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Valli’s Wife Was Victim, Not Attacker, Avalon Tells Ventura Jury

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Singer and actor Frankie Avalon testified Friday that he and singer Frankie Valli and their wives fled in fear from an enraged Moorpark restaurant owner after an argument over menu prices.

“If there was a cartoon picture of a bull with steam coming out of its ears, that’s how she was,” Avalon told a jury in Ventura Superior Court.

A poised and polished Avalon took the stand Friday on behalf of Randy Valli, wife of 1960s pop singer Frankie Valli. She is accused of battery for allegedly slapping restaurant owner Sandra “Alex” Sofsky. Avalon and his wife were dining with the Vallis at Sofsky’s Secret Garden restaurant the night the alleged battery occurred.

If convicted, Randy Valli faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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Prosecutors say the Vallis and Avalons had been rude to the staff, used foul language and complained about the price of their meal throughout dinner Oct. 7. The evening drew to a violent conclusion, authorities said, when Randy Valli slapped Sofsky across the face and left without paying the $178 bill. Avalon later mailed in a check for the bill.

But Avalon, 58, former ‘50s teen idol and star of several teen films from the ‘60s, including “Beach Blanket Bingo,” denied Randy Valli struck anyone. An enraged Sofsky was solely to blame for that night’s troubles, he said.

“The first thing I saw was this woman practically on top of the table,” Avalon said. “She had this kind of crazy look in her eyes and she said, ‘Well, I understand our prices are too high. Apparently you can’t afford it.’ ”

Both sides agree the argument sprang from a conversation Avalon had with Sofsky’s husband, Bob. Avalon said he was on the way back from the restroom when Bob Sofsky asked his opinion of the restaurant.

“I said, ‘The food is good, the ambience is terrific . . . but if you’re asking me for my opinion, I think the prices are a little high,’ ” Avalon said.

When Sofsky said the prices included soup and salad, Avalon said he joked in return, “Yeah, but you can get that at Sizzler.”

He denied saying the restaurant charged upscale prices “in a hick town,” as the Sofskys testified.

Moments after the conversation, Avalon said, Alex Sofsky came to the table in a rage. She yelled obscenities and shook Randy Valli’s chair, he said.

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“She started to yell and scream, getting a little nuttier,” Avalon said. “We were in total shock. I kept hearing Frankie (Valli) saying, ‘Whoa, whoa, what’s going on?’ ”

Avalon then stepped from behind the witness stand to demonstrate Alex Sofsky’s alleged attempts to eject Valli from her chair, violently shaking a courtroom chair.

Eventually, Sofsky grabbed Randy Valli’s shoulders, Avalon said, forcing her to stand. Valli waved her arms in front of her for protection, Avalon said. “But there was never a slap.”

At that point, Avalon said other people came over and threatened his party. “There’s more of us here than you,” one said.

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Avalon said he and his companions became frightened and ran out of the restaurant.

On the way home, Randy Valli said Sofsky’s rough shaking caused her to lose an earring and broke her bra strap.

The four women and eight men on the jury listened attentively during Avalon’s testimony. He sometimes joked while on the stand, once saying, “No, I’ve never been thrown out of a restaurant before, not even when I had my eight kids with me.”

On cross-examination, Deputy Dist. Atty., John Lonergran challenged Avalon’s claims. “Why did you stop to give [the waiter] a tip even though you were frightened and just trying to get out?” Lonergran asked.

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“I always give a tip in appreciation for what they’ve done,” Avalon said.

Lonergran asked if the two couples were trying to take advantage of their celebrity status, hoping that by mentioning the high prices they would receive a free meal.

“Oh, please, no,” Avalon said.

Defense attorney Louis “Chuck” Samonsky, however, questioned why prosecutors filed criminal charges.

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“Why the district attorney has chosen to put his resources into what even Mr. Sofsky called a light slap, I have no idea,” he said.

Samonsky is expected to call Frankie Valli to the stand next week.


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