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Sex, sleaze, cash: The Willets story

Published Sep. 22, 1991|Updated Oct. 14, 2005

She is a 13-year-old boy's image of a sex goddess, a bottle blond with Bela Lugosi eye makeup who posed topless for a tabloid TV show and says she needs sex the way others need air. Her husband is a brown-eyed, handsome man who says he can't keep up, who did what any loving husband would do when he realized he could only fan the flames of her passion: He lined up a few considerate souls to help put out her fire.

The fact he was a Broward County sheriff's deputy, the fact he asked his wife's surrogate lovers to leave a little moolah on the night table to help finance her therapy, didn't scare them off. They paid $150 a visit to help her get better.

The police called it prostitution, but Jeffrey and Kathy Willets called it nymphomania. And people, mostly men who so desperately wanted to believe such things are even possible, fell into step in what would become an army of her admirers.

But then more information started to trickle out, allegations that Willets took notes and even made videotapes from the closet as his wife did the wild thing with men who _ it turned out _ were wealthy, important, married types who would be greatly embarrassed by scandal.

Investigators said it looked like an extortion scheme. But it would get even uglier, so ugly that even the couple's lawyers would need lawyers.

The legal firm of Ellis Rubin _ whose entrance into the case had roughly the effect of kerosene on a road flare _ reportedly tried to sell a tape of Kathy Willets having sex with the Fort Lauderdale vice mayor, a moralist who had crusaded against pornography, to a tabloid TV reporter for about $60,000.

Meanwhile, the unidentified Johns Doe on the Willets' client list live in fear as their attorneys fight to keep their identities secret. Club memberships and choir seats are at stake, not to mention wives.

Where will it end?

For lawyer Ellis Rubin, who once used TV addiction as a murder defense, who won an acquittal for a man who rigged an electrical death trap to French-fry a robber, this case might be a pair of scissors poised over the tightrope of his legal career.

For the johns Doe, this may be a foreclosure on their good names and character, things they apparently were not thinking about when they saw Mrs. Willets in her birthday suit.

For the Willetses, it may have the least impact of all. They may do some jail time, and when they get out, when the outside world has moved along to the next salacious story, they'll be just what they were before the cameras rolled: a former cocktail waitress and an ex-cop who has trouble holding a job.

They could come out of this clean as a Wet-Nap. But it looks bad for now.

Ask Ott Seskin about the case, and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department spokesman spits out the words until he has no more breath.

"What you've got," Seskin said, "is an attractive woman turned prostitute and her husband is a cop and he's booking her clients and they get arrested and get attorney Ellis Rubin, who can dream up a remarkable defense whether it's viable or not, and they have a city commissioner implicated as their customer and he was this moralist who went to a high-profile church and tried to shut down these nudie bars or at least get them to stop serving booze, and then the Willets see the pot of gold at the end of rainbow and begin to play this thing for all it's worth on A Current Affair and all that, and then. . . "

Seskin pauses to breathe.

"It's a National Enquirer story happening in real life, and it's all true. It's sleazy, and the way attorneys have been posturing makes it more sleazy. And we're all just sitting around and waiting for the other shoe to drop. And wondering whose foot it will come off of."

Seskin and others in South Florida know it is temporary. For now, the Willetses can strut through airports with TV cameras in their wake, proud _ apparently _ of actions that would make other people hide in embarrassment.

"Eventually they'll just run out of material," said Mitchell Shapiro, an associate professor of communications at the University of Miami. "They will start rehashing information, the media will go away, and public interest will fade."

"Great tan, hot body'

Some of her clients _ 50 names are listed in the Willetses' Rolodex _ say they met her through an ad in the personals section of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel:

Frosted Blond. Great tan, hot body, very sexual, turquoise eyes, romantic and sensual, seeking generous, affluent executive male for day-evening interludes. Fun loving & hot.

Broward detectives figured Kathy Willets was not looking for someone with whom to discuss books.

This is what has happened:

July 23 _ Jeffrey Willets is charged with pimping his wife to the tune of $2,000 a week. Police seize their Rolodex and appointment books.

July 26 _ Rubin announces the nymphomania defense, says the johns were therapy for the itch she can't scratch.

July 29 _ Doug Danzinger resigns from the Fort Lauderdale City Commission for personal reasons. He reportedly had left his business card behind at the Willetses' home.

Aug. 2 _ Rubin says Kathy's prostitution was her way of helping her husband cope with impotence.

Aug. 14 _ Kathy poses topless for a hard-hitting tabloid TV show, says she is not an exhibitionist.

Aug. 15 _ The Willetses are charged with wiretapping, illegally recording calls from clients.

Aug. 16 _ Attorneys for at least 10 men known only as "John Doe" plead to the court to keep the client list secret; Kathy says the drug Prozac may have caused her nymphomania.

Sept. 9 _ The Willetses say they want to plead guilty.

Sept. 11 _ The prosecution withdraws its plea bargain offer after Rubin's son reportedly tries to sell a TV reporter a videotape of Kathy having sex with Danzinger.

Sept. 12 _ Jeffrey Willets says he was impotent just part of the time.

Sept. 13 _ The trial of Panamanian strong man Manuel Noriega continues largely unnoticed at the federal courthouse in Miami because TV stations are busy showing pictures of Kathy Willets taking off her bathing suit top.

Sept. 15 _ Investigators search Rubin's office, don't find the sex tape in question but seize more than 50 other tapes, ruining Rubin's day.

Sept. 15-18 _ Rubin says the prosecution stomped over his constitutional rights and abused the attorney-client privilege when investigators invaded his office.

Sept. 19 _ A John Doe, his face hidden by a ski mask, talks about the living hell his life has become and calls the Willets case "such a small matter in the history of mankind." Manuel Noriega throws a fit in his cell and gets one minute on the evening news.

Sept. 20 _ Much of South Florida quivers with excitement as it awaits a decision by a Broward judge on releasing the client list. Rubin predicts the case will someday be the subject of a class in law schools across the nation. The Willetses, who haven't made a payment on their house for almost a year, put it up for sale.

Asleep at the wheel

Jeffrey Willets, 41, had always been a cop, but not the kind who filled his personnel file with citations and commendations. He was the kind who made police work as comfortable as possible, who took naps in his car and straddled bar stools when he was supposed to be on duty or home sick.

"Not a very illustrious career," said Seskin of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.

The 6-foot-6 Jeff Willets was hired by Fort Lauderdale in 1973 and fired in 1978 for sleeping in his cruiser, drinking on the job, using dirty language with police clerks and lying, according to his personnel record.

He was hired by the tiny Tamarac Police Department in 1982, and Broward County inherited him a year later when Tamarac's force was absorbed into the Sheriff's Office. He would be reprimanded twice and would be the focus of three Internal Affairs investigations.

He was still a cop with Tamarac when he stopped a young woman driving a rustbucket car with a smashed-up tail light. He left his wife and daughter just one week later for Kathy Willets.

With two children from a previous marriage, she had worked several low-paying jobs, including a job as waitress at a nude nightclub. Over the years police would twice respond to domestic dispute emergencies involving her and her new husband _ once when a hotel said a husband was beating his wife in one of its rooms, again when Willets was discovered flat on his back in front of his wife's car after being "hit . . . by something." No one ever pressed charges.

These are the darlings of South Florida media.

"It's sad," said Mitchell Shapiro, the Miami communications professor. "Here we are on the verge of war again, people out of work, are hungry. . . . But I don't blame the media. If anyone is to blame, it's the public, for wanting this."

But the public doesn't see the seedy side, only the buttons that say "I'm Not On The List" . . . and the T-shirts that say "Kathy Did Fort Lauderdale" . . . and the TV image of Kathy Willets as she says, "I'm driving down the road on I-95 and I can have an orgasm just driving."

Asleep in the closet

The prostitution business _ or therapy, depending on who you ask _ began last year. It wasn't always a smooth operation.

One John Doe told the Miami Herald that he heard someone snoring in the closet. He panicked and didn't pay. She called him on his car phone, told him to "get back here" and met him at the door with a baseball bat.

It might have continued if one client had not told police. That brought down the business, and started the legend.

"It started as just a prostitution case and now it's the most bizarre tangled web and it gets more involved every day," Rubin said. "Wherever they go now people seek autographs, and they face curiosity, admiration and condemnation."

He concedes that if he loses in court, the fame probably will be fleeting. "It will last while the case is pending," he said. "The winners write history. Whoever wins this will be in the catbird seat."

Legal and medical experts say that the Willetses should enjoy it while they can, that in this case, even the magician Rubin can't win _ not in a million years.

Asleep at the switch

Kathy Willets, 33, has said she needs sex eight times a day and gets sexually aroused by a mere touch on her shoulder.

"But in this case, isn't it interesting that every one of her partners is someone very important," said Paula Levine, a Coral Gables psychologist and expert in behavioral disorders.

"She is not sexually promiscuous with everyone she meets on the street. Her nymphomania is subject to suspicion . . . because it is so particular."

Her claim that the use of Prozac causes her disorder won't wash. "It is documented as having the reverse effect," Levine said. "Sexual desire is decreased. Women who use it have difficulty in attaining orgasm."

If Ellis Rubin can convince a court that prostitution may be beyond a woman's control, he will revolutionize the world's oldest profession. It's doubtful if he can: Nymphomania is not an accepted mental disorder, Levine said, not something anyone ever has successfully used to build an insanity defense.

Rubin will produce experts to testify to the contrary. He is ready to prove Kathy Willets' prodigious appetite.

But the prosecution may have a bigger witness pool to draw from.

Two weeks ago, when Kathy and Jeffrey Willets went to the Orange Bowl to see a football game, she sat in a stadium filled with more than 70,000 people for three hours and didn't have sex one time.


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