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Lawyer accuses madam of defaming Lasorda

I WANTED no part of this.

When I first heard about it Monday and the plans The Times had to publish a story about a Hollywood madam, her “trick book” and Tom Lasorda, I groaned -- knowing what it might do to the 79-year-old man and his reputation.

When Lasorda says he has never used a cuss word in front of his wife, Jo, during their 50 years of marriage, and later she confirms it, well, we’re also talking Santa Claus here.

But in black and white, the news could not have looked any more damning. “L.A. madam’s ‘trick book’ is unsealed” read the headline, and in smaller print beneath that: “The list of alleged clients includes Tom Lasorda and Bruce Willis, among others. They deny using her services.”

And it got worse. Jody “Babydol” Gibson, convicted of running a prostitution ring, has now devoted a reputation-killing Chapter 12 to Lasorda in her autobiography, “Secrets of a Hollywood Super Madam.”

Now I don’t quite know where journalism, titillating gossip and friendship part, but when the story was mentioned as a possible topic on the Tuesday morning radio show, we all agreed we wouldn’t go there.

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We have all seen Lasorda at his very best these last few years, and frankly, we wanted no part of anything that suggested otherwise.

*

BUT THEN Lasorda’s attorney, Tony Capozzola, e-mailed, and while wanting to express his unhappiness with The Times for printing the web address for Gibson’s book, he said he also wanted the chance to air Lasorda’s side.

I told Capozzola I thought it’d be in Lasorda’s best interests to just let the story die, rather than attract more attention. Capozzola, though, said he wanted the chance to publicly defend Lasorda.

“The damages here are horrendous,” Capozzola said. “We’re talking about someone who is 79, married for 50 years and with a reputation never besmirched. [Gibson] is going to have to answer for that. It’s called defamation, and we believe Lasorda has been defamed.”

It gets worse though. A sports website printed excerpts of Gibson’s chapter on Lasorda on Tuesday afternoon, many of the details graphic.

“It’s all hearsay,” Capozzola countered. “The hooker [sent by Gibson] said she met with somebody named Lasorda. She never identified him by physical description. All it was was a name.”

Hard to believe someone might hire a prostitute and use someone else’s name.

*

I TALKED to Gibson’s assistant. I left my phone number for Gibson. It’s probably in her Rolodex now.

“There is not one shred of independent evidence that Lasorda had anything to do with these people,” Capozzola said. “His statement that he never heard of this woman or dealt with any people who work for her has not been contradicted by anyone, including Babydol Gibson.”

Gibson called. Crazy, I know, but this journalism business kind of demands that you get both sides of the story. Sometimes, I just hate that.

“I’m contradicting it now,” Gibson said. “I’m looking at a court transcript now. The prosecutors introduced my books as trick books, introducing the people in them as my clients. They weren’t introducing them as my pals playing chess.

“I talked to Tom Lasorda several times. I told one of my girls she would be meeting with Lasorda and she was all giggles. Then she came back all excited after being with him.”

I find that hard to believe, but there’s more. Gibson said she never met with Lasorda but knows she was talking to him on the phone.

“Who would not know Tommy’s voice?” Gibson said. “I had a referral from another client, who said, ‘I’ve got a great guy for you -- Tommy Lasorda.’ I said, ‘That’s great. Have him call me.’ And he did. It’s a very personal thing, and I have to cater to a client’s specific needs, so I ask a lot of specific questions when I’m talking to a client. I have to know their sexual agenda.”

Maybe you might have had a different follow-up question, but I just wanted to make sure Gibson was really sure it had been Lasorda. “I made arrangements for him on several occasions,” she said.

I thought about asking if she had a Bible handy to raise her right hand, but instead made a note to myself to chastise Capozzola for sending me down this path.

Capozzola, meanwhile, seemed to be reading from a different book than the one written by Gibson. “In the chapter, she clearly indicates she did not talk to Lasorda,” he said. “Maybe someone using Lasorda’s name hired a hooker. You know, you could be in the book as easy as Lasorda.”

I suggested we pause for a second so everyone could take a deep breath.

*

GIBSON SAID she charged Lasorda $1,500 -- $900 going to the escort and $600 to her own service. Cash only. When Capozzola heard that, he busted out laughing.

“You know Lasorda,” he said. “He wouldn’t buy lunch.”

If Gibson is to be believed, maybe he was tapped out. But whom do you believe? By the way, Gibson served 22 months in one of California’s toughest correctional institutions for women, ran into problems there and still is upset about her conviction.

“If none of this is true, then how come I got convicted?” she said, while also declining to display any sympathy whatsoever for the damage being done to Lasorda’s reputation -- her quote on that being censored here for its crudeness.

“Legal proceedings will probably follow to clear Lasorda’s name,” Capozzola said. “Listen, this is an over-the-hill desperate hooker who is trashing innocent people’s reputations in an attempt to make a buck. I just had Tommy crying on the phone. It’s ridiculous what she’s done to him.”

Lasorda, in Vero Beach, Fla., with the Dodgers, has been advised to say nothing, although he did tell me by telephone, “I don’t know these people, have never been around these people and have no idea why they would put my name in there.”

Then he added, “You know, this hurts me very deeply.”

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to

latimes.com/simers.


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