Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa found himself sucked deeper into the Charlie Sheen-TMZ-Hollywood gossip vortex Tuesday, with the actor speaking out again about the night they met up at a hotel in Mexico over the holidays.
Sheen made news last month after he tweeted a picture of himself with his arm around Villaraigosa the night of Sheen’s bar opening in Baja California, Mexico. The former star of “Two and a Half Men” praised the mayor as a man who “knows how to party.” But Villaraigosa downplayed the significance of the image, telling KNBC’s Conan Nolan over the weekend that he had only “bumped into” Sheen and engaged in a three-minute conversation.
On Tuesday, Sheen challenged Villaraigosa’s account, telling celebrity website TMZ that the mayor was drinking in Sheen’s hotel suite in a room full of beautiful women, including at least one porn star. “I memorize 95 pages a week, so the last thing that I am is memory challenged,” Sheen told the website. “We hung out for the better part of two hours.”
Hours later, Sheen issued a more muted account, saying the mayor had spoken to many other people at the opening of the bar. “I am a giant fan of the mayor’s and apologize if any of my words have been misconstrued,” the statement said.
By then, however, Villaraigosa found himself fending off related questions at a news conference meant to be devoted to billionaire Eli Broad’s new downtown art museum. “Can you just set the record straight for us?” asked one reporter. “What was it? Two hours or three minutes?” asked another. Then came the zinger: “Does what happens in Cabo stay in Cabo?”
Villaraigosa cackled at the Cabo crack but refused to take the bait. “I’ve said what I’m going to say on that, everybody,” Villaraigosa declared. “You had fun. Let’s talk about the important things, like a thousand jobs today” — a reference to construction work going on at Broad’s museum.
Villaraigosa has frequently bristled at media questions about his personal life, going silent on some occasions and becoming visibly angry on others. Last week, he told KNBC’s Nolan that Nolan had asked a “bozo question” about the Sheen photograph. He also noted that Nolan and other newsroom staffers have, like Sheen, asked the mayor to pose for pictures with them.
Sheen has been a TMZ staple, using the website as a platform to talk up his $100,000 gift to celebrity Lindsay Lohan and his porn star “goddesses.” And Villaraigosa has glided easily between the world of politics and the entertainment industry since being elected in 2005.
“He’s a celebrity mayor. And he’s always wanted to be that,” said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A. “If you’re going to be a celebrity mayor, you have to take the good and the bad and everything in between” when it comes to news coverage.