Nashville Private Investigator's Story Becomes TV Movie

This appeared in The Tennessean - May 8, 2004

When Nashville private eye Janice Holt went to Hollywood to pitch her story as a movie to Lauren Holly, little did she dream Tom Selleck would become her good-luck sign.

Holt's true-life experiences as a spurned woman turned private investigator hits the Lifetime Network at 7 p.m. Monday under the title Caught in the Act. It does, indeed, star Holly as Nashville's blue-collar answer to Lt. Columbo.

''A lot of my clients tell me I have a natural instinct to perceive what's happening. People can give me a scenario and usually my theories are pretty good,'' Holt said. ''I have no idea why I can figure things out. Maybe because I watched Rockford Files and Magnum, P.I.''

Holt accidentally met Mr. Magnum, P.I. himself while on a trip to sell her story as a movie.

''Tom Selleck was my omen. I went to L.A. to have dinner with Holly and a producer to discuss the movie. A friend gave me a facial as a gift at a salon on Rodeo Drive. The girl giving me a facial asked me how I learned to be a private eye. I told her, 'As a child I watched Rockford Files and when I got older I watched Magnum, P.I., and then I was married to a cheater that taught me the rest of the stuff that I needed to know.''

Holt hired a private investigator to follow her husband to prove his infidelity, but the guy proved worthless.

''I had given him all the leads because I had already done the legwork. He still couldn't get it. I knew he had to be totally stupid and blind or he had sold me out. So I ended up getting a camcorder and doing it myself.''

Holt explained the details to the facialist, and then the woman told Holt that she did Selleck's facial, and, that coincidentally, he was there. She met the star, and Selleck wished her the best in selling her story to Holly.

The deal went through and Holt, born and raised near Huntsville, Ala., even has a cameo near the beginning of the movie as a waitress.

''I told them, I didn't know what was bigger, my hair or my lips. It was supposed to be kind of like Flo on Alice, the look we were going after. It was fun. We did one take. I really liked it.''

Holt, who has been a private investigator since her divorce in the late 1980s, says, ''I keep thinking this is not what I do, not who I am.''

She said it is seeking the truth. ''It's all about justice.''

It also can be about danger.

''I have gotten into scary positions. I have been assaulted and had to go to the hospital one time. I haven't been shot at but one of my investigators had a gun pulled in her face right after I got off my shift,'' Holt said.

She carries a gun when she goes into certain areas but prefers a stun gun. She also has become a master of disguise.

''Goodwill stores are my favorite place to pick out costumes and disguises. I was actually on an elevator with my attorney. I was disguised as a pregnant lady and had on a wig and glasses and a maternity dress and white shoes and socks. He never knew it was me.''

Holt works mostly in the Middle Tennessee area, although her job has taken her to other cities.

She said she practically lives in her car, but the pay is good. She charges a retainer fee up front and $75 an hour.

Holt says she thought Holly was perfect for the part.

''I was really, really happy with who they picked. I think she actually pitched it with the writers.''

Lifetime is discussing the possibility of a second TV movie.

''What they are hoping this will be, instead of a weekly series, is what's called a 'wheel movie.' That means that they will have a continuing movie with the original characters and then add new characters as they go along. Sort of like what they did with Columbo, Hart to Hart and McCloud.''

And Holt's keeping her fingers crossed that it would be shot in Nashville.

Marty power

Marty Stuart selected the tunes played throughout Caught in the Act. The songs and the singers include: "Lonesome Traveler" by Matt King, "Crazy or Not" by Jon Randall, "Been Lonely Too Long" by Marty Stuart, "That Was Yesterday" by Wynonna, "Chalk It Up to Memory" by Sheri Hurst and Matt Netzer and "Back in the Day" by Carol Ann Brown.

By Ken Beck

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