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Titillating Tell-All Triggers a Tawdry Tinseltown Tiff

April 16, 1996|JOSH GETLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the annals of Don't Blame Me--America's favorite parlor game of the '90s--former Los Angeles hooker Alexandra Datig, also known as Tiffany, has the competition whipped clean.

One of two Heidi Fleiss alumnae among four co-authors of the best-selling "You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again" (Dove Books), she tells all in a 41-page section devoted to her X-rated romps with the likes of Jack Nicholson, John Ritter, the late producer Don Simpson and other celebrities.

The book is climbing the charts and publishers are reportedly considering sequels by prostitutes about celebrity encounters in New York and Washington, D.C. But now there's a catch: Datig claims the sticky little volume--to which she contributed--libels her.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last month, Datig contends the book incorrectly refers to her as a current call girl. She says the contents have exposed her to "hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy" with false statements that she engaged in bondage and humiliation games. Presenting herself as someone who "has enjoyed a good reputation both generally and in the entertainment industry," she is seeking $8 million in damages from the publisher and others.

For good measure, Datig's suit also charges that Beverly Hills-based publisher Michael Viner sexually harassed and tried to fondle her. Beyond that, however, the not-so-happy hooker is unavailable for comment. Her lawyer, Roderick J. Lindblom, is also mum, suggesting only that "it will all come out" when depositions begin. "We're taking the high road," he insists.

Viner also declined to be interviewed, but Dove Books publicist Wendy Walker says the company will refute all of Datig's charges. The racy material was gone over thoroughly, Walker says, and the firm hired an investigator to verify the accuracy of each author's account.

Asked why the suit had been filed, Walker refused to speculate. But earlier, Viner unloaded on his author in an interview with New York Post columnist Cindy Adams. He charged that the lawsuit had been orchestrated by a prominent Hollywood producer to smear Viner and harm his marriage to actress Deborah Raffin. Asked about Datig's character, he erupted:

"My wife knows I wouldn't even let this girl in my personal office, let alone touch her," Viner told Adams. "You'd want an AIDS test before you'd light her cigarette."

As the Tinseltown dispute escalates, it's tempting to view Datig's lawsuit as a legal aberration. Yet in an age when people sue McDonald's for spilling hot coffee on themselves and the cry of "Not my fault!" fills the airwaves, why shouldn't the purported co-author of a book claim to be libeled in its pages?

Several years ago, basketball star Charles Barkley sparked controversy with some nasty statements about fans and fellow players in his autobiography, "Outrageous." He initially claimed that his own book had misquoted him, then backtracked amid widespread media ridicule and said he would live with the comments.

Similarly, tennis star Mary Pierce tried to get her 1995 autobiography suppressed, claiming that it, too, had misquoted her. She wasn't concerned about passages involving her father, whom she charged with physical and mental abuse, but rather about statements involving her hearty appetite and love for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The book was eventually published.

"When you get down to it, this is all about publicity," says a source familiar with the lawsuit against Dove Books. And it's hard to disagree. Presumably, the controversy generates more sales for Viner's company, and meanwhile Datig can consider yet another book deal.

A suggested working title: "You'll Never Get Published in This Town Again."

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