Tom Selleck and His Dad Apply Magnum Force in a Legal War Against the Tabloids

updated 02/21/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/21/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

His alter ego on Magnum, P.I. usually takes matters of justice into his own hands, but Tom Selleck has deferred to a higher authority in his latest dust-up. On Feb. 3 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Selleck, 38, slammed the National Enquirer with a $36 million lawsuit for libel. In a statement released through his agent, Selleck accused the tabloid of "contriving entire articles where there is absolutely no factual basis." The Enquirer vowed to "defend this lawsuit vigorously."

Under dispute are three 1982 articles that outraged Selleck. The first charged that the notoriously sedate actor was a secret swinger "complete with flashy clothes, beautiful women and a furious lifestyle." The second described his "blockbuster" romance with Dallas star Victoria Principal. According to Selleck, who was divorced last October from model-actress Jacquelyn Ray, his wife of 11 years, he had never met the purported object of his passion until last month's Golden Globe Awards, and at the time of the alleged romance he was in Yugoslavia filming High Road to China. Principal says she was in Hawaii, and adds, "I would be happy to go to court on his behalf." The third alleged that the TV star threatened the creator of an unauthorized poster featuring a drawing of a half-naked Selleck.

The Enquirer suit isn't the Selleck family's only action against a saucy tabloid. Tom's father, Robert, 60, a San Fernando Valley real estate executive, has filed a $6 million libel suit against the weekly Globe in response to a Dec. 14, 1982 article, "Tom Selleck's Love Secrets—by His Father." "I don't even know what a 'love secret' is," snorts the elder Selleck, who found the headline particularly offensive. He also claims that the article resulted from a telephone interview with a woman who said she worked for a London paper. "She asked that I fill her in on some interesting things that happened while Tom was being raised, like Little League and so on," he recalls. "It looks like I wrote it. It was humiliating to think that people who didn't know how close my son and I are would think I'd rat on him." The Globe's legal counsel declines to comment.

Selleck's action is not the first celebrity complaint against the Enquirer, and even though his case could drag on for years, he has a winning precedent on his side. Carol Burnett's 1976 libel action against the tabloid ended in 1981 with an $800,000 judgment in her favor.

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