By Bill Hewitt
February 28, 2000 12:00 PM

The rambling 10-page letter to Brooke Shields arrived at her Los Angeles offices in October. What it contained filled the Suddenly Susan star with the sort of dread that has become the inescapable dark side of celebrity. The alleged writer, Mark Bailey, 41, was by turns coarse and incoherent in expressing his obsession with Shields, 34. But, as Shields told police, there was no mistaking the undercurrent of menace. “Soon the moon will be in full, and the gravitational pull will impact my brain, resulting in wolflike behaviors,” read the letter. Then, referring to a possible visit to Shields’s home, Bailey wrote, “Of course, such things are to be handled properly like always. We don’t want certain things to occur.”

On Jan. 10, after months of investigation, detectives arrested Bailey as he walked through downtown Los Angeles. At the time of his arrest he was allegedly carrying a .25-cal. automatic pistol along with a greeting card and a three-page letter for Shields, who two years ago obtained a restraining order in federal court barring Bailey from any contact with her. In all, Shields told authorities, she had received more than 100 letters along with 50 nude pictures of Bailey sent to her over the past 15 years. Now in the L.A. county jail awaiting trial on charges of violating restraining orders, felony gun possession and stalking, Bailey is at last behind bars, where Shields hopes he will stay. “In the world she’s in, everybody has a security problem,” says her father, Frank Shields, 58, a real estate broker in Palm Beach, Fla. “It’s a shame that people have to live that way in this country.”

According to court records, Bailey first became fixated on Shields even before she enrolled at Princeton University. In September 1985 he was arrested for breaking into the home Brooke shared with her mother, Teri, in Haworth, N.J., and was put on five years’ probation. A psychiatrist who examined Bailey at the time found that he was suffering from a “paranoid disorder.” In any case, after that incident Bailey dropped from sight for a while. But in 1992 he was arrested again, this time for calling the Haworth police station and making threats against both Shields and officers there. Convicted on charges of making terrorist threats, he served just over 7 months. “He would constantly tell us that if we would just call Miss Shields she would vouch for his character, that she approved of what he was doing,” recalls Haworth Police Capt. Patrick O’Dea. “He had this incredible fantasy going on, like they were old friends. He seems convinced that he’s had conversations with her, that he has this second life with her that nobody knows about.”

Why Shields became the object of his fixation is unclear. Bailey, who is from Houston, reportedly received a bachelor’s degree in business from New York University in 1980. He then worked for a time as an accountant while living with his mother in Texas. From 1992 until at least 1998 he apparently lived at the YMCA in Binghamton, N.Y. During that time, Shields’s lawyers began the process of obtaining the federal injunction against him. In 1998, Bailey was obliged to sign the order and acknowledge that he was legally forbidden to contact Shields for the rest of his life. A maid at the Alexandria Hotel in L.A., where Bailey had been living for more than two months before his arrest, says he never mentioned Shields. She did, however, recall often seeing him go out for the day equipped with binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens. It now turns out that the police had traced him to the hotel and had him under surveillance by means of a video camera hidden in a smoke detector in the hallway outside his room.

Bailey’s public defender, Lisa Polansky, conceded at his January preliminary hearing that the letter her client sent to Shields last October contained inappropriate material. There was “absolutely some sexual innuendo, some insults,” she said, “some statements that are somewhat bizarre and crude.” But she maintained that Bailey did not pose any threat to Shields, and she questioned whether he’d actually been carrying the handgun that police said they took from him. “There are many issues still to be litigated,” Polansky told the New York Post.

Though Shields may ultimately have to testify against Bailey at trial to establish that he did try to contact her, she has not discussed the case publicly and has not attended any of the recent court hearings. L.A. County sheriff’s detective Merrill Ladenheim, who interviewed the actress recently, told the court that past encounters with Bailey had “wreaked terror in her, and she has difficulty sleeping as a result.” If convicted on all counts facing him now, Bailey could be sentenced to as much as six years in prison. But on the day of his arrest, Bailey reportedly told police he wasn’t afraid of them or of prison and that he intended to stay in L.A. for as long as it took to contact Shields, or until she told him she didn’t want him there anymore—a declaration he apparently refuses to believe she has made. “They can never stop me,” he said.

Bill Hewitt

Lorenzo Benet and Pamela Warrick in Los Angeles and Bob Meadows in New York City