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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Angela Wilder

Aired August 5, 2003 - 20:42   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Earlier we talked about the temptations that many celebrities face when they're on the road. Now we want to look at the other side of the coin, life at home.
Angela Wilder is the former life of former Lakers Star James Worthy. Worthy and Wilder seemed to have a fairly tale marriage until Worthy was arrested for soliciting a prostitute.

Wilder joines me now from Los Angeles.

Thanks for joining us tonight.

ANGELA WILDER, EX-WIFE OF JAMES WORTHY: You're welcome.

ZAHN: So Angela, I don't know how much of the previous conversation you were able to hear about how strategic some of these women are in placing themselves between the wives and the athletes. How much a part do you think that is in life of the average NBA player?

WILDER: I think it's a fact for pretty much every NBA player and any professional athlete, period, no matter what his sport. Groupies or very ardent fans are just part of that whole world.

ZAHN: And have you been able to come to any conclusions why so few of the men you're thlking about have been able to say no over the years?

WILDER: Well, I think there are a number of reasons why they don't say no.

One is, this feeling of invincibility, that the rules that apply to most people don't apply to them. And, you know, there's this tendancy to just acquiese in the face of an athlete when they are caught doing something that most of us think is not what they should be doing. So they get a pass so often that that just becomes a way of life.

ZAHN: And, Angela, I know that every team is different. But is it true that wives are pretty much discouraged about going on the road with their husbands -- discouraged from going on the road with their husbands?

WILDER: Well, that varies from team to team. I think you'll find that that varies with the organization and particularly with the head coach of each team. When I was an active Laker wife, we were not encouraged to go on the road except during the final days of the playoffs and certainly championships we were encouraged to be there because we had gone through that entire season as well. There's a lot of contribution that comes from the wife and I think it was felt that we deserved to be able to participate in the spoils of victory as well.

ZAHN: Tell us a little bit about the day that you found out that your husband had been arrested for soliciting a prostitute. How did you find out?

WILDER: Yes, I had been out shopping for furniture for a new home we had just purchased and came home and in my living room were two of my dearest friends. I immediately assumed that there had been a death in my family. But the television was playing in the background and at the top of the hour "Headline News" broke and his arrest was the lead story. So that's the way I found out, just like millions of other people through "Headline News."

ZAHN: You must have some empathy for the situation Vanessa Bryant finds herself in. You were also young when you married a superstar. She was a little bit younger than you were. Help us understand the pressure she must be getting, not only from Kobe, Kobe's family and the team.

WILDER: Well, I think that people need to look beyond what they see on television, because we all know, those of us who are realistic about what's going on, that his defense relies in part upon what she does and what she says. I mean, I believe that. And there's got to be a real concerted effort behind the scenes from PR people, from his lawyers to put up this great front that they are united and are going to fight this together.

She's really caught between a rock and a hard place. I mean, having come out so early in support of him and so ardently about her support and now to back away and become a no-show sends a mixed message. So she is really caught between a rock and a hard place. And right now, getting through the legal part of this is probably their first priority. Who knows what eventually will happen in their relationship? I don't know. I can't say. But I do know that she's part of the team and she's got to play. I mean, you don't put a basketball team out on the floor without, you know, two power forwards and two guards and a center. And she's one of those starting positions.

ZAHN: Well, we thank you for sharing your own personal story and making some of these other observations for us tonight. Angela Wilder, again, good of you to drop by.

WILDER: Thank you, Paula.

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