“Lee Dennison” does not exist.
He’s a fictional character, made up by a man named Mark Binmore, a sufferer of something that might be termed “Multiple Online Identity Disorder” - though I prefer the term “Wikiphrenia,” just because I personally own the domain name.
Anyone who appears on the internet claiming that “Casting Director Lee Dennison” is “dating” someone (always a male celebrity) is lying, and indeed, is probably Binmore himself, using one of his many pseudonyms. These include “Lee Kaay,” “Cheekychops,” “Dean Saunders,” “Harry Dennison,” “mickeybloke,” “Ben Humble,” “Jamie Lowe,” “Ram Sweet,” “Pukkabosh,” “nick baker,” “cheekymonkey,” “Fergis,” “Luc Ferrier,” and “Lawrence Davis,” among others. All of these pseudonymous accounts, on Wikipedia, Facebook, and literally dozens of celebrity-gossip message boards and blogs, are operated by the same person.
Binmore himself apparently works for a London-based Alcohol Rehabilitation Program called Foundation66, and also appears to own (at least partially) a Bed & Breakfast in Beziers, France, called the Maison de l’Orb. He has authored a non-existent book of his copious amounts of poetry, and he is also the registered principal of a telecommunications equipment company called “Qualitiwork Ltd.,” the address for which is a mail drop also used by the fictitious companies “Lee Dennison Associates,” “Fushion UK,” “Fushion Pukka Bosh,” and “Kitty Lips.” All of these seem to have been made up out of whole cloth, some with no supporting web presences whatsoever.
In fact, the closest Binmore has been to an actual motion picture production is probably his own basement.
The Tangled Web He Wove
The Wayback Machine at web.archive.org has a crude version (based on a Microsoft FrontPage template) of the qualitiwork.com site from Oct. 6, 1999. It contains only the words, “Thank you for visiting our Website and we hope that you can benefit from the savings offered. If you like to become more involved and earn money call us.” Apparently, this page went unchanged for over 7 years - until late 2006, when it was updated to the current version (as of the time of this writing, at least).
The archive also has entries for ukscreen.com’s page on “Lee Dennison Associates” (since removed, but archived here) from as early as May 2, 2002. This page contains a list of 12 titles, none of them real, for which “Lee Dennison” is credited as “Casting Director.” One of the non-existent titles is called “Mark B - Killing Of Sister B,” supposedly a music video produced by “Accurate (New York),” another non-existent company.
Meanwhile, on August 18, 2002, an episode of Sex and the City aired on HBO which featured actor Ron Livingston as “Jack Berger,” a writer who has a brief relationship with “Carrie Bradshaw,” the main character (played by Sarah Jessica Parker). At the end of Season 5, Jack breaks up with Carrie via a Post-It™ note. The Season 5 episodes were released on DVD on December 30, 2003, and would have started appearing on non-premium syndication in the UK roughly a year or two later.
Over the course of the next three years, Binmore slowly added and removed various titles from the “Dennison” resumé at ukscreen.com. By mid-2005, it contained over 40 fake titles, none of them linked to other websites or pages. This would change, however, after Binmore’s initial forays into Wikiland.
Round I: September 2005
Binmore, using a newly-registered account called “Jcash,” added an article to Wikipedia called “Montgomery Sands” on Sept. 24, 2005. Apparently, the initial version was unclear regarding what, or who, Montgomery Sands was - and less than a month later the article was “userfied,” meaning it was moved to a subfolder of the User:Jcash page as a means of getting it out of “mainspace” without actually deleting it (this was considered to be “biting the newbie”). Jcash then claimed “Montgomery Sands” was a novel written by “Harry Dennison,” who had supposedly died in 1998. Little evidence of this incident remains, except for the User:Jcash talk page, in which he wrote on October 11, 2005:
“Yes you morons, you failed to realise that this was a god damn book. Written by Harry Dennison about this character. You couldnt seem to tie two together and come up with the conclusion it was just a god damn novel. If you will put it back I would gladly permit you to edit in the fact it’s just a novel.”
It would seem that several Wikipedians rightly questioned the existence of this novel (which in fact does not exist). After Jcash added it back into mainspace on Nov. 2, it was deleted via the AfD (Articles for Deletion) process on Nov. 8. Another article on “Harry Dennison” himself had already been deleted via AfD on November 3 (as one editor put it, “non-existent person/character, not confirmable via Google”). However, Binmore did manage to have the fake novel listed in Montgomery: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases, published by Icon Group International. This was later printed on paper:
“Harry Dennison. Harry Dennison 1955-98 was the late creator of Montgomery Sands. The Novel. A man idolised for his universal travel and various other encounters involving the supernatural. [WP]“
This experience taught Binmore that even during their explosive-growth phase of 2005, Wikipedians required verifiable sources. They also placed a high value on what they called “ghits” - or Google Hits, the number of results returned by Google on a particular word or phrase. And so, over the next several months, Binmore did his best to create as many as he could.
Round II: April 2006
During the ensuing six months, Binmore focused on what would be his two main characters, “Casting Director Lee Dennison” and “Lee Kaay,” who was supposed to be a pop singer. “Lee Kaay” was (fictionally) based in Bangkok, and there’s reason to believe that Binmore had traveled to Thailand at some point in time. On April 17, 2006, Binmore added a reference to Lee Kaay’s “Frost 2003 EP” to the Kate Bush article, referring to an entry he had managed to place on a Kate Bush fan site. (The fictitious EP included a “Limited” DVD, and was “a massive hit charting at No 1 in Iceland, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Latvia and Estonia.”) Meanwhile, “Harry Dennison” was literally resurrected and given a whole new disturbing backstory as the teenage underwear-modeling pop-star son of “Lee Dennison.” (After all, the mere fact that “Lee” prefers men doesn’t mean he can’t father children.)
Binmore wrote biographical articles on these characters as well as other support articles, and posted them to Wikipedia during the Spring of 2006. It seems that at first, he was equally interested in his “Lee Kaay” character, creating not only a biography (April 20), but later articles on his fictitious label, “Bite Records” (May 13), a fake album called “Erotikuss” (July 11, 2006), and another fake album called “Savage.” All of these had been deleted by the end of July as “non-notable” and “non-verifiable.”
The User:Leedennison Wikipedia account was registered on April 17, 2006, and began editing on April 20. One of his first edits was to Ron Livingston, changing his engagement to actress Lisa Sheridan to read, “Livingston is currently with a partner.” He also altered the article on another heterosexual actor, Danny Dyer, stating that “Danny is currently neogitaing (sic) a new film contract with casting director Lee Dennison.” (This edit was reverted on May 4, though further attempts were made later.)
A “Lee Dennison” biography, also created on April 20, was deleted within just 7 days. Binmore reacted indignantly to Wikipedians pointing out the complete lack of “Lee Dennison” references at IMDb.com (in case you’ve been living in a hole for the last several years, that’s the Internet Movie Database, which is fact-checked by paid staff members), and also their accusing him of having posted “spam” and “vanity-cruft”:
“One does not need to be verified nor registered at IMDB to be an actor/crew member nor do the majority of films have CD listed in their crew as the CD role is required before production takes place. This is not a self advertisement (no companies details/web site information has been given) and unlike other people including one user here no vanity picture has been posted. Tendentious is the users own opinion and therefore not legally fact and the user even comments that “if” the details are fact he is still not convinced - again this is just a matter of opinion and not fact. It should be stated that otehr actors have placed their own bio here and have passed therefore RH comments are also not valid.”
“Vanity? Hoax? It would suggest a little reasearch is done befoire casting doubts. The etiquette still states do not “bite” and “assume good faith” which the majority of you have not. Some of you who have commented have displayed a touch of vanity on your own pages and some are rather self indulgent to say the least.”
It should probably be noted here that Wikipedia, essentially under attack by an obsessed cyberstalker, handled Binmore about as well as any other site handled him, if not better - they at least deleted the more obvious false material. Of course, because of Wikipedia’s already-massive size, Binmore’s 2005-06 activities amounted to little more than needling a whale, and Binmore was just one of thousands of people with needles. The fast-growing site had lots of other problems to deal with - and the slow, methodical Binmore, who hardly ever engaged the Wikipedia community directly and seemingly had nothing but contempt for its members, was easily forgotten.
May 2006: Revenge is a Dish Best Served Online
After the deletions, Binmore probably spent the next several days learning as much as he could about Wikipedia’s inner social workings, all with an eye towards achieving his primary goal: public notoriety for his non-existent characters. On May 8, he registered as User:Cheekychops and made his first attempt to romantically link the heterosexual (and real) Livingston with the gay, non-existent “Lee Dennison.” When this was reverted, he changed the article back to “with a partner” and set about creating non-Wikipedia source material to support the bogus relationship. Meanwhile, on May 13 he added references to “Harry Dennison” (and later “Lee Dennison”) to the article on Storm Model Management (later expanded on Aug. 28), and on May 28, he added a “Lee Dennison” reference to the article on Vin Diesel, which was quickly reverted - probably because Diesel had by then become one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood, and therefore was on many Wikipedians’ watchlists.
On June 3, Binmore posted to the effect that former (though not original) Bananarama member Jacquie O’Sullivan was working for “Lee Dennison”. He also began to insert Dennison references into Wikipedia articles on real motion pictures - in particular, United 93, on June 8:
“Casting consultant Lee Dennison recently defended his decision in UK magazine Attitude to work on the film and cast unknown actors in every role.”
Other editors simply accepted these claims at face value and edited around them, as they seemed to be mostly innocuous, if not trivial.
On June 19, he made another attempt on the Vin Diesel article and added his first “Lee Dennison” references to the article on Colin Farrell (”he was photographed kissing Uk casting director Lee Dennison at a pre lauch party for Miami Vice.”) He also made minor, and largely helpful, non-Dennison edits to the article on Ron Livingston using his “Cheekychops” account. By this time, he had learned that edits like these were required to build a user’s reputation, and to thereby take full advantage of Wikipedia’s “Assume Good Faith” policy.
Round III: December 2006
On April 1, 2006, someone (probably not Binmore) added this to the article about Eastenders actor Jake Maskall: “He is very private about his social life, however in 2005, he came out to the public that he was a homosexual and is in a long term relationship with another man.” On Sept. 28, Binmore made an innocuous edit to that article, and on Oct. 13, he edited it to state that Maskall was in a long-term relationship with “Lee Dennison”. By this time he had learned to put brackets around the word “Casting Director” to distract other Wikipedians from the fact that “Lee Dennison” had no link whatsoever. This information remained in place until Dec. 19, at which point a User:Jakemaskall changed it to “his boyfriend.” Two weeks later, User:Leedennison reappeared to “confirm” that he was “not dating Jake.” In all likelihood, User:Jakemaskall was also Binmore, who by now had moved on to other male celebrities including Chris Hollins (Dec. 5) and Rob James-Collier (Dec. 5). On Dec. 11, 2006, Binmore edited the Hollins article again to state that “in the December edition of the BBC magazine Ariel, Chris confirmed he currently lives in London with his partner Casting Director Lee Dennison.” Alas, on Dec. 19, Wikipedia administrators had grown tired of Binmore’s behavior, and banned Cheekychops indefinitely. User:DragonflySixtyseven wrote in the block summary: “User is obsessed with Casting Director Lee Dennison.”
This didn’t stop Binmore completely, of course, though it did thwart him for several months, during which he realized that his targets had been slightly too high-profile for completely unsubstantiated claims. After apparently sitting out most of 2007, he created another named account, User:Pukkabosh, in August - but quickly abandoned it after failing to add “Dennison” references to the article on UK pop band Matt Bianco. At this point, he seems to have also realized that named user accounts on Wikipedia were a liability for someone with his specific agenda, and on Jan. 5, 2008, he made his first attempt on the article about London Times restaurant critic Giles Coren using just an IP address. This, in turn, led to his first real “revert war,” beginning on January 17 and lasting for over two weeks. The revisions from this period show Binmore’s new concern with sourcing: “confirmed in THE TIMES sat mag 2 weeks ago,” “THE TIMES link to his column is already provided,” etc. It might be noted that Coren’s January 5 column in the Times, which mercilessly panned the Japanese eatery “Sake No Hana,” makes no mention of his romantic affiliations whatsoever - other than that his “date got a splinter in her finger from the cheapo chopsticks.”
The Coren article may have ultimately proved to be Binmore’s undoing, however, because it brought him to the attention of the one person who actually cared at that point: User:Blahblax.
Won’t Anyone Listen?
User:Blahblax registered his Wikipedia account on February 7, 2008, with the Giles Coren revert war still ongoing; he had probably been involved in the edit war already, however, as an AnonIP account. His first edit was to create a user page, which read: “Irish guy, just created this after noticing stupid things and wanting to correct them in a non-anonymous way.” His next edit was to Wikipedia’s Administrator intervention against vandalism page:
“184.108.40.206: Has posted on multiple pages that person in question is gay and dating someone called Lee Dennison. Keeps reposting this comment with no evidence - including Giles Coren, Jeremy Sheffield, Matt Bianco, Rav Wilding, Ben James-Ellis, and Talk:Danny_Dyer.”
Wikipedia’s reaction to this was to blank the notice after three days, since the reported IP address had made no further edits during that time. (In fact, Binmore waited an entire week before using that IP address again.) Of course, Binmore was no ordinary “drive-by” vandal; he was nothing if not patient, and besides, he had access to other IP addresses.
Meanwhile, another explanation for Binmore’s relative lack of activity during 2007 and the first half of 2008, of course, is Facebook. After creating a profile for himself, and a page for his B&B, Binmore began creating profiles for nearly all of his support characters, complete with photographs of various shirtless (if not completely naked) men. In addition, he replaced the fake credits on his ukscreen.com page with titles and links to real movies, in effect taking credit for the work of real casting directors, despite his fictional character having no presence on IMDb whatsoever.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Binmore even got some unwarranted recognition for himself. In the Wikipedia article on Pink TV (France), a gay cable channel based in Paris, Binmore made himself a TV Presenter. Needless to say, Binmore has never appeared on Pink TV as a paid “presenter” or, in all probability, anything else.
Round IV: October 2008 and beyond
Blahblax continued to remove “Lee Dennison” references in various articles throughout the course of 2008. On Oct. 10 of that year, however, Binmore began a steady, seemingly-relentless attack on the Livingston article; his first edit lasted until it was reverted by Blahblax on Nov. 6, and the two-week duration of this article version may have given Binmore hope that he might ultimately succeed in his quest to “prove” the phony relationship actually existed. Binmore had already registered on dozens of celebrity chat sites, and continued to push the same story on all of them. On February 3rd, Binmore even uploaded a photo of Livingston, apparently taken by him at Heathrow Airport. The photo was even credited to “Mark Binmore”; it’s possible that he didn’t realize that his name appeared in the photo’s internal property tags.
Finally, on February 17, 2009, Livingston’s publicist got into the fray, initially using IP address 220.127.116.11. This was followed by a ten-month revert war between the publicist’s AnonIP and Binmore’s, involving dozens of revisions.
In November of 2009, Livingston married his Standoff co-star, Rosemarie Dewitt. Binmore certainly didn’t appreciate that, though this seems to have actually thwarted him for a time - there were no “Dennison” edits made between Nov. 12 (reverted a day later) and the beginning of December. But the damage was done: Livingston, his publicist, and his attorneys had had enough. Not knowing the identity of what they called the “hacker,” they filed suit against “John Doe” on December 5, 2009.
I Smell Lawsuit!
After 3 years of “Dennison” edits and over a year of relentless edit-warring, the Livingston article was finally given full protection by User:Alison (also a WR member) on the same day word of the lawsuit began to appear. The story was subsequently picked up by most of the entertainment media, none of whom made any initial attempts to investigate whether or not “Lee Dennison” actually existed. (Ironically, because it bore no copyright, Binmore’s photo of Livingston was used freely by several websites to illustrate their articles on the lawsuit, before the image was finally deleted by User:Alison on Dec. 8.) Binmore appeared in the comments sections of several of these news sites, in various guises, to “confirm” the existence of “Lee Dennison,” as well as his bogus “relationship” with Livingston.
The actual investigation leading to the identification of Binmore took place mostly here on The Wikipedia Review. Binmore, whose name appeared within the Livingston photo’s tags and on most of the Dennison-related sites, was first identified as the actual culprit by WR member Tarantino, as posted on Dec. 7. Showing his usual reserve, Tarantino wrote: “I think a point that is generally being missed is the possibility that the main person behind this years long campaign isn’t merely a prankster.”
Also, in fairness, it should be noted that the folks at “WikiAnswers,” part of Wikiscraper site answers.com, were onto the hoax before we were, though not before User:Blahblax, and not to the extent of figuring out who the culprit actually was. (Meanwhile, Binmore, or someone using his account, visited answers.com to repeatedly ask questions like, “did adolf hitler kill anybody,” “was world war 2 important,” and “how make yourself poo,” in addition to “questions” about Livingston’s sex life.)
To Wikipedia’s credit, several users - so far, at least - understand that the best way to ameliorate the damage (caused by their having allowed Binmore to edit-war over the article for so long) is to at least keep news of the lawsuit out of the article, under the WP:NOTNEWS policy. However, the article’s Talk page does contain several disturbing comments by other Wikipedia users (”seems like Dennison is the victim and the others are merely caught in the crossfire”; “since when is calling someone gay grounds for a lawsuit?”; “if the suit gains or maintains some traction, then we can add it”; “if it does gain ground, it should be added”).
As for the future, only time will tell. Livingston is, of course, in a difficult double-bind: To pursue Binmore legally would mean further unwanted publicity, even the possibility of references to the defamatory content reappearing in his Wikipedia article - this time, with real sources. Moreover, because of Section 230 of the inappropriately-titled Communications Decency Act and similar immunity-granting legal structures in other countries, he can’t force any of the chat boards and blogs containing the defamatory content to remove it. He can request that they do so, but what are the chances?
Meanwhile, Binmore could conceivably claim that his “Lee Dennison” character and the rumor-spreading was all a form of parody, and if successful in doing so, he might be able to avoid criminal charges completely. And since he isn’t a public figure, he might even have a better chance of having references to him removed from the interwebs than Livingston! As for the civil suit against him, it’s doubtful he has much money to pay in damages, either.
Speaking only for myself, as a fellow Iowan… if I were Ron Livingston, I’d be pissed.