Fact or Fertilizer?

updated 08/18/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/18/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

It's right there in the Celebrity Handbook, under How to Treat the Help: Never, ever get into a legal wrangle with the gardener. He knows where the manure is, and he's not afraid to fling it.

That's the situation Elizabeth Taylor now faces. On July 28 landscapers Willem Van Muyden and his ex-wife Manon V. Cooper sued Taylor, 71, alleging she owed at least $300,000 for several projects at her Los Angeles estate. That, sad to say, is the least of it. Van Muyden further claimed Taylor discriminated against him because he's not gay. He also named her butler Jean-Luc Lacquement, 34, in the suit because, he says, Lacquement sexually assaulted him.

Now for-the nasty part. Van Muyden's lawsuit recounts conversations he allegedly had with Lacquement in which the butler confided he was having sex with Taylor but, according to the suit, was "having a difficult time" performing his duties. Van Muyden's suggestion that Lacquement try Viagra so improved things, the suit alleges, that Taylor rewarded her butler with a $25,000 watch and a BMW—though that didn't stop Lacquement from calling her "the old trampoline."

The complaints are "a complete work of fiction," insists Taylor's attorney Thomas Hoberman. "There isn't a single fact in there." As for Lacquement, he is still employed by Taylor and has yet to comment. The only thing worse than a gabby gardener, of course, is a blabbing butler.

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