Here's our first entry into this "Days of Reckoning" extravaganza. It's a shady sports tale that has it all: porn stars, scuzz-money shakedowns, and former athletes with unimpeachable reputations. Welcome.
Back in early spring, we received an anonymous tip from a man claiming to have significant dirt on a married, squeaky-clean former tennis pro and was interested in feeling out "how much information like this would be worth." Since we've been very public about advertising Gawker Media's checkbook journalism policy, we get a couple of these shadowy inquiries per month. Most of the time, we don't pay for anything, but I still like to do more follow-through than is probably necessary because I enjoy talking to strangers about sketcchy situations. Ya never know, right?
The scuzz-money profiteer spoke quickly and nervously on the phone because, as he stated, any connection between him and this story could be very bad for his law career. He said that there was a high-end escort-servicey operation in California through which men of a particular tax bracket and social status participated in something called a "Viking Cruise" (no relation to the infamous Viking sex boat scandal, mind you). What made this cruise unique and more desirable than other high-end escort services was that it was loaded with female former reality TV stars trying to cash in on their fleeting fame and land a sugar daddy. It was on one such cruise that a Reality TV Lady met the Squeaky-Clean Former Tennis Pro, and now she was seeing him regularly on the side. Scuzz-Money Profiteer knew this because he was "friends" with the reality star, and she revealed all this to him in a private conversation. During their chat, she showed him pictures of her and Squeaky-Clean Former Tennis Pro engaged in various activities indicating they were — or she was, rather — in love. But about the Viking Cruise, Scuzz-Money Profiteer said he couldn't reveal much more. If you find out about the Viking Cruise, he said, this could be a huge story and a gigantic scandal. It's there, he said. You just have to know where to look.
"But I want no parts of this whatsoever. This could be very bad for me. This is just a tip to lead you in the right direction," he repeated again.
He did give me one person I could contact about the relationship between Reality TV Lady and Squeaky-Clean Former Tennis Pro: Mary Carey, the porn star and former California gubernatorial candidate.
"She's best friends with [Reality TV Lady]," he said.
I reached out to Mary Carey via email. This was our exchange:
So, you see, Mary Carey is used to these types of inquiries. When we spoke on the phone, it went like this:
ME: "So what can you tell me about this Viking Cruise? We're thinking of doing a story about the relationship between [Reality TV Lady] and [Squeaky-Clean Former Tennis Pro] for the site. We heard they're together and they met on this cruise."
MARY CAREY: "I don't know anything about that."
ME: "Really? This person we spoke with was sure you knew something about this cruise and that's where [Reality TV Lady] and [Squeaky-Clean Former Tennis Pro] met."
MARY CAREY: "Yeah, but [Reality TV Lady] and [Squeaky-Clean Former Tennis Pro] didn't meet on the cruise."
ME: "Oh, so they are together?"
MARY CAREY: "Wait! I mean, I don't know anything about the cruise. But I do know that [Reality TV Lady] and [Squeaky-Clean Former Tennis Pro] didn't meet there."
ME: "So there is a cruise?"
MARY CAREY: "Wait! Wait! I meant to say I don't know anything about the cruise. I just know that [Reality TV Lady] and [Squeaky-Clean Former Tennis Pro] never met on the cruise...I don't think."
ME: "But they are together? How often do they get together?"
MARY CAREY: "Wait! I really can't comment on this. Who else did you talk to? Who told you this stuff? Was it Rudy [Redacted]? I bet it was [Another Person Who Used To Be Reality TV Lady's Manager]. He's always bad-mouthing her."
And there we went, round and round with Carey both accidentally revealing that the relationship did exist and that there was a cruise but then remembering that she wasn't supposed to talk about this type of stuff. We followed up about a month later, but Mary had realized that she wasn't very good about keeping secrets and that she should just probably not talk to me about this at all since she was best friends with Reality TV Lady. Carey said she would gossip only about herself and people she doesn't like. But she said she'd be more than happy to talk about NBA players, once her book comes out.
I went back to Scuzz-Money Profiteer via Gmail and told him about my interview with Mary Carey. He was pleased. He said it proved he was telling the truth. "Very haphazardly," I told him. He said he'd have more information for me sometime soon. A month went by. I heard from him sparingly, but his paranoia had increased. He refused to talk to me on the phone and was getting testy over email. Then, one day, he dropped this on me via Gchat:
SMP: I have pictures
me: Oh man.
Call me on the phone?
SMP: I have to be in court in 10 minutes for a dep
but your thoughts
what are these worth?
I have about 15 of them
me: We can discuss. Call me later.
And we'll go through the process.
SMP: i'm not asking you for money dude
i'm just curious what the market is for these types of things
i can't sell them as the linking back to me would be the end of my job here at the firm
so I can't sell them
i can give them to someone, but I certainly cannot sell
alright, court is about a block away from the office, I'll be back in a bit
Then he vanished. But I did reach out to both Reality TV Lady and the manager of Squeaky-Clean Former Tennis Pro (who just happened to be his brother). His response:
AJ, there is no truth to this rumor and really disturbing if someone is out spreading such rumors. You should check your sources before you print anything.
The truth is that this Reality TV Lady had a thing for the sport. She once told an interviewer that her ideal husband would be a man she could play tennis with. And she almost had it all. But now that Reality TV Lady and Squeaky-Clean Former Tennis Pro know a Scuzz-Money Profiteer is involved, their relationship is doomed to fail. If only she had kept her cellphone pictures private.