Lawsuit says video exploits teen’s naivete
A wet T-shirt contest five years ago when she was in high school is still haunting Monica Pippin.
By KEVIN GRAHAM, St Petersburg Times
TAMPA – Five years ago, when Monica S. Pippin was 16, she entered a wet T-shirt contest during spring break at Daytona Beach. The Plant City High School junior exposed her breasts as men doused her with $5 pitchers of water, she said.
She won the $100 grand prize.
Then one day, a neighbor saw Pippin in a Playboy video on cable television and called her parents.
Pippin sued, saying she never consented to be included in Playboy Exposed: All American Girls and Girls Gone Crazy: Spring Break.
"I find it disgusting and embarrassing," Pippin, now 21, said in a sworn statement as part of her 2002 federal lawsuit. "I think it makes me look like some kind of prostitute or porn movie star, almost like I am trying to show my body to the camera, which I was not."
Her lawsuit named Playboy Entertainment, Anheuser-Busch, Deslin Hotels, Best Buy and several other entertainment companies.
Pippin settled with Anheuser-Busch and Playboy earlier this month. She could not be reached for comment, and her attorneys would not disclose details of the agreements.
"Sometimes what happens in your childhood should stay in your childhood," said Arthur Tifford, Pippin’s Miami attorney.
Public records show that Pippin comes from a family of east Hillsborough County farmers.
Her case resurfaced in Tampa federal court on Thursday with the ongoing litigation against Deslin Hotels, which operated the Desert Inn Resort Motel where the contest took place, and Daytona Beverages, an Anheuser-Busch distributor.
An attorney for Deslin Hotels tried to persuade a federal judge to drop the hotel chain from the suit.
Robert Bowling, Deslin’s attorney, said the company had no role in producing or distributing the videos and did not profit from them.
Chief U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich said she’d rule after further review.
Tifford’s law firm filed a similar federal complaint in March 2004 on behalf of four minors who participated in sexually explicit contests during spring break at the same motel. They, too, have been featured in adult material produced and distributed by Playboy, the complaint said.
That case was referred to mediation this week.
Promoters asked whether they were "of age," she said. Pippin said she and others lied about their ages.
Pippin said no one asked for her written permission to include her in adult material.
"I only saw guests of the motel that I believed to be on spring break with personal video cameras," Pippin said in her statement. "I thought I would win the money and never see any of these people again in my life."
Pippin said she felt "uncomfortable" on the stage, allowing men to rub against her as they poured water on her. But she said she decided to do what was "necessary in order to "win’ the cash prize."
A licensed clinical social worker wrote that she recommended Pippin call a lawyer because Pippin was a "sexually exploited minor." Pippin’s primary care physician wrote that she prescribed antidepressants to Pippin for "mental pain, anguish, anxiety and disturbance of peace of mind … caused by her exploitation."
Pippin went to Daytona Beach with friends whose parents chaperoned. She said the first day she visited the Desert Inn, where some of her high school buddies were staying, the wet T-shirt promoters "accosted" her to participate. She declined, she said.
"I had never seen a wet T-shirt contest before," she said.
She asked if she could watch and said she might reconsider. The next day, she returned and paid the $5 entry fee. She wore bikini bottoms and a T-shirt cut by promoters to expose her breasts. Though alcohol was free, she said she drank none.