut down, and it fits my little pinky finger now.”

On a recent night in Manhattan, Mr. Gillet was at a party at the Morgans Hotel bar. He was wearing a flamboyant red shirt and was working the charm. Women noticed him. In the crowd were the actor Kyle MacLachlan, ID Model Management head Paolo Zampoli, and the screenwriter David Marconi and his 24-year old Danish fiancé, a model named Julie Iverson.

Mr. Gillet was talking to Ms. Iverson about his TV show idea, EQ . He thought she’d made a great co-host-or something.

“It’s a lifestyle, it’s a feeling, it’s a passion !” he said. “Where did Ralph Lauren evolve from? The EQ world of polo!”

She seemed impressed.

“He knows what he wants and usually gets it,” she said. “I think that is hot.”

He handed her his card; Mr. Marconi looked queasy.

Mr. Gillet looked around the room.

“The people want this guy to come back!” he said. Exhuming ‘Big Warry’