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Couple that inspired Coon not sued

Couple that inspired Coon not sued

By Harold A. Stern

The actors who received nationwide attention after faking their way onto several different afternoon talk shows with a variety of cover stories never faced legal action despite threats from their duped hosts. The story, which broke in August after the appearances in 1986 and 1988, was cited by Christopher Coon '90 as inspiration for his appearance on the "The Morton Downey Jr. Show" as a member of the North American Man-Boy Love Association.

Tani Freiwald, a part-time actress from Chicago, appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" as a woman who hated sex after 14 years of marriage, on "The Sally Jessy Raphael Show" as a paid sex surrogate who "could boost a client's prowess," and on "Geraldo" as a "rescuer of male virgins." Wes Bailey, a friend, posed along with her, as an impotent young married man on "Sally Jessy Raphael" and as a rescued male virgin on "Geraldo."

Although Geraldo Rivera threatened the couple with legal action, no suits were ever filed against them, Bailey said in an interview. Rivera stated later on his show that the pair had signed a release form in which they stated that they would not say anything untrue on the show, Bailey said. But "the form only protected the show from libel suits from the outside," and could not be a basis for legal action against the couple, he said.

"He had no grounds to file action against us," he added.

Burton Joseph, an attorney with the firm of Barcy, Joseph, and Lichtenstein in Chicago who offered legal advice to Bailey, said that although "his [Bailey's] hosts were embarrassed ... and they made a lot of threatening gestures, since they suffered no loss or damage ... any legal claims they might have made would have been highly speculative."

The release forms which the couple signed only protected the programs from any libelous statements the couple might make on the air, Joseph explained.

Only "words, pictures, or cartoons that expose a person to public hatred, shame, disgrace, or ridicule, or induce an ill opinion of a person" are libelous, according to The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual.

Since Freiwald and Bailey made no such statements, they were in no danger, Joseph said.