But with Suleman filing for bankruptcy this week and revealing she owes everyone from her parents to her gardener to her baby-sitters nearly $1 million, could the Octomom Odyssey finally be grinding to an inglorious halt?
Watch Octomom’s interview with Wendy Williams here:
Not only is Suleman flat broke, but it has come to light in recent weeks that the La Habra home where she and her children have lived the past two years is about to be put on the auction block.
Last week that home was visited by child welfare officials who had received a tip that Suleman was neglecting her children. They took no action but have said they are continuing to investigate.
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Meanwhile, TMZ reported that to make ends meet Suleman has agreed to make a porn film, but only if, to put it delicately, she has no co-star. It would be something known in the industry as a solo tape.
That prompted one of the industry’s most prominent porn purveyors, who once offered Suleman $1 million to make an adult film, to conclude he’s no longer interested.
“I’m not sure that after that’s released that it would make sense,” said Steven Hirsch, co-founder of the Vivid Entertainment Group.
If the Suleman Circus is indeed wrapping up, it marks a sad end to something that once, admittedly very briefly, seemed like it might be the feel-good story of the year.
That was on Jan. 26, 2009, when Suleman’s octuplets, spawned by invitro fertilization, were born at a Southern California hospital and made medical history by all surviving. In the days that followed, she was reportedly showered with offers for book and movie deals, reality TV shows and a mountain of free baby stuff.
Things changed quickly, however, after it was learned Octomom was also Single Mom and Welfare Mom. And that she already had six children under the age of 8 and was living on a combination of welfare checks, food stamps, student loans and her parents’ largesse.
The legitimate movie, book and TV deals went away, and Suleman turned to an increasingly bizarre means of making money.
She endorsed birth control, but only for dogs, and cats. That earned her $5,000 and a month’s supply of vegetarian hot dogs and burgers from the animal rights group People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
And although she once told Oprah Winfrey she hated the term “Octomom,” she had it emblazoned on the back of the robe she proudly wore into a boxing ring last year for a “celebrity” match against Amy Fisher. (The latter gained fame in the 1990s as the “Long Island Lolita” when she shot the wife of her much older lover in the face.)
More recently Suleman has posed topless for an obscure British magazine and said she would do the porn film.
Over the years, she has received advice from numerous people, including such TV personalities as “Dr. Phil” and money guru Suze Orman. She’s never seemed to take any of it to heart.
During the same time, she has gone through one publicist and attorney after another. At one point she even spurned six months of free child care by the group Angels in Waiting that had been arranged by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred. The group’s co-founder, Linda Conforti-West, said at the time that Suleman seemed more interested in lining up a reality TV show than caring for the kids.
“Clients have to be willing to accept advice from those who have the experience and expertise to provide for them,” said Suleman’s first publicist, Joann Killeen, adding Suleman never seemed willing to do that.
“I think it’s obvious why she’s gone through so many managers and attorneys and professional staff in the three years she’s been Octomom,” Killeen added. “Clients who don’t listen don’t make good clients.”
Suleman declined to be interviewed for this story, her current spokeswoman, Gina Rodriguez, saying, “She is not interested in having any filming or doing any interviews of any sort, especially entering her home and filming her kids for no compensation.”
Documents filed in court Monday for Suleman’s bankruptcy case list her creditors as including her parents, her gardener, a babysitting company, a private school, a cable TV provider, a pest control company, her mortgage holder, her utility companies and the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Orange County businessman Amir Haddadin, who sold Suleman’s father the La Habra home that’s about to be auctioned, said he’s owed $483,000, including 11 months of unpaid rent and a $450,000 note that she never paid off. He says he has no sympathy for her, adding her actions destroyed his own credit.
“She’s not only using the system, she’s abusing the system,” said Haddadin. He added that he’s contemplating suing her.
Meanwhile, the Suleman Circus continues, at least for now. Sociologist Dorian Traube of the University of Southern California sees a couple reasons for that.
First, there’s the fascination with watching the human equivalent of a train wreck.
“Once you’re in the media spiral people really like to see people struggle, especially these faux celebrities,” said Traube.
And then, she added, there is also some genuine concern for Suleman’s children. Remarkably enough, she has managed to keep those children generally out of the spotlight as she has embarked on her own wacky adventures. Now that she could be on the brink of losing them, that has people concerned.
“I think Americans in general have a very profound level of concern for child welfare,” Traube said. “And here you have 14 children whose mom is living on welfare, who has now declared bankruptcy, who is going in the media and posing topless and who most recently said she would be willing to do porn films if it meant that she could provide for her children. And I think that piques people’s interest, much in the same way that people are concerned and interested in reading stories when children go missing.”
What do you think?