This month, Marv Albert celebrated his 70th birthday and joined the NFL on CBS. He announced he would leave his gig calling Nets games for the YES Network—he wouldn't have the time. The CBS job "wasn't something I was looking for," Albert said. Marv, at 70, is sports' most sought-after voice, so much so that he's getting coveted jobs he never asked for, and announcing sports (football, college basketball) he hadn't in years, on top of his usual NBA on TNT load.
Fourteen years ago, we couldn't have expected Marv—then 56, charged with forcible sodomy and assault of a longtime female acquaintance, tried in a three-day proceeding that revealed his fetishes for biting, male-male-female threesomes and ladies' underwear, found guilty of a lesser charge, and fired by NBC—to reach his former career heights. And now it seems he's surpassed them. We've obscured Commonwealth of Virginia v. Marv Albert and its fallout not because it doesn't matter, or because his punishment was excessive, or because Marv changed, even—but because his voice was, is so damn good.
February 11, 1997, 1:30 p.m.: "When are we going to meet? Got somebody to take the tickets? And, oh, by the way, do you have somebody for the threesome?" Later that day, "Hey, do you have somebody lined up? Keep trying to get somebody."
February 11, midnight: Albert had rolled into DC to announce a Knicks-Bullets game. After the game, Vanessa Perhach, whom he had known for 11 years, and whom he had phoned both times earlier that day, visits Albert at his hotel. He says, "Ah, I see you have nobody. Come in."
February 12, 12:15 a.m.: "Hey, wait a minute, I want to show you a tape." It's video of a male-male-female threesome. Perhach gets in a robe. Marv wants it off. "I've seen you plenty of times before." He throws her on the bed. "You've been a bad girl. You didn't bring anybody for me." He bites her 15 to 20 times, and pulls her head toward his crotch. Said the prosecutor, "He grabbed her mouth and squeezed it until it opened, and then he shoved his penis inside of her mouth. As he had his penis in her mouth, he forced her head up and down, until he ejaculated." Marv says all this stuff happened, only that it was consensual.
1:44 a.m.: Perhach calls 911, and goes to the hospital for an examination.
April 30: Police plan to arrest Albert if he turns up in VA after a Bulls-Bullets game, but they don't see him.
May 19: Albert gets arrested, on charges of forcible sodomy and assault, in Arlington, Virginia. The charges carry a maximum of life in prison. He'll surrender to police later.
May 22: Albert holds a press conference at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in New York — the same place former Rep. Anthony Weiner held his more embarrassing tawdry press conference. "Had I spoken to the grand jurors, I would have told them what I am telling you now, and that is: I am innocent." Unlike Weiner, Albert does not take any questions. His fiancée, Heather Faulkiner, an occasional Outside the Lines producer, attends the press conference along with Albert's children (including but not limited to Kenny) and MSG president Dave Checketts. Albert and Faulkiner had become engaged only a few days prior to the arrest.
May 24: NBC sticks with Marv—he works game three of Bulls-Heat, the Eastern Conference Finals.
June 1, 4, 6, 8, 11, 13: Albert works all six games of the Jazz-Bulls finals. NBC Sports honcho Dick Ebersol tells the Boston Globe that NBC has no problem with Albert doing the finals: "He is our guy."
August 1: Albert's name turns up in the black book of murdered 58-year-old dominatrix Mistress Hilda. Perhach later tells the New York Daily News: "I opened the door, and there was an old lady in a fur coat. Marv said, 'Nadia wants to join us.' I told him, 'Get this woman out of here. She looks like an old madam.' He liked all kinds of kinky stuff with dominatrixes."
August 11: Virginia prosecutors announce that DNA tests link Albert to the bite marks. Later DNA tests match Albert's semen to the stains on Perhach's underwear.
August 31, September 7, 14: Albert works the first three NFL Sundays for NBC.
September 22, 1:20 p.m.: The trial begins! Some opening statement snippets: "She will tell you that sometime when they had encounters, the defendant would ask her to bring extra underwear for him to wear to play out scenarios, and it was frequently a precursor to some sexual activity. But as the years passed, human nature being what it is, sexual fires tend to ebb a little bit," the prosecution told us.
The defense: "This is a young man, well, a middle-aged man now, excuse me, who has lived the American dream. ... And early in his life, the one thing that he wanted to be was a sportscaster. As a child he got a tape recorder."
September 23, early session: Perhach takes the stand, and we got an inside look into Marv Albert's pickup game:
Q. Now when did you meet Mr. Albert?
A. On the second week of September of '86.
Q. 1986. And could you explain how that came about?
A. I was working and he called down for his messages. And he started a conversation.
Q. What did he say?
A. He said something like I have — he asked me where I was from because of my accent. And I told him where I was from. And he says that's a cute accent or something of the sort. And he said something about the baseball players come from the Dominican Republic, and I said yeah. So he says, well, I would like to see you, you know, if the voice goes with how you look. I say okay. I say I'm in the back. Just go by the front, and then somebody will call me and I will see you outside. […]
Q. And what happened when he came down?
A. When he come down, he came to the front desk. And I just said Hi, how are you doing? I'm Vanessa. And he says he was Marv. And he says that I was attractive as he thought I was.
We learned about what Marv likes in a man:
A. He would, like — he wanted me to find a male with a large penis.
Q. And did you all ever get together with a male?
Q. How did you find these men?
A. The first person was staying at the hotel that I was staying. And he was an attractive airline pilot.
And some fashion tips:
Q. Now when Marv took off his pants, you said that he modeled his Calvin Klein underwear for you. Is that correct?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. And I think you told the police, you said, wow, they are nice?
Q. Wow, they are nice?
A. Yes. He liked compliments.
September 24, morning: Day two of testimony. DNA, chompers, nurses, boring, boring, boring.
September 24, afternoon: Patricia Masten, Hyatt Hotels concierge, shows up and swings the trial with perhaps the greatest bit of testimony in American legal history:
A. He called to say that he needed a fax sent and could I send a fax and help him with a fax. And I said sure. […]
Q. What happened when you got to the room?
A. The door was — the bolt lock was ajar and I knocked on the door and announced myself. And he wasn't in there but I could hear him say, "Come on in," and he
said he would be right out. And I was by the bar area where the couches are in the living room area and I was looking out the window and I heard the door close behind me.
Q. And what did you see then?
A. I saw him standing there with underwear on.
Q. What kind of underwear?
A. He had panties and a garter belt on.
Q. What else, if anything, did you see?
A. He was exposed and aroused.
Q. What did you do?
A. I was in shock. I didn't know what to do. I have never seen anything like this before.
Q. What happened at that point?
A. He told me that he was frustrated and he told me that he had a lot of tension and he wanted me to help him out. And he approached me and started rubbing his body on me.
Q. What happened then?
A. And I tried to push him away, and he wanted me to perform oral sex on him.
Q. How do you know that?
A. He pushed my head down, towards his crotch area.
Q. Did he do anything else?
A. He bit me on the side of my neck over here when he was pushing my head down.
Q. What happened then?
A. And I tried to push him off me and I went to grab his hair and his hair lifted off, and he went to grab his hair and I ran out of the room.
Q You say that his hair came off?
A. I said it lifted off.
Q. It lifted off. That's something you read about in the press, isn't it?
A. No. I have known that for years, that he wore a toupee.
Q. You read it in the press, didn't you?
A. No, I didn't read it in the press.
Q. Did he tell you that?
A. You can look at it and see. … It's very apparent that he wears a toupee.
September 25, 1:25 p.m.: Albert pleads guilty to assault and battery, and the prosecutors drop the felony charge of forcible sodomy. Sentencing is scheduled for October 24.
September 25, 1:30 p.m.: Albert leaves the courtroom. "I just felt I needed to end this ordeal for myself, my wonderful family, my fiancee, my friends and supporters," he tells an assembled crowd of reporters.
September 25, later that afternoon: NBC fires Marv Albert, who has worked there since 1977. Bob Costas eventually replaces him on NBA games.
September 25, evening: Albert resigns from MSG Network. He had called Knicks games on TV since 1979. He said, "I step aside with deep humility and seek to reconstruct my personal and professional life.'' Mike Breen, who did radio before, is the Knicks' new TV announcer.
September 26: Perhach grants her first interview, to the New York Post's Andrea Peyser. She said, "I feel real bad these things had got to the point where everything about his sex life was exposed. That really was devastating. [But] I got justice. He admitted he did something wrong." She adds that she doesn't want Albert to do time. "He will not survive in jail. He will not last."
September 29: Dick Ebersol tells the New York Times, "I'd think he'd have to work very hard to get his life squared away to be able to seek employment. But if all things happen to get his life back, and I'm still on this watch, I'd give him consideration."
October 7: The Village Voice's Michael Musto writes this: "But, as reprehensible as Marv's sexual abuses are, most Downtown folks agree that the garter belt look is by far his most fabulous one yet; it's a ‘Yes! Yes!'"
October 24: Albert receives a 12-month suspended sentence—no jail—and counseling. If he doesn't commit any crime in the next year, the sentence will be expunged from his record. 'I'm sorry if she felt she was harmed," Albert tells the judge. Outside court, he says: "I'm just looking to put the pieces of my life back together and eventually restore my broadcasting career."
November 7: Barbara Walters interviews Albert on ABC's 20/20. Co-anchor Hugh Downs refuses to appear on the program in protest—he had told Larry King that 20/20 would never interview Albert. (Frank Rich compares Downs to Howard Beale.)
Walters does, and Marv comes out firing:
Q: Vanessa Perhach is lying in everything she said about you?
Albert: In everything, in everything she said about me.
Q: Did you ask her to bring women's underwear or to exchange female lingerie with you?
Albert: Never. Not once.
Q: Is wearing women's underwear part of your turn-on?
Albert: No, not, not at all.
Q: Why would she lie?
Albert: She was trying to extort me. I think she saw it as a last opportunity that she might not see me anymore because I had indicated that I was about to get engaged to Heather.
On Patrica Masten's accusations:
Q: Okay, let me get down the line. Were you wearing panties and a garter belt?
Albert: No. ...That never, never occurred. She delivered a fax to my hotel room. She told me she had a crush on me and she wanted to have sex. I did not.
Q: Why would Patricia Masten lie?
Albert: Some people like to have their 15 minutes. Perhaps she's looking down the road for some civil litigation.
His fiancée, Heather Faulkiner:
Q: So all of this is an amazement to you?
Q: So let me ask you, how would you describe your sex life?
Faulkiner: I'd say it's pretty ordinary.
Q: There's been a report you had a relationship with a transvestite. . . . Did you have a relationship with a transvestite?
Albert: I went through a period of experimental phase of my life. Very curious. Where I would go to clubs, I would go to parties. Yes, I did know a transvestite.
November 12: Marv returns to The Late Show with David Letterman, where he had been a frequent guest. Dave razzes Marv. "Man! Wow! The only thing I've bitten during sex is my lower lip." "When I get curious, I turn on the Discovery Channel, and I think maybe you should too, Marv." It was the longest interview Letterman ever did.
November 13: Marv does Today, with Katie Couric. The Detroit News says this is where Albert's media blitz backfired—that Couric was "one tough cookie." Couric asked, "You have lied in the past to your ex-wife and cheated on her. You've lied in the past to your fiancée and cheated on her. Can you understand why people might question your credibility?"
May 13, 1998: Albert's agent says that Marv is in talks to become the new TV voice of the Miami Heat.
May 15: The Heat say they are not interested in hiring Albert, and will re-sign Eric Reid. According to the AP, Heat GM Pat Riley didn't want Marv.
June 14: Costas calls the Bulls' sixth title. Many rag on his play-by-play. Costas tells the Daily News, "If someone says Marv Albert is the signature voice of the NBA and the games are not the same without him, I not only have no problem with that, I agree with it."
July 1: The New York Times clues us in to Albert's life:
Marv Albert's life is one without work. Nine months after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault three days into an embarrassing trial, he attends movies; reads voraciously; plays tennis with Kenny, his oldest son, and his brother, Steve; walks his new pugs, Lulu and Ruby, and plans a future with his fiancee, Heather Faulkiner, from their duplex apartment on Columbus Avenue. ''You shouldn't think he's having a good time,'' said Steve Albert, a boxing announcer for Showtime and the youngest of the three Albert brothers. ''It's been a rough go. He's very anxious to start working again.''
The NBA lockout begins.
July 15: MSG Network rehires Marv Albert to anchor MSG SportsDesk and to call Knicks home games on the radio. "I'm taking it one step at a time," he says of his comeback. ''They had a therapist talk to me and my therapist."
September 9: Marv and Faulkiner marry in a Jewish ceremony before a few friends and family. They go on a honeymoon in Miami. "We'd sit by the pool, look over at each other and say, 'We're married.' You just get this incredible sense of commitment," Faulkiner tells People.
September 14, 11 p.m.: Marv debuts as host of SportsDesk. The AP writes that he appears "visibly nervous." "Great to be back. I'm Marv Albert, thanks for tuning in," he closes the program. SportsDesk ratings tick up 57 percent.
But that was it, really, for Marv's nervousness. The first step in his climb was the hardest, the shakiest.
From there, he ascended tidily: TNT picked him up to do their national games six months later, then NBC brought him back. "We wanted him to come home," Dick Ebersol says. Soon enough, NBC made Marv its lead voice—Costas became an Olympics specialist—and Marv relegated Breen to Knicks radio. The odd jobs poured in, too: Marv started doing Monday Night Football for Westwood One, and the NBA Live games. Even when a thin-skinned James Dolan ousted Marv from MSG in 2004, the Nets quickly snapped him up for a six-year stint that Marv chose to end this year. Turner re-upped him until his 75th birthday. He joined the NFL on CBS. Not so long ago, he couldn't find work. Now, he's flush with it.
"Marv understands the situation and the need for future employers to perceive him in a state of normalcy," John Andariese, a former broadcast partner of Albert's, told the New York Times in 1998. Marv's employers don't look for normal anymore. They want the best.