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Domino Harvey

Domino Harvey

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Harvey, daughter of the late British actor Laurence Harvey and supermodel Paulene Stone, had led a tormented, eccentric existence. She ran a London dance club, worked as a ranch hand in San Diego, then became a "bail recovery agent," hunting fugitives and carrying a shotgun she called

The cause of death will not be determined until toxicology tests are completed, officials said.

Among those who attended Harvey's funeral on July 1 were Rourke, Scott, Peter Morton and Steve Jones.

"I think as the song goes, she was looking for love in all the wrong places," said Jones. "Another lost soul who couldn't find her way."


The Fall of a Thrill Hunter
Jet-set daughter Domino Harvey aspired to be a legend. In death, she may achieve it.

By Chris Lee, Special to The Times.

The day Domino Harvey died, she called her former partner, Ed Martinez, to reminisce about old times — the three violent, thrilling years they spent together as bounty hunters in South Los Angeles.

Harvey, daughter of the late British actor Laurence Harvey and supermodel Paulene Stone, had led a tormented, eccentric existence. She ran a London dance club, worked as a ranch hand in San Diego, then became a "bail recovery agent," hunting fugitives and carrying a shotgun she called Betsy.

A statuesque, 5-foot-9 blond, she seemed addicted to excitement, to adrenaline, as much as to cocaine and heroin.

Now, at 35, she was facing federal drug trafficking charges that carried a possible 10-year prison term. Word of her arrest had blazed through the British tabloids, infuriating her.

"She was telling me she was set up," Martinez said.

Then there was the movie. "Domino," an action comedy based on her life, was due in theaters soon. The film, starring Keira Knightley, took the usual Hollywood liberties with Harvey's life, depicting her as a European fashion model who becomes a bounty hunter and goes on to have her own reality TV show.

Harvey told Martinez that she wanted to make a documentary about her life to set the record straight. All of her life, other people had defined her. Now, she wanted to do so.

That evening, June 27, friends visited her at her West Hollywood cottage. Around 11 p.m. everyone had left, except a live-in "minder" that Harvey had hired to help her stay clean. Harvey went into the bathroom and closed the door. Seven minutes later, she was found dead.

Warwick Stone, Harvey's uncle, said she finally got what she wanted, if not in the way she would have wanted.

"She didn't want to be an ordinary person," he said. "She wanted to be a legend. I would like Domino to have a decent legend." Domino Harvey was born in London in 1969. Her father, born Laruschka Mischa Skikne, had transcended an impoverished Lithuanian-Jewish background to star as an English dandy in movies such as "Life at the Top" and "Darling." He played an American in his celebrated role in "The Manchurian Candidate."

Domino's mother was a Vogue cover girl who embodied Swinging London in the 1960s.

Laurence Harvey died of stomach cancer in 1973, when Domino was 4. He left a sizable inheritance, ensuring that she would be financially well off. It did not fill the void created by her father's death. By her teens, Harvey had been kicked out of four elite boarding schools.

At 16, she settled down at the Dartington Hall School in southwestern England and cultivated a skill that would prove useful later. "I spent my time making canoes and studying martial arts," she told London's Mail on Sunday newspaper in 1994. "It was really relaxed."

In the early '80s, her mother married Peter Morton, founder of the Hard Rock Café and Hotel chain, and moved to Los Angeles. Harvey, a teenager at the time, stayed behind, moving into an apartment in London's Notting Hill Gate neighborhood.

"It was a rough area," remembered Warwick Stone, former creative director for the Hard Rock Hotel franchise, who now lives in Sylmar. "Bloody policemen, race riots, bottle throwing."

A mythology grew up that like her mother, Domino was a model and that, unlike her mother, she had turned her back on the glamour of the runway for a fringe existence. But according to several family members and friends, Harvey never worked as a model.

She did show an entrepreneurial spirit, designing a funky clothing line and selling it at the Kensington Market. "She also ran one of the first clubs in London to do with the dance music scene," said Michael John Galvin, a British attorney who was a friend of Harvey from her London days and now lives in L.A.

Even then she was battling drug addiction. At 17, she visited her uncle and aunt in Israel, seeking to get to know members of her father's family. While there, she sneaked away to score drugs, recalled Nachshon Sneh, an Israeli cousin.

'Complete remake'

At 20, she moved to L.A. and into her mother's house in the Hollywood Hills. Two people who knew her then said her drug problem quickly landed her in rehab. By 1992, she was building a new life in San Diego.

Just as her father had, she began to create an image for herself. "He came across as a very fey, elegant dandy. In fact, he was anything but," said Domino's godfather, Peter Evans, a British journalist and author. "He eventually became what he had created. I think that quality — that complete remake — was in Domino."

She worked briefly as a ranch hand, then became a volunteer firefighter at the Boulevard Fire & Rescue company near the Mexican border. "She said she loved rescuing people," said one of her defense attorneys, Michael Mayock.

Two years later, she returned to L.A. intent on becoming a firefighter but was rejected by the Los Angeles Fire Department. She took courses as an emergency medical technician but never found work as a paramedic.

After reading about a two-week, $300 class for bail enforcement agents, Harvey decided to become a bounty hunter.

Martinez, a Vietnam veteran and gang member turned bounty hunter, was the teacher.

"She was young — maybe 22 or 23 at the time — tough and blond," he recalled. "She had on camouflage pants and a camo tank top and a big knife on her belt. She stood out."

Martinez introduced her to his boss, Celes King III, a legendary bail bondsman and civil rights activist who ran the Celes King Bail Bond agency in South Los Angeles. As Martinez's partner, Harvey embarked on a high-risk career as one of the only female bounty hunters of the time.

Harvey helped captured about 50 fugitives, Martinez said. He remembered 10 of those as "dangerous situations." Their work often took them out of state. He said Harvey took part in an armed stand-off in Texas, among other tense situations. In addition to her shotgun, she carried a 9-millimenter Browning pistol.

"She had money. She could afford good guns," Martinez said.

And she continued to use drugs on the job.

"Mostly coke, sometimes speed," Martinez said. "I did heroin with her occasionally. There was so much opportunity. You break down the door, arrest someone, they've got drugs. Well, you're going to get paid there too."

Again and again, Harvey tried to kick her habit. She became friends with Steve Jones, lead guitarist of the punk rock group the Sex Pistols — and a former junkie and alcoholic who has been drug free for almost 20 years. A mutual acquaintance had asked the rocker to help her.

Jones remembers hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains with Harvey one afternoon about 10 years ago when she collapsed. He attributed it to a drug reaction. "I was very angry actually ... I had asked her beforehand and she had sworn to me she was straight."

Beneath the tough exterior, Jones saw an insecure woman. "She was very shy and didn't have a lot of social skills," Jones said. "Whenever I took her out to meet friends, she wouldn't talk."

The Tony Scott connection

Word of an English rose trolling the streets of South Los Angeles for fugitives made its way to Britain. In the mid-'90s, a London tabloid profiled Harvey — and a business manager for Tony Scott, the director of films such as "Top Gun" and "Beverly Hills Cop II," sent the article to the director.

"I tracked her down, dug her out and that's where it all began," Scott said.

Captivated by Harvey, whom he remembered as "a fascinating little thing," the director seized upon the idea she would make a great movie subject. Scott began taping interviews with Harvey. They would form the basis of a script.

"One of her quotes — and this made it into the movie — 'Heads you live and tails you die.' That to me encapsulates how she lived her life," he said. "There was nothing as intoxicating, not even drugs, as actually kicking down a door and wondering what was on the other side."

She sold her life story to Scott for $360,000 in 1995. Around that time, Martinez left L.A., effectively ending Harvey's bounty hunting career. At some point in 1997 or 1998, Harvey's mother enrolled her in the Habilitat rehabilitation clinic in Hawaii, a long-term residential program.

"She was very unhappy about the whole thing," said Evans. "It was a very strict regime."

Part-time DJ

Harvey returned to Los Angeles in 2000 and enrolled in computer classes at Santa Monica College and UCLA. She did odd computer graphics jobs and occasionally served as a DJ at nightclubs in West Hollywood, including Louis XIV on La Brea, where she "loved to play early '80s hip-hop," recalled club owner Jean-Louis Bartoli.

A year earlier, Paulene Stone bought Domino and her sister, Sophie, a West Hollywood cottage on a tree-lined street a block from the Pacific Design Center. Sophie, an architect and interior designer, is Stone's daughter from an earlier marriage.

The sisters lived together in the cottage, and Domino continued to meet with Scott every six months or so to talk about the movie.

In 2003, Domino was arrested for possession of crystal methamphetamine. As a first offender, she was allowed to avoid trial and enter a treatment program.

Around that time, Sophie Harvey married Aspen businessman and philanthropist Richard Butera. Domino was introduced to Butera's son, Thomas Richard Butera Jr.

According to a family member, the sisters began to grow apart. But Harvey and the younger Butera became friends. At one point, she visited him at his home in Gulfport, Miss.; another time, he visited her in West Hollywood, said Anthony Salerno, one of Harvey's attorneys.

By 2004, "Domino" was moving into production. In October, Knightley signed on to play Domino for $2 million. The $60-million film began a 62-day shooting schedule using locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It is due to open Oct. 14.

Harvey was often on the set, serving as a technical consultant. Although it was widely reported that she was upset with her portrayal and with the liberties that screenwriter Richard Kelly, the writer-director of "Donnie Darko," took with her story, family and friends say Harvey was delighted with the movie.

"She was not happy about those reports," said her friend Galvin. "She really liked Tony Scott. There was no conflict there whatsoever. I would know about it: I was on the set with her many times and went to the wrap party with her."

In January, Butera Jr., 41, was arrested in Gulfport on charges of possessing methamphetamine and conspiring to distribute it. He pleaded guilty to one count of possession of less than 50 grams of methamphetamine on June 7 and remains in jail while awaiting a Sept. 13 sentence, which could range from five to 40 years, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Mississippi. Calls to Butera's attorney and family were not returned by press time.

In May, Harvey was arrested at her home on a warrant issued in Mississippi after a federal indictment charged her and a co-defendant named Eric Pae with conspiring to possess and distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. "She was very adamant that she did nothing wrong," Salerno said.

The last days

At a bail hearing in May, the judge deemed Harvey a flight risk. She had to put up the deed for the cottage she and her sister Sophie owned — now worth $1.2 million — and a $300,000 bond. The judge ordered her to surrender her passport and be confined to house arrest with an electronic anklet.

In Domino Harvey's final days, she girded herself for fights on several fronts. Stone, her uncle, said she was considering suing several publications for describing her as a lesbian and was also considering suing one of the rehab facilities.

And she had arranged to have her beloved pit bull, Blue, travel to Mississippi with her for a court hearing in early July.

"The major thing in Domino's life was her dog," said defense attorney Mayock. "That's what she talked about in jail. She didn't miss anybody else."

When she finally returned home, Harvey arranged to have four "minders" she had met at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings move into her house to keep her off drugs. Four days before she died, she called Jones. "I hadn't seen her for a long time but she started calling me, telling me she's straight now, can I take her to [12-step] meetings," he said. "I thought, 'Here we go again.' "

Although she had been out of touch with Martinez for nearly a decade, she tracked him down so Scott's production company, Scott Free, could pay him for including Martinez (Mickey Rourke plays the "Ed" character) in the film.

She also talked about the documentary she wanted to make.

"At the same time, she was asking me about another [bounty hunting] case I was working on," he said. "I was going to build her up and get her back in the business."

The Sheriff's Department said officers arrived at Harvey's house a little after 11 p.m. on June 27 and found her unconscious. She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 11:28. A department spokesperson later said she had died in the bath.

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