National Post

May 22, 2002

New thread adds drama to divorce

Dental floss taken for DNA: Movie mogul's latest paternity controversy at core of billionaire's bitter court battle

Araminta Wordsworth
National Post

One of the world's most lurid divorce dramas has added another unforeseen twist with a US$1-billion suit launched by multi-millionaire Hollywood producer Steve Bing against Las Vegas billionaire Kirk Kerkorian.

Mr. Bing, 37, claims his privacy was invaded after an operative of Mr. Kerkorian, 84, took used dental floss from his trash can.

Mr. Kerkorian is already embroiled in a high-stakes battle with his former wife, Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, who has demanded US$3.8-million a year in child support for Kira, now aged four.

The discarded floss was used to help solve the mystery of who fathered the girl. The DNA shows with "99.993% certainty" that Mr. Bing is Kira's biological father, Mr. Kerkorian's lawyer, Terry Christensen, said on Friday.

Despite knowing he was not the father, Mr. Kerkorian treated Kira as his child during his marriage to her mother.

His enthusiasm waned after the couple separated acrimoniously and the 38-year-old former tennis pro sued him for US$320,000 a month in child support.

Recently, Ms. Bonder Kerkorian admitted faking a DNA paternity test by using saliva she obtained from Mr. Kerkorian's adult daughter. But she said in a deposition the MGM media and casino mogul urged her to pretend he was Kira's father so he would appear virile.

Mr. Bing is also no stranger to the headlines. He is fighting with British actress and model Elizabeth Hurley over the paternity of her child, Damian Charles, and suing another woman for claiming she was his girlfriend.

According to court papers, the Bing suit paints Mr. Kerkorian as "a bitter multi-billionaire ... who schemed to steal someone's DNA from the garbage and to have that DNA tested without consent, in a disgusting effort to publicly smear and disparage his ex-wife ... at the expense of their child, Kira Kerkorian, so Kerkorian could avoid his financial obligation to an innocent little girl."

Such a theft violated "the last bastion of personal privacy," the lawsuit goes on.

Mr. Kerkorian sent private investigator Stephen Scholl, his "long-time confidant and henchman," to go through trash on private property and take "bathroom waste," including used dental floss.

Mr. Scholl is also named as a defendant in the Bing lawsuit.

"Non-consensual harvesting and testing of a person's genetic material constitutes more than a severe invasion of privacy, it is a gross violation of an individual's most fundamentally private personal information," the suit goes on.

"DNA is not public property. It is the most fundamental private essence of a person's being and must be afforded the utmost protection.

"As such, Kerkorian's genetic intrusion into Bing's DNA must be punished."

"Did we use a little self-help [in obtaining the sample]? Sure. But it was discarded and it belonged to waste management at that point," Mr. Christensen said after the suit was filed.

"I just think it takes a lot of nerve for Mr. Bing, the biological father, to talk about Mr. Kerkorian avoiding his obligations when Mr. Kerkorian is supporting little Kira and Mr. Bing, the biological father, is hiding."

After a conversation with Mr. Kerkorian last month, Mr. Bing said he "readily agreed to submit his DNA for genetic testing," as long as the results were kept confidential.

In his lawsuit, he said he "always agreed that if it turned out that he was in fact the child's biological father he would act appropriately, just in a private fashion."

Mr. Bing, who inherited much of his wealth from his grandfather, a New York realtor, also stands to inherit more from his father, who has a fortune of about US$600-million.

He has been trying to make a career as a movie producer and writer -- his credits include the remake of Get Carter with Sylvester Stallone and Married with Children.

He has also been a big contributor to the Democratic Party and gave US$1-million to a California referendum that would have cut cigarette taxes.

But much of his money goes to support his lifestyle. He reportedly has a permanent room at the Bel Air Hotel in Beverly Hills and has been linked romantically to actresses Farrah Fawcett, Uma Thurman and Sharon Stone.

This is in contrast with the lifestyle of his parents, Peter and Helen Bing, who are noted for their charitable donations to such institutions as Stanford University, their alma mater, PBS and the Smithsonian Institution.

In the case of Ms. Hurley's child, Mr. Bing has now agreed to take a paternity test.

The move follows a flurry of claims and counter-claims in which he questioned whether he was the father and said the couple were not in "an exclusive relationship" when the boy was conceived.

His third suit -- against B-movie actress Brenda Swanson, came after Mr. Bing alleged she was selling false stories about him to the tabloids.

In a complaint filed in Los Angeles, he claims Ms. Swanson told reporters she was dating him and he had authorized her to talk about Ms. Hurley in a derogatory way to get his side of the story about their relationship out.

"Swanson is not and never has been plaintiff's girlfriend and plaintiff did not and never would have had, or continue to have a romantic relationship with anyone who sold false and derogatory stories to the tabloid," it says.

Court papers show Mr. Bing said he had "been generally acquainted" with Ms. Swanson for about 15 years and had had sex with her last Oct. 31 after a male friend of Mr. Bing's invited her to have dinner with them.

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