Sex, money, rock and roll, and children's books. The Storyopolis story had everything but an ending. Now it turns out the Hollywood allegory involving a nasty accusation of sexual assault by billionaire Paul Allen was over just after it began. But in a curious final twist, the legal end papers were missing from court files.
A 1998 civil lawsuit alleged Allen sexually attacked his former Hollywood business partner Abbey Phillips during an overnighter at his Mercer Island estate in 1996. Phillips headed up Allen's West Hollywood company Storyopolis, which options children's literature for movie development (small by Allen standards, Storyopolis is a $1.25 million Allen investment; in contrast, he has $660 million plowed into DreamWorks SKG).
Phillips, married with children, claimed she had to squirm away after Allen, 45, held her down and fondled her breast in the billionaire's bedroom at 3am. The next morning, she alleges, he let himself into the guest room where she slept and, wearing a robe, climbed into bed "attempting to have sexual relations with her." She ran into the bathroom and locked the door.
The Hollywood deal-maker says she was subsequently forced to resign "gang-style . . . under duress and threats" by Allen's sister, Jo Allen Patton, for refusing her brother's advances (see "Paul Allen's Tinsel Town Nightmare," SW, 6/17).
Phillips sued for lost wages and punitive damages. Her attack-dog Malibu attorney David Yardley grilled Allen friends and employees for dirt about the lavish lifestyle and private sex life of the world's second-richest man. They described jet-setting trips, Mediterranean cruises, and travels with tennis star Monica Seles and rocker Peter Gabriel. But none thought Allen was the letch Phillips claimed he was.
With a trio of high-powered Beverly Hills and Seattle legal firms behind him, Allen accused Phillips of stealing money from him. He issued a press release denying all Phillips' claims.
In May this year, a spokesperson said Allen felt the suit "is without merit," suggesting it was ongoing.
In fact, it had been settled. Shortly after the first of the year, the two sides reached an agreement. Though the outcome of the suit was recently reported as a dismissal, it was in fact an out-of-court deal with a mystery amount of money going to Phillips, according to an Allen associate familiar with the case.
Allen spokesperson Susan Pierson Brown acknowledged last week that the "is without merit" statement was confusing but said "there was no intent to mislead" the press. Brown says she has "confirmed that the dismissal was filed with the court in February in the ordinary course" of business. However, it was not in the public file fully reviewed twice by a Seattle Weekly reporter in April and May in Los Angeles.
Misfiled or not, the upshot is that mainstream media have reported the outcome as an outright dismissal, suggesting Phillips' claims were baseless.
Actually, Phillips' sex allegations were supported by movie producer Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams), who swore Phillips told him about the alleged sex attack the next day.
An Allen source says that after a US judge gave the go-ahead for attorney Yardley to grill Allen's 76-year-old mother about his sexual history and take a deposition from Allen himself, a settlement followed quickly. Dirty pool, says the Allen source. But a game breaker.