By Peter Hecht
phecht@sacbee.com
Published: Friday, Oct. 1, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Friday, Oct. 1, 2010 – 8:17 am

She was the woman who challenged the all-male membership rules of the Beverly Hills Friars Club by striding into a steam room full of naked men, holding a tape measure and singing Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?”

She successfully sued Saks Fifth Avenue for charging women more for alterations than men. She took on the Boy Scouts of America for excluding an 11-year-old girl.

And now Gloria Allred has inserted herself into the spotlight again, this time orchestrating an attack on Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman that has sparked accusations that she is doing the dirty work of Whitman’s Democratic rival.

While Jerry Brown’s campaign has denied involvement in the celebrity attorney’s latest production, Allred is a Democratic Party partisan.

She was a delegate for Hillary Rodham Clinton at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She has donated to candidates, including Brown, California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

In 2003, during California’s recall campaign, Allred represented a Hollywood stuntwoman who charged that she was groped by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger back in his acting days. The case was later dropped.

In putting on news conferences this week featuring the illegal immigrant who for years worked as Whitman’s housekeeper, attorney Allred demonstrated she remains a master at creating a media event.

“There are two narratives about her,” said Martin Kaplan, a University of Southern California professor of media, entertainment and society. “One is that she is a champion for wronged and vulnerable women, a kind of feminist Spider-Man. The other is that she is a genius at getting attention and building her brand.

” … You have to admire somebody who is so good at it.”

Allred often conducts her media symphonies dressed all in red. And she is so adept at seizing the nexus of celebrity and controversy that she represented not one but two of Tiger Woods’ mistresses.

She purportedly negotiated a private settlement for one mistress, former nightclub manager Rachel Uchitel. She lit the spotlight for another, adult film actress Joslyn James, decrying how the world famous golfer “left her with a broken heart.”

Allred was at the side of the family of murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson during the trial of O.J. Simpson. She represented Amber Frey, the unsuspecting girlfriend of wife-murderer Scott Peterson.

She was in classic form this week when she turned out – in pearls and red blazer – for an emotional Los Angeles news conference that gave voice to Whitman’s suddenly well-known housekeeper.

On Wednesday, a tearful Nicky Diaz Santillan said Whitman laughed at her when she asked for help in obtaining legal status and “treated me as if I were not a human being.”

The choreographed event came a day after Whitman’s tough talk on illegal immigration in Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate.

In a second press conference Thursday, Allred produced a letter from the Social Security Administration that she claimed proved Whitman knowingly employed an illegal worker.

Whitman has said the woman used falsified documents in the hiring process. Her campaign Thursday accused Allred of orchestrating a “political stunt” on behalf of Brown.

The wealthy lawyer, a partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Allred, Maroko & Goldberg, lives regally on the Malibu oceanfront.

But she casts herself as a champion of people “treated as second-class citizens.”

In 2006, Allred wrote an instructive autobiography, “Fight Back and Win: My thirty-year fight against injustice and how you can win your own battles.”

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