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Hopping Mad

March 15, 1987|Peter H. Brown and Jim Pinkston

Sources close to both Vanna White and Playboy tell us that there's good reason for her legal battle with the magazine: One of the Vanna pics due in the May issue reportedly has the "Wheel of Fortune" co-star in lingerie so transparent the pic borders on full frontal nudity.

Our sources also tell us:

White's attorneys are preparing a new $10-million lawsuit against the magazine and publisher Hugh Hefner (she filed an unsuccessful $5.3-million suit last month to stop publication). The new suit will reportedly seek damages for Vanna's potential loss of $3.5 million in income from commercial and endorsement deals that could go sour with such companies as Bristol-Meyers, Coke and McDonald's (who've been talking to White, according to sources). (Coca-Cola Inc., which owns Merv Griffin Productions, which produces the show, is reportedly picking up the legal tab, worried that "Wheel" ratings could be damaged by Vanna's exposure.)

The photos were taken in September, 1982--a month before White was hired to hostess the show--by a free-lance photog, supposedly for a lingerie catalogue, but never used.

White learned about Playboy's publication plans in October. Her manager, Ray Manzella, approached Hefner trying to stop publication, but Hefner allegedly claimed pressure from Playboy execs in Chicago to follow through with the spread. Sources said that Vanna then went to Hefner in person and offered to pay back the $75,000 that the magazine paid the photographer, but was turned down. (A spokesman for Hefner and Playboy in Chicago told us: "We have no knowledge of any attempt by Miss White to pay the $75,000 back nor of any comment from Mr. Hefner that Chicago was pressuring him to run the photographs.")

A special chapter dealing with the Playboy affair has been added to Vanna's autobiography, "Vanna Speaks" (Warner Books, due out in April), said co-writer Bart Andrews. It contends White didn't sign a model's release and that she posed for the photos to pay the rent at a time when she was struggling with her career.

Hefner, Manzella and White all declined to comment.

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