Seven years ago, an unknown singer named Babydol announced her arrival in Hollywood with a giant billboard overlooking the Sunset Strip.
Positioned directly below the legendary Marlboro Man, the 25-foot-tall ad was designed to spark sales of the sultry diva's debut single: a self-penned dance track called "Good Girls Go to Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere."
It didn't work. The song bombed. The billboard vanished. And Babydol disappeared--until two weeks ago, when the singer, whose real name is Jody Diane Gibson, was arrested in a prostitution sting. Police said she ran an international call girl ring that catered to Hollywood celebrities and rich corporate figures.
Left unsaid by authorities as they booked the 41-year-old Gibson on suspicion of pimping and pandering was their belief that during the years she established herself as one of Hollywood's leading madams, she was also playing a far different role: a struggling singer who may have recently tried to advance her recording career through contacts with East Coast organized crime figures.
In the first interview since her arrest, Gibson declined to discuss the details of her case, citing the advice of her lawyer. But she scoffed at the notion that she has mob ties or that her music career--what there is of it--is in any way illegitimate.
"You cannot get a record deal by being pretty or because you're good in bed," said Gibson, who is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday. "It doesn't matter who you sleep with. There is really only one way to get a record deal, and that's by putting down some great tracks in the studio. The music's got to be good. That's the bottom line. Period."
Gibson, who said she has been singing since she was a child, hails from a New York family with show business ties. Her aunt, Georgia Gibs, was a famous pop singer and her mother, Tobe Gibson, has run a talent agency in New York for the past two decades with a client list that once included Tom Cruise. Her uncle and cousin work in the entertainment industry too.
Gibson said she has been working in the studio over the last nine months hammering out songs for her planned "Right on Track" CD and is in discussions to release the album on the Tarzana-based Private Eye label, home to such R&B legends as James Brown and the Gap band. The independent label is owned by Joseph Isgro, a controversial figure in the recording industry payola scandals of the 1980s whom authorities investigated for a decade but who was never convicted of any crime.
Gibson said she was introduced to Isgro by Edward Lozzi, a former George Bush administration aide and Hollywood publicist to such celebrities as Zsa Zsa Gabor and Tippi Hedren. According to all three parties, Gibson this January asked Lozzi, who was her publicist, to call Isgro and arrange a meeting to get advice on how to obtain a recording contract.
Discussions About Releasing an Album
Isgro and Gibson say that they have met several times since at Private Eye's headquarters to evaluate tracks and discuss the possibility of releasing the album but that they have yet to sign an agreement.
"I met Babydol through a legitimate publicist who I have known for 15 years," Isgro said in an interview. "She has a background in singing, and her family has a long track record in the entertainment industry. Any other allegations or stories about my connections to her are ridiculous."
Authorities have been keeping tabs on Isgro since the mid-1980s, when he emerged as one of the most successful members of the Network, a loose affiliation of nine key independent record promoters who reportedly charged the music industry a collective $60 million a year to ensure radio airplay for songs across the nation.
Law enforcement sources say Isgro got on their radar in 1986 when a payola scandal erupted after an NBC news broadcast that said he and another record promoter met several East Coast organized-crime figures at a hotel before a rock awards dinner. The NBC report also alleged that several members of the Network were offering cash, drugs and prostitutes to radio programmers to get songs played.
Isgro and other promoters denied the accusations, but within days of the NBC telecast, 12 record companies cut their ties to Isgro and other independent promoters. The allegations triggered grand jury investigations in Newark, N.J., Los Angeles and New York.
In November 1989, Isgro was indicted in Los Angeles on charges of payola and 56 other felony counts, including racketeering and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The case, which saw six prosecutors come and go and cost taxpayers an estimated $10 million to pursue, was dismissed in 1996 by a federal judge after allegations of government misconduct that included covering up a key witness' lies.
According to Gibson, Isgro was the most recent in a long line of entrepreneurs the singer has approached over the past decade in search of a record deal.