40 Years Ago: Producer Lou Adler Is Kidnapped and Held for Ransom
Lou Adler got one hell of a wake-up call on Sept. 1, 1976. The music mogul was asleep when armed assailants entered the bedroom to his Malibu home, handcuffed and then held him for $25,000 ransom.
Adler was almost as legendary a figure in the entertainment industry in 1976 as he is now. He managed Jan & Dean, co-wrote “Wonderful World” for Sam Cooke, discovered the Mamas & the Papas, helped organize the Monterey Pop Festival and signed Johnny Rivers, Carole King, Spirit and Cheech & Chong to his Ode Records label. He also produced records for most of those artists and won a couple of Grammys for his work on King’s Tapestry.
So how did a few small-time criminals gain access to the Hollywood bigwig’s house? It helped that one of them was a young model. Twenty-six-year-old Veronica Franovich had met Adler’s assistant Neil Silver at the beach near the label head’s home in Malibu. Calling herself Karen Jennings, Franovich earned Silver’s trust and enticed him to meet her at a secluded location on Aug. 31. That’s when Silver encountered Franovich’s partners: Zoltan Laslow Kakash and Sandor Nagy, both 38.
Wielding guns, the two men forced Silver at gunpoint to allow them access to Adler’s home. After restraining Adler and Silver, the crooks moved them to another Malibu property the producer owned. Everyone waited there for eight hours, until Adler could arrange to have $25,000 couriered to the location. The criminals absconded with the cash, leaving Adler and Silver unharmed.
But the kidnappers didn’t stay safe for long. A day after the crime, Los Angeles police arrested Franovich and Nagy. They were soon charged with kidnapping, burglary and conspiracy. A few weeks later, police located, arrested and charged Kakash too. Almost $15,000 of the ransom was recovered by L.A. Sherriff’s deputies from a residence that Franovich was attempting to rent out.
The following year, both Franovich and Kakash were convicted in a court of law. Franovich was sentenced to seven months in prison for setting up the operation. Meanwhile, Kakash received a life sentence for his work in the caper. But Nagy skipped bail and remains a fugitive from the law, all these years later.
After the tumultuous events surrounding the kidnapping, Adler moved into film directing, helming Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke. He later received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Basketball fans might know him as the guy with the white beard who sits next to Jack Nicholson at Lakers games.
Top 100 Classic Rock Artists