By Kelly Carter
Special to Page 3

I've turned my nose up at a lot Karrine Steffans throughout my years covering sports. Or so I thought. You know the type. The groupies who travel hundreds of miles for an NBA All-Star weekend or the Super Bowl. Squeezed into their sleaziest outfits in hopes of attracting a player at a party or hotel lobby. I shook my head at them in pity. I automatically lumped Steffans in that category for the mere fact that she slept around with a slew of entertainers and athletes.

Well-known by men in the entertainment industry, Steffans exposed her life as a stripper and star of music videos in "Confessions of a Video Vixen," her tell-all book that peaked at No. 5 on the New York Times' bestsellers list. In case you've been out of the country, the book is the talk of New York. An employee at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue says the book is so hot, his local barbershop loans it out to clients.

But strangely enough, nowadays Steffans, too, looks down on this type of women.

"If you've flown across the country to go to the All-Star Game and you're not a basketball fan you're potentially a hooker," she told me during our phone chat. "I've known a lot of girls that follow around athletes. These girls spend $20,000 in a weekend. It's like, 'Wow, you took a flight. You risked your life in the air to come and hang out in the lobby to meet someone and have sex?' [And some] players are paying women to be with them."

Well, if that's not the pot calling the kettle … but I get her point. Steffans didn't have to hang out in the lobby of the W to meet athletes. She didn't have to spend her own money. Her relationships with athletes started in high school, when she began dating Arizona Cardinals players. However, the only present or former athletes specifically mentioned are former Laker John Salley, whom she says set her up on a blind date with Shaquille O'Neal during his bachelor days. When the Big Fella arrived at her house, there was almost no furniture.

"My apartment was so empty that Shaq reached into his pocket and gave me a couple of hundred dollars in cash," she said. "The next day, he arranged for $10,000 to be deposited into my bank account. Shaq was very up-front about the way the relationship would be."

And she mentions Magic Johnson. For inquiring minds, she says she never had sex with Salley or Magic. She praises Johnson, his friends and staff for helping her and her son during the 2001 holiday season.

The vixen spared a lot of athletes she slept with by not mentioning them in her book. Has she heard from any of those she did mention?

"Shaq did reach out to me through John [Salley]," she said. "John told me that Shaq was asking for my number and e-mail address. He wasn't angry. I saw him a year ago at the Four Seasons. We haven't spoken personally in years. He just wanted to kind of catch up and talk. I had to refuse the offer. I don't see any reason for me to go backwards."

Steffans sees herself as going forward by writing her memoirs, which detail her horrendous childhood, her rape, her hatred toward her mother and her unenviable life with Kool G Rap, whom she calls her husband though they were never legally married. She goes on to unleash her saga of heavy drug use and sex with a multitude of entertainers in the second half. How much truth is contained in her narrative is up to the reader.

Kool G Rap, whom she accuses of serious physical abuse, disputed some of her tales on a New York radio station when Steffans was on the air. And it turned ugly. Bobby Brown also has gone on the record and defended himself by calling her stories about him "whack."

"Honestly, athletes to me seem to be a little more grounded," she said. "I think that athletes do a lot of actual work, whereas those in the music industry have a lot of time to play, not saying that what they do isn't work. There's no time for drugs with athletes. That's not to say that athletes don't go a little wild in the offseason, but they have more discipline most of the year. I remember a lot of barbecues and get-togethers. Nothing wild and crazy, no popping pills, running through the clubs and crashing your cars."

Whether her juicy accounts are embellished isn't the point. The book isn't just about who she had sex with, but who kicked her to the curb in her greatest time of need. This woman allowed herself to be used in the most extreme ways.

Sadly, there will be plenty of wanna-be groupies who won't be deterred by Steffans' words. Instead, they'll see someone who starred in hip-hop videos, was taken to Miami for a P. Diddy bash, was cared for by entertainers and athletes and went on to write a best-selling memoir, and they'll strive to be like her.

Now she wants to keep other girls from going down the same unsavory road. Her book signings turn into two-hour lectures. In October, she is scheduled to be on hand for Howard University's homecoming and hopes to get her message across to young women.

"The problem isn't getting with an athlete or dating a celebrity," says Steffans, who dates Bill Maher these days. "The problem is the reason why they're doing it. Women date men with money, power and position because they have none of their own. My advice to them is to look inside."

Steffans already is at work on her second book, a novel. Explosive subjects such as sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and people who have fatal diseases and don't tell their girlfriends or groupies were left out of her first book for legal reasons. But the topics will be the focus of her novel, which will include fictitious names and places. Now hip-hop artists also can breathe a sigh of relief.

I wonder how much she's really changed. She explains it's easier for her to date a celebrity because they understand her world of invitations and travel while a mailman, for example, would not necessarily get her. I guess we all turn up our noses at some point.

Kelly Carter is a freelancer in New York and writes about sports and entertainment. She previously covered the NBA and NFL for USA Today.


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