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January 20, 2012

Gloria Allred: Happy, high-powered, alone

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/gloria_allred_happy_high-powered_alone_20120120/

Gloria Allred, arguably the most high-powered, high-profile female attorney in the country, famous for representing wronged (and sometimes wrongful) women, is the subject of an L.A. Magazine profile this month.

Hers is a complex portrait. She built her legal career as an activist, railing against institutional corruption in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, for example (just guess). But of late has become rather eminent for defending the honor of mistresses, maids and porn stars against the often powerful, wealthy men who misuse them. In the 80s, she pressed the L.A. District Attorney so hard he capitulated and endorsed a program that forced derelict dads to pay child support. She also won cases against Holocaust deniers, sexual molesters and defended people with AIDS who had been wrongfully terminated from their jobs. Now she is best known for getting Tiger Woods’s former mistress Rachel Uchitel a reputed $10 million settlement for her silence. And of course, most recently, she could be seen representing Sharon Bialek, the first woman to publicly accuse former Republican presidential nominee candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment.

All of which is to say that Allred, 70, is rather fearless. Except when it comes to one thing.

According to Ed Leibowitz’s profile:

[Allred] has sacrificed almost the entirety of her private life to her clients, and, less explicitly, to the demands of her ever-expanding public self. She hasn’t taken a vacation since the early ‘80s. Twice divorced, Allred is finished with dating. “I’m not interested in older men or younger men. A relationships is going to take a certain amount of time. Like if you have a plant, you have to water it. You can’t just leave that plant alone and say, ‘I’ll see you in two weeks.’

A millionaire many times over, Allred doesn’t collect fine jewelry or art. Her Mercedes CL500 is ten years old and looks it. The one great luxury she’s allowed herself is a $5.6 million oceanfront house in Malibu. She works there Saturdays and Sundays, and during the week lives in a Pacific Palisades condo she’s had since the 1980s. Allred doesn’t exercise beyond walks on the beach and doesn’t cook. “There are four steps to a meal,” she tells me. “You have to buy it. You have to cook it, eat it, and clean it up. I like as much as possible just to eat it, and maybe buy it.”

Allred claims only four friends - her daughter, Lisa Bloom, who is a CNN legal commentator; her law partners, Goldberg and Maroko, who were classmates of hers at Loyola Law School in the early ‘70s; and Fern Brown Caplan, whom she met on her first day of high school. She says she hasn’t had time to find new ones. “I know how to conserve my energy so I don’t waste it,” she explains. “If I’m going to get involved in personal dramas or worrying about the past, that’s not a good use of my time and energy.”

Later in the article, Leibowitz writes about her two marriages: Her first husband, “a blond, blue-eyed senior” she met as a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, got her pregnant at 19, suffered from bipolar disorder and committed suicide not long after that; the second, William Allred, a self-made millionaire who sold aeronautical equipment, encouraged her to finish law school and then once she became a prominent attorney, was indicted for selling counterfeit goods to the U.S. government. Between marriages, she was raped at gunpoint while vacationing in Acapulco.

I can’t remember the last time I read a profile that so thoroughly lays bare how early traumas lead to later psychic motivations. It’s clear why Allred has a soft spot for mistreated women, and why, vacationing isn’t at the top of her bucket list. But there’s a case to be made against such a carefully controlled life.

Picasso famously said, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” Potential needs space in which creativity can sow and every individual has to set boundaries around what makes them feel safe in the world. But too much safety can be stifling; it is often openness, risk and struggle that leads to growth. Professionally, Allred is at her peak, a Queen. It is, however, striking that someone who is so fearless in her practice and so confident in front of the cameras is terrified of getting close to others. Spiritually, she has a lot in common with those plants she talked about, stiff, solo, desperate for water.

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