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City of Angles

Baby at Center of Families' Feud

August 01, 2001|ANN O'NEILL

The unsolved killing of Robert Blake's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, has faded from the headlines, but behind the scenes, the fussing and feuding continues between Blake and members of Bakley's family. At the center of the dispute is little Rose, the baby who Blake and Bakley had a year ago. Rose is living with Blake's grown daughter on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

Recent attempts by Bakley's family to arrange a visit with Rose failed when lawyers couldn't agree on terms. Blake and his lawyer, Barry Felsen, wanted to make sure that the Bakley family members, some of whom have publicly accused Blake of being involved in the slaying, don't diss him in front of the child. And, Blake wanted assurances that there be no media coverage. Bakley's family, meanwhile, didn't want Blake present. And, their lawyer, Cary Goldstein, balked at "stifling" his clients.

The fax machines in the lawyers' offices hummed as several letters were exchanged, with escalating rhetoric. Goldstein denied that his clients were taking money from the tabloids, and promised they wouldn't comment for profit. He suggested that a news reporter, agreed upon by both parties, serve as a neutral observer, which elicited this response from Felsen: "Saying that your clients' 'need' to express their 'feelings' to the press about seeing Rose and even wanting to invite the press to be present is selfish and self-centered. Their priority should be Rose and not themselves. Being in the 'public eye' is not as important as Rose's well-being."

But, according to Goldstein, Blake and his lawyers went too far trying to gag the family from discussing the visit "to anyone who might leak it" to the media.

He cut off the talks, writing, "My clients will not be victims of Mr. Blake's further abuse." The demands, he wrote, were "oppressive, controlling, inhumane, and further evidence of your client's severely distorted state of mind." Goldstein said the family plans to go to court over visitation. "We're not done," he said.

It's Over

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's 10-year marriage officially becomes history a week from today. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lee Edmond "signed off" on the divorce Tuesday, Cruise's lawyer, Dennis Wasser, confirmed. The judge also granted Cruise's request to "bifurcate" the case, separating the divorce from the other issues, to expedite it.

Left for another day are how the ex-couple splits its estimated $200 million fortune and shares custody of their two kids. Wasser said negotiations continue, and if no agreement is reached, a trial date will be set Oct. 4. A spokeswoman for Kidman had no comment.

Cruise filed for divorce Feb. 7, citing irreconcilable differences. In her response, filed May 2, Kidman stated that she was shocked when Cruise told her Feb. 4 that "he no longer wanted to live with her and that he wanted a divorce." She had a miscarriage in March.

Cruise has recently been seen in public with his "Vanilla Sky" co-star Penelope Cruz.

Anger Management

If Sean "Puffy" Combs and Interscope Records honcho Steve Stoute can make peace, then anybody can. Just two years ago, Combs admitted in court to bashing Stoute with an office phone and a chair during a beef about a music video. As part of his sentence, Combs spent a day in anger management class. And he paid Stoute $1.5 million to avoid a trial in civil court.

The class must have worked, because Combs and Stoute can now sit in the same room without somebody tossing the furniture around. Our colleague Geoff Boucher reports that both are board members for the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a group that strives to heal potentially violent rifts among hip-hop acts. "They've long put their differences aside," said a spokeswoman for Combs. "He's thrilled to be on the board and he looks forward to working toward a common goal." Stoute and Combs join the Revs. Al Sharpton and Benjamin Muhammad and five record label executives in overseeing the group's political and community outreach programs. The Hip-Hop Action Network first met last month in New York and plans to hold a second meeting in L.A. on Aug. 10.

Tough Break

Everyone who covers a long trial in Los Angeles with Associated Press reporter Linda Deutsch eventually comes to realize that it's her courthouse and the rest of us just work in it. But on Friday, a security barricade at the Criminal Courts Building accomplished what Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, Erik and Lyle Menendez and O.J. Simpson could not:

It sent Deutsch home.

Deutsch was among a herd of newsies grabbing a few quotes from a lawyer when she literally ran into the barricade, recently installed near the first-floor metal detectors. Despite a painful fractured shoulder, she managed to wave to the gathering crowd of lawyers, bailiffs and reporters as she was taken away in an ambulance. Deutsch is recovering at home in Hollywood, hoping she heals in time for the September trial of accused Symbionese Liberation Army bomb plotter Sara Jane Olson.

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