The teen heart-throb, the nanny and the $1.5m extortion claim
Wednesday 09 April 2008
Managing the political turmoil of the White House on the set of The West Wing was one thing, but in the real world it seems actor Rob Lowe is struggling to manage his own household, especially where a disgruntled former nanny bent on extortion is concerned.
Just a day after the former teen heart-throb penned a remarkably personal cri de coeur about his difficulties with the former employee on a prominent blog site, we now learn that he and his wife, Sheryl Berkoff-Lowe, have filed a suit against the woman, demanding damages of at least $1m (£500,000).
His domestic debacle was spelled out in detail by Mr Lowe in a column submitted to The Huffington Post website.
He alleges that Laura Boyce, who looked after the couple's two young boys through most of 2007, vanished without explanation a few weeks ago, only to reappear in recent days demanding money from them.
More specifically, the young woman allegedly sought to extort $1.5m from Mr Lowe as hush money for sealing her lips about her months in his home. Otherwise, as the actor explained it, "she will accuse us both of a vicious laundry list of false terribles".
"My family is devastated at this betrayal," Mr Lowe, 44, wrote. "We will defend ourselves with vigour and without fear."
Rather than coughing up discreetly, the Lowes have decided to meet her head-on, exposing her attempted extortion and demanding the damages from her on the grounds that she had "betrayed their trust and engaged in a scheme to hurt the Lowes by spreading malicious lies".
"Everyone knows we live in a time where public figures are targets," Mr Lowe wrote in his commentary. "But I also know of many people in everyday life who are paying the price of a climate where anyone can accuse anybody of anything, anytime, and hope for a big cash pay-off at the end. 'Hush money' to go away. Well I won't go away. No one intimidates my family."
The court papers filed in Los Angeles on Monday specifically accuse the former nanny of violation of a confidentiality contract, defamation, and infliction of emotional distress on the Lowe family.
What the nanny has been saying about the Lowes – or has threatened to say – is not made clear in the court files and there has been no public comment either from her or anyone representing her.
Whatever the alleged calumnies are, the Lowes seem confident they will not withstand close scrutiny, however.
The Huffington entry stands as his first salvo against the woman and includes extracts from two text messages she allegedly sent to the family shortly after abandoning the household.
As Mr Lowe points out, they do not appear to be words written by a person in any way distressed by her months in his house.
"Sheryl, I am really sorry," the first message began. "I have nothing bad 2 say about your family and really am thankful for what you guys have done for me over the years. I hope we can handle this as friends. I did not leave out of spite or anger, it was just time for my heart to let go."
In the second text, she said: "Please tell the kids it had nothing 2 do w them, they are absolutely amazing boys. It had nothing to do with you or rob either, this was me. I love you guys. Ps tell rob I'm really sorry as well."
Mr Lowe also said: "During her time in our home my wife tried to mentor this young woman. She took her into her confidence. We took her into our hearts. Having 18 years of sobriety, both my wife and I tried to be supportive as she struggled with personal issues.
"But we never saw this coming. Apparently, she wanted more. Recently, a colleague of hers has come forward to reveal that this young woman had 'a crush' on me and told her on many occasions, 'I wish he would get a divorce.'"
Mr Lowe is familiar with the treacherous waters of tabloid celebrity exposure. It is 20 years since he weathered a near career-wrecking storm when videos surfaced of him engaging in sex with a teenager. It has been a long road back to respectability for the former brat pack icon, his status rebuilt on The West Wing and a new TV hit, Brothers & Sisters, which also stars Calista Flockhart and Sally Field.
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