Judge Orders Guccione, Penthouse to Pay Former Model $4 Million
NEW YORK (AP) _ A judge Tuesday ordered Penthouse magazine and its publisher Robert Guccione to pay $4.06 million to a former Pet of the Year who charged that he used her as a virtual sex slave.
State Judge Elliott Wilk ruled that Guccione made sexual demands on Marjorie Thoreson as a condition of employment at Penthouse, where she worked from 1973 to 1980.
″Sexual slavery was not part of her job description,″ Wilk said.
Guccione’s ″cold and calculating ... use of sexual coercion forced her to safeguard her employment by sacrificing her body,″ which is a violation of state law, Wilk said.
Thoreson, now 37, sued Guccione for $10 million, alleging breach of contract, sexual harassment and fraud.
She testified during the March 1989 trial that Guccione forced her to perform hard-core sex acts in a pornographic movie and used her sexual favors as partial payment to furnish a hotel-casino he owned in Atlantic City.
She said Guccione also ordered her to carry on a sex affair with his financial adviser so he would move from England to the United States. She said she severed the relationship because it appeared the adviser was going to leave his wife and four children.
Her attorney, Murray Schwartz, said the ruling is ″for all the women like her who may have suffered at the hands of Guccione. He has finally been held accountable.″
Penthouse lawyer Jeffrey Daichman labeled Thoreson a liar and said an appeal was expected. The ruling ″read more like a political manifesto about the women’s movement than an objective analysis of the evidence,″ he said.
Guccione said in a statement that Penthouse presented evidence to the judge showing that Thoreson ″was a former prostitute, drug-abuser and three-time felon who had violated her probation.″
He said Thoresen allegedly began an affair with the financial adviser ″at a time when she was not even employed by Penthouse.″
At the trial, Guccione testified that Thoreson was a potential Marilyn Monroe whom he had rescued from a life of crime.
The judge, who heard the case with no jury, said Guccione’s only evidence to contradict Thoreson was his word, and added, ″I do not believe him.″
Wilk awarded Thoreson $4 million in punitive damages and $60,000 in compensatory damages. The amounts were based on Guccione’s $150 million personal worth and Penthouse’s market value of about $200 million, he said.
Thoreson, a native of St. Paul, Minn., was working as a topless dancer and a cocktail waitress in California in 1973 when she sent Guccione nude photos and asked if he could help her become an actress.
Guccione began by signing her to a personal management contract and changing her name to Anika di Lorenzo. He made her Penthouse Pet of the Year in 1975 and invited her to move into his New York townhouse, which she did.
In 1976, Guccione cast her in his sexually explicit movie ″Caligula,″ which Thoreson now says was a pornographic film that ruined her career. For her role, Guccione paid for surgery to have her breasts enlarged.
Guccione testified during the trial that he cast her in Caligula because she was sexually ″and perfect for the part.″
″I thought it was a leg-up on prostitution in Las Vegas, stealing cars, writing bum checks, and building up a life of crime,″ he said, referring to her checkered past.
Thoreson sued Guccione after he fired her in 1980 because she refused to accompany him on a trip to the Far East. She said she feared he would pass her around to the businessmen he was meeting.