King Threw Lavish Bashes; Did He Have Other Kinds? - Mar 11, 1990 - Omaha World-Herald
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Mar 11, 1990 King Threw Lavish Bashes; Did He Have Other Kinds?; [Sunrise Edition] Robert Dorr, Gabriella Stern. Omaha World - Herald. Omaha, Neb. pg. 1.B
Full Text (1647 words)
(Copyright 1990 Omaha World-Herald Company)
Entertainers flew into Omaha from Las Vegas. Belly dancers performed. Buffet tables were heaped with shrimp, caviar and prime rib. Floral displays cost thousands of dollars.
Those were the BIG parties. The Franklin Credit Union's chief executive, Lawrence E. King Jr., and his wife, Alice, threw many of them over the past decade. Often they were fund-raisers for a worthy cause, for a political candidate or for friends and relatives.
Hundreds of Omahans in business, politics and the arts attended.
Dozens of people who went to the big parties have been interviewed by The World-Herald; none says he or she ever saw anything happen sexually that was improper.
Was there another type of party - small, intimate gatherings - at which adults sexually abused young people who were minors under state law? That is alleged, reportedly, by three young people interviewed by a legislative committee investigating matters stemming from the failure of the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union.
The answer to that question may come from the deliberations of a special Douglas County grand jury. The jurors will be selected starting Monday.
One week later, they will begin gathering evidence related to allegations stemming from the legislative committee's investigation.
An Omaha man who attended and helped cater some of King's parties told The World-Herald that at an intimate party that started after midnight one winter night in King's former home north of Omaha he saw male guests engage in homosexual sex.
He said some of the guests had sex in the home's heated swimming pool and hot tub, on decks and in bedrooms.
"Sex went on at that party," said the man, in his 20s, who agreed to an interview on condition he wouldn't be identified.
The same man said he also attended intimate parties in a near-downtown apartment at which men and teen-age males sat together suggestively and flirted.
"There'd be no doubt what was going on when they'd leave together," he said.
He said he did not know the ages of the youngest males at the parties but guessed that they were 15 or 16. It is not against the law in Nebraska for two people age 16 or older to engage in sex if both are willing participants.
An adult is guilty of sexual assault if his partner is 15 or younger, even if the youngster is not forced to take part.
Age is not a factor in any case if a person is an unwilling participant in a sexual act.
The key allegations in the Franklin investigation reportedly were made by two men, ages 20 and 23, and a 21-year-old woman who said they were victims of and witnesses to sexual abuse when they were minors.
They have made videotaped statements to a legislative committee investigating the 1988 failure of the Franklin credit union. They reportedly named more than a dozen men who, they said, attended parties at which improper sex activities occurred.
The man who helped cater some of King's parties said during a World-Herald interview that King was present at all the intimate parties he attended. A World-Herald reporter showed the man pictures of seven men whose names reportedly were mentioned on the tapes, according to two people who have seen part or all of the tapes.
The man said he had seen one of the seven men, in addition to King, at the intimate parties at which overt or suggestive sex activities allegedly occurred. The man who was interviewed said he hadn't seen any of the other six men at those parties.
King's big parties, by all accounts, were lavish events and far different from the intimate ones. He held the big parties in the ParkFair Mall, the French Cafe, the Red Lion Inn, the Omaha Press Club, the Joslyn Art Museum and the Omaha Club.
King traveled to and from some of those big parties in limousines.
At a birthday party for his wife, King flew in a singer and a backup group from Las Vegas.
For Alice's birthday, King ordered an eight-tiered carrot cake. King's birthday gift for his wife was a diamond pin in the shape of a cockroach.
For another party, King leased an empty penthouse apartment, hired three bands and several belly dancers.
'Always First Class'
During the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans, King threw a $100,000 party. Exotic floral displays cost $20,000. At the 1984 GOP National Convention in Dallas, he held an elaborate reception at South Fork Ranch, where the "Dallas" television show is filmed.
"Everything always was first class," said a person who worked for King.
A pool service visited the King home at least every other day to skim leaves off the surface, check chemicals in the water and clean the bottom and sides.
Records in a lawsuit filed against King by the National Credit Union Administration show an Omaha company was paid $18,847 over 13 months for servicing King's pool.
King's appetite for floral decorations seemed insatiable, said the man who helped cater King's parties and who attended the intimate hot-tub party at King's house.
"They were fabulous parties. I walked around in awe," he said. "We're not talking little hors d'oeuvres. We're talking four-pound lobster tails, the most gigantic shrimp. Everything had to be grand, totally out of proportion, totally untouchable."
King was a cheerful, bustling host. He sometimes drank heavily and dozed off at the end of parties, several persons who attended said.
Omaha florist Dan Janousek recently said he and his wife attended some of King's big parties - staying at a few until the end - and never saw any improper activities.
Another Omaha man who formerly was a business associate of King said he attended receptions given by King in Washington, D.C., where King had a townhouse.
"There was no evidence of sexual exploitation of kids," the former business associate said. The only youngster he said he recalled seeing at the events was King's son.
A second person who worked for King said he saw young men at King's big parties but did not know whether they were under age. He said he never saw anything improper.
"I didn't know who was a minor and who wasn't," the second King employee said, adding that King enjoyed giving young men jobs at the credit union and his catering business. "He had a lot of boys coming in and out of the credit union."
Omaha photographer Andrew Baran said he took pictures at King's big parties a couple of times a month and never saw any improper activities.
'Very, Very Proper'
"Larry's parties were very, very proper," Baran said.
King's parties, big and intimate, came under scrutiny because of their cost - and questions as to where the money came from. The federal grand jury that indicted King and his wife last year charged them with embezzling $10.2 million from the credit union from 1984 through 1988 for their personal use. The Kings have pleaded innocent. Their trial is scheduled to begin in June.
A woman interviewed by The World-Herald described a party held around Christmas 1985 in a Hanscom Park-area apartment after the 1 a.m. closing of Omaha bars. The woman, now in her 30s, said she was invited by a male friend with whom she had business dealings.
When she got there, she found herself with a group that included three or four women, King and perhaps 20 good-looking white male youths in their late teens wearing nice sweaters and slacks.
King was sitting on a sofa and was the center of attention, the woman said.
"The young men were offering him drinks, fawning over him," said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
She said she stayed perhaps an hour and left. She didn't see any improper sexual activities, she said.
The man who helped cater some of King's parties and who attended the intimate hot-tub party said he attended other intimate parties in a near-downtown apartment building at which there were 10 or 12 older men, including King, and several younger men and youths.
This type of intimate party reportedly was discussed by the three people who spoke on tape to the legislative committee.
According to several sources who have seen the tapes, this is what the three alleged occurred:
The intimate parties supposedly involved youths in their early teens to early 20s and older male adults. They took place over several years spanning the mid-1980s.
The sexual activity occurred in the main room of the apartment and consisted of touching and sexual fondling, with a youth sitting on the lap of an older adult in some cases. Other homosexual activities occurred in bedrooms.
The intimate parties allegedly involved alcohol and drugs.
Although the intimate parties mostly involved boys and older men, the 21-year-old woman who gave a statement to the legislative committee said she attended some of these parties. The woman said that during her high school years she skipped classes some days so she could be driven to Omaha-area motels where men paid for her sexual services, she said.
One regular customer became the father of her 4-year-old daughter, the woman has alleged.
The 23-year-old man who talked to the committee has told The World-Herald he engaged in sex with 40 men over three or four years. Those liaisons usually took place in an apartment that was provided for him by an older male, he said.
The grand jury will receive instructions that will allow it to look into allegations involving child abuse, child pornography, drug use and other matters that have come up in the legislative committee's Franklin investigation.
The grand jury will be free to investigate individuals whether they had some connection to Franklin or not, presiding Douglas County District Judge James Buckley has said.
Former King house . . . site of some, but not all, of the parties.
Credit: World-Herald Staff Writers