Exit Interview: Gloria Allred

The attorney and Southwest Philly native speaks — loudly

It was going so well — Gloria Allred, famed attorney and defender of women’s rights, was fondly recalling her youth and education in Philadelphia. Then talk turned to her legal involvement in the recent sex scandals of Tiger Woods, Jesse James, David Letterman, and fellow Philly expat David Boreanaz, and the 69-year-old turned on Exit Interview like Tom Cruise on Matt Lauer. (“You’re glib!”) Allred also managed to (repeatedly) plug her autobiography, Fight Back And Win, and compare herself to MLK, all while continuing to rip yours truly a new one. Now that’s multi-tasking!
EXIT INTERVIEW: People might be surprised by how deep your local roots run. Springfield Avenue, Southwest Philadelphia. Mitchell Elementary, Shaw Junior High, Philadelphia High School for Girls, University of Pennsylvania. I’d love to send you the chapter from my book about growing up in Philadelphia. My parents had an eighth-grade education. We didn’t have much of material value.
GLORIA ALLRED: My father would take me to the movies — he would wait for me nearby because he couldn’t afford tickets for both of us.
EI:I’m sure you were studious at Penn, but you must have one crazy “streaking across Walnut Street” story.
GA:My experience was different from the typical college student’s. I met my husband the first week, married him my sophomore year, had my daughter junior year, then graduated and was divorced and a single parent. It was hard. I had problems getting child support. But it was a great school.
EI: Why did you head to L.A.?
GA: I left with two suitcases, a five-year-old, a lot of dreams and $100. I was looking for a better life, and I felt that my daughter should grow up in the sunshine. The Watts riots had just happened, and I heard there was white flight out of the schools, with teachers leaving. I knew I would have a job.
EI:Let’s talk about your job now. A fellow attorney once called you “the Don King of the legal world.” What’s the analogy?
GA: I’m an advocate. Our law firm has handled more women’s rights cases than any other private law firm in the nation. We have won hundreds of millions of dollars for victims.
EI: But these days, it seems you’re the go-to attorney for celebrity home-wreckers.
GA: That’s very insulting to women, to call them home-wreckers. I think those who wreck homes are the husbands who are not keeping their vows to their wives.
EI: I’m not saying the husband isn’t responsible.
GA: It’s glib. It’s glib! But it’s really not accurate.
EI: Do you believe that a woman who’s having sex with a married man who’s the most famous athlete in the world is a victim?
GA: The only person I can speak about in reference to Tiger Woods is [alleged mistress] Joslyn James. He asked her to give up her career, which happened to be as an adult film star, because he was jealous. She gave up her only source of income for him.
EI: Not exactly work you can’t get back into.
GA: Yeah, she can. But obviously you don’t think it’s any sacrifice for a woman to give up her career. And that he should then not have to say he’s sorry?
EI: What about Jesse James and David Boreanaz? When another alleged mistress comes out of the woodwork, there’s Gloria Allred.
GA: Why do you say woodwork? Do you think women are termites that come out of the woodwork? What kind of view of women is that?
EI:When the cameras are off, have you ever thought, “I can’t believe I said that,” or “Maybe I went too far”?
GA: No. [silence]
EI: You wrote an open letter to David Letterman, warning him about sexual discrimination in the workplace. Some see that as just jumping on the latest scandal.
GA: How did I go too far? He admitted he’s had sex with persons who work on his show. It’s too bad you haven’t looked at my book, because you’d have a better understanding of what we do, instead of your vision, which is just ripped from celebrity headlines. Advocacy for women is still controversial, just like in the ’60s with African-Americans and civil rights. I’m not anywhere near the status of Martin Luther King Jr., but he was severely criticized for speaking out. He was called all kinds of names, including communist, I might add.
EI: That’s worse than being called Don King.
GA: It’s of the same nature. If you can denigrate the leader, then perhaps you can kill the movement. That’s an old trick. I’m happy to represent the typical person in the David-and-Goliath battle against the rich and powerful and famous. I don’t care what people say. The only thing that matters is winning for my client.