LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - John Travolta may be the subject of a $2 million assault and sexual battery lawsuit, but there is little likelihood the allegations will ruin the Hollywood star’s career, celebrity image experts said on Friday.
Travolta, 58, has battled negative headlines all week after two unidentified male masseurs filed a lawsuit saying the actor sexually assaulted them in two separate incidents during private massages.
A third man, cruise ship worker Fabian Zanzi, said on a Chilean TV show “Primer Plano” that Travolta offered him $12,000 to have sex while on a cruise in 2009.
Travolta’s lawyer have called the claims absurd and ridiculous and say all three men are trying to get their “15 minutes of fame.”
On Friday celebrity website Radaronline.com reported that the first accuser, known only as John Doe No. 1, now claims to have been wrong about the date - January 16, 2012 - of the alleged assault.
The lawyer for John Doe No. 1 said he no longer represents the man, although he is staying with the second accuser, John Doe No. 2.
Tiger Woods, Hugh Grant, Rob Lowe and Kim Kardashian, among others, have all been mired in sex scandals. As was the case with them, Travolta’s career should survive, the experts said.
“People tend to bond and create a certain affinity with certain actors, and who they like and what they like is rarely related to the actor’s tabloid images. It’s related to their body of work and how cool their fans think they are,” said Howard Bragman, a veteran celebrity publicist and vice chairman of Reputation.com.
Bragman said Travolta and his representatives have done a good job of disproving and deflecting the claims.
“None of us were there and none of us knows what happened, but I’ve seen a lot of phony lawsuits against celebrities ... . So I look at these with a very cynical eye,” Bragman said.
Travolta, who shot to fame in the 1970s on TV show “Welcome Back, Kotter” and had starring roles in movies “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease,” suffered a career lull in the late 1980s.
But he bounced back with gritty roles in films such as 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” and later, action adventure “Face/Off.”
Bragman noted Travolta has faced adversity before and returned a winner. Ian Drew, senior editor at celebrity magazine Us Weekly, said there has long been speculation about the actor’s sexuality but it doesn’t seem to stick.
“(Travolta) has been through this so many times before ... . He’s been photographed kissing other men and for some reason, people just don’t care,” said Drew.
Travolta, married to actress Kelly Preston since 1991, is most often seen as a family man and father of three. His oldest son, Jett, died in 2009 at age 16 from a seizure, and the couple had a child in 2010.
The actor will next appear in crime thriller “Savages,” due out in July. He has another movie, “Killing Season,” expected in theaters in 2013.
Golf champion Woods’ life was ripped apart by a torrid sex scandal in 2009, which initially saw him lose up to $35 million in sponsorship revenue.
He went into rehab for sex addiction and while his game is not in pre-scandal form, he remains among the United States’ top pros and draws large crowds wherever he plays.
Grant, Lowe and Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) all saw their names splashed across headlines in sex scandals and returned to the limelight. Then there’s Kardashian. Little known until her sex tape surfaced, she’s now a household name.
Where Travolta is concerned, said Drew, “this is just one of those stories that the media is fascinated in but the general public doesn’t really care.”
Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Xavier Briand