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Now Will She Tell All?

Ex-madam Jody 'Babydol' Gibson has a TV movie in development and is angling for a talk show and book deal

July 16, 2002|ROBERT W. WELKOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When the world last saw Jody "Babydol" Gibson, the aspiring pop star was headed to prison, a consequence of her secret sideline: running an international call-girl ring that catered to the rich and famous.

Now, fresh from 22 months behind bars, she's coming at Hollywood in a new way, with a "Babydol" movie for television, a late-night talk show in development and, although she doesn't yet have a publisher, she's writing a book about her secret life.

Whether it will be a tell-all book remains to be seen, particularly when it comes to divulging the names of the high-powered entertainment figures in her infamous trick book. "Let's just say it's a big maybe, with a capital M," she said.

You might think it would be dicey going back to Hollywood--where so many of her former clients still hold power--but she said she has managed to avoid them. "Whatever business I am doing now has nothing to do with any of my clients," she said. "They are just straight-ahead network and studio projects." Besides, she adds, her former clients produced feature films, not TV shows. "I don't know network people."

To get her ventures off the ground, she has joined forces with her younger sister, Amy Gibson, an actress who once starred on "Love of Life," "General Hospital" and "The Young and the Restless."

A script that Amy Gibson helped develop, titled "The Babydol Story: The Price of Fame," is being developed for the USA Networks cable network by Jaffe/ Braunstein Films Ltd., a production company that recently made the ABC movie "Gilda Radner: It's Always Something."

Amy Gibson also has been pitching the syndicated talk-show idea to executives in L.A. and New York.

Before she began shopping the project to producers, she said, a "very prominent guy in Hollywood" took her aside and asked, "Can I ask you a quick favor? Before we go in to pitch this, could I at least ask you to ask your sister if they're in the [trick] book, so I'm not embarrassed when we're in the meeting?"

"I had to go, 'Wow, OK,' " Amy Gibson said.

Burt Kearns, a producer for "Hard Copy" and "A Current Affair" whose book "Tabloid Baby" gave an insider's look at the advent of tabloid TV, said Babydol Gibson joins a long line of people who have tried to capitalize on a brush with fame.

"If you pick a notorious personality who made it big through scandal or malfeasance, you find they cash in," Kearns said. "That is the way of life in Hollywood and in American culture.... There used to be a thing called notoriety and shame. We don't have that anymore."

As evidence, he points to the recent Fox television special "Celebrity Boxing," which pitted scandal-tarred ice skater Tonya Harding in one corner against Paula Jones, who accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment, in the other. And the only reason Jones was in the ring was because another tabloid character, "Long Island Lolita" Amy Fisher, couldn't get permission from her parole officer to leave New York for the taping.

"I think there came a point in our culture and in our society where people stopped differentiating between accomplishment and celebrity," Kearns said. "So this is Babydol's chance to be in the spotlight."

But as far as the late-night talk show is concerned, the odds are against her, said Bill Carroll, a programming consultant with Katz Television Group in New York. Of the 150 to 200 talk shows that receive serious discussions each year, he said, maybe 15 at most make it on the air.

Still, he doesn't count her out. "I never say never because none of us could ever have predicted Ozzy Osbourne," Carroll said, referring to the heavy-metal rocker whose MTV series, "The Osbournes," has been an unexpected ratings winner.

Gibson, a petite, 44-year-old ex-New Yorker with blond hair and a gift for gab, knows better than most the long odds of achieving stardom.

During the years she was operating her escort service, Gibson also tried to make it as a pop star. She once purchased space on a huge billboard along Sunset Boulevard to promote her debut single, a self-penned dance track called "Good Girls Go to Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere." But the song flopped, and the billboard vanished. In all, Gibson recorded a single, a five-song track and an album.

Her 1999 arrest by an undercover officer disguised as a wealthy Middle Eastern businessman made headlines rivaling the infamous case of another Hollywood madam, Heidi Fleiss.

One of the more explosive aspects of the Babydol case revolved around her logbook containing the names of more than 100 clients, including actors, producers and wealthy businessmen. The men shelled out $1,000 an hour for women supplied by Gibson's escort service, and she pocketed 40% of the proceeds.

Her clients' names were not divulged publicly at trial.

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