Loose lips can sink more than ships. Even the suspicion that somebody is talking out of school can send a top-drawer celebrity client running out the door.
Such is the lesson to be learned from a case that ended recently in Superior Court in Santa Monica. A jury found, after a monthlong trial, in favor of Sharon Stone's unauthorized biographer, who was sued by a Beverly Hills law firm for allegedly misquoting a former partner dishing about La Stone's rumored pickup tricks.
In the introduction to his book "Naked Instinct: The Unauthorized Biography of Sharon Stone," Frank Sanello wrote that lawyer William Skrzyniarz, allegedly relaxed by two bottles of merlot one New Year's Eve, told him:
"When Sharon Stone wants someone, she rents a hotel room and tells him exactly when and where to show up. She makes it clear it's a one-time opportunity, take it or leave it. She's made the moves on some major names."
Stone denied it. The lawyer denied saying it. He also denied drinking that New Year's Eve.
"There was no evidence that she ever engaged in that sleazy, cheesy, one-night-stand behavior," said attorney Tony Glassman. "All the parties agreed that Skrzyniarz had nothing to drink. It was clearly false to state or imply that he had two bottles of merlot."
Still, there was no going back. The partner left the firm. Stone canned her lawyers. "Things just fell apart," she said in a deposition.
The dish and resulting dash occurred three years ago--before La Stone became Mrs. Phil Bronstein.
The firm of Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman sued the author and Carol Publishing, claiming they defamed the firm and caused it economic damage. The jury disagreed.
WHEN DOVES CRY: The prestigious Washington, D.C., law firm Williams & Connolly--which represents everyone from President Clinton to the National Enquirer--has been hit with a $13.3-million malpractice verdict in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The case involved the firm's handling of the exit of publisher Michael Viner and his actress wife, Deborah Raffin Viner, from their pulp nonfiction empire, Dove Entertainment. In its heyday, Dove reigned supreme over tabloid L.A., putting out salacious, quick-hit books about the O.J. Simpson and Heidi Fleiss cases.
The Viners claimed that the firm, specifically partner Charles Sweet, botched the contract for the couple's departure as directors of the company they founded. The contract was so ambiguous, the Viners said, that they were forced into a morass of expensive litigation.
"This was deserved," the Viners' attorney, Patricia L. Glaser, said of the hefty damages awarded. "They'd been harmed badly."
As for Williams & Connolly, the jury awarded it a consolation prize: $8,191.95 for unpaid legal fees. Attorney J. Alan Galbraith said the firm is appealing. He denies that any malpractice occurred.
C'MON, GET HAPPY: A family feud involving Marty Ingels and the sons of his wife, Shirley Jones, has led Ingels to file a defamation suit in Los Angeles Superior Court. Basically, it's a news release by lawsuit, a spokesman said. For the record, Ingels is denying that he tried to rape anybody, and says in his suit that rumors to that effect are defamatory. For now, Ingels has left blank the names of the defendants.
He says somebody passed the gossip to one of his stepsons, former "Hardy Boys" heartthrob Shaun Cassidy.
Ingels says in his court papers that he and Jones are having marital problems, which they're "endeavoring to work out." Jones is best known for her role on television's "The Partridge Family."
A spokesman said the couple are appearing together in the play "Love Letters." But the Cassidy boys have such bad feelings toward their stepfather that they have told Jones to choose between them and her husband, the spokesman said.
In the meantime, Ingels' suit seeks unspecified damages from the unspecified defendants.
HUNGER PANGS: Chat show host Leeza Gibbons and Paramount Pictures have settled a lawsuit filed by a guest who claimed she was tricked into appearing on a show about mother-daughter eating disorders. Terms were not disclosed.
Wanda Reed said she was led to believe she would talk about her own recovery from bulimia. But when she showed up, the questions focused on her role in her daughter's eating disorder, implying that she was to blame. The show "opened a gaping wound," the Nevada woman claimed. She said her appearance was staged to "pit mother against daughter" for "shock value."
Reed said the humiliation made her suicidal and triggered a relapse of her eating disorder. No comment from "Leeza" or Paramount.
OH, WHAT A NIGHT: That must have been some party that Dennis Rodman had at the Argyle Hotel in Hollywood on Oct. 2-3, 1998. First, a cocktail waitress sued him for allegedly groping her and shoving a $100 bill down her blouse. Now a second woman has sued, alleging sexual assault.
Bridgette Chaker claims that the outrageous, Crayola-coiffed former hoops star met her at the bar near closing time and invited her to a party at his penthouse suite.
She alleges that when it turned out to be a party of two, Rodman wouldn't let her leave. She says that she tried to call her fiance on her cellular phone but that the basketball star grabbed the phone, dialed his soon-to-be-wife, Carmen Electra, and told her not to come over. Then, according to the suit, he exposed himself.
"Disgusting!" was Chaker's reaction, the suit says. Undeterred, she charges, he slid his hand up her dress and groped her. "The claim is a fabrication and has no merit," said Rodman's lawyer, Marty Singer.
The earlier lawsuit, filed by waitress Susan Patterson, is set for trial next month. Both women are represented by attorney Gloria Allred.