By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
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By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
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"They've been cavorting and having an affair, unbeknownst to Valerie, for a pretty damn good while," chuckles the lawyer. "Courtney was the best friend of Valerie, so she knows some of Valerie's secrets. Valerie now knows that her husband and she and Courtney have something in common, and it's just a big circus."
Courtney Lanier disputed Lilly's comments in an interview with the Insider at the Downing Street cigar bar on the edge of River Oaks. Sitting in and recording the meeting was former mayoral chief of staff Dave Walden, who described his role in the matter as "domestic relations adviser."
Courtney says she has known Valerie since the seventh grade and met Chris seven years ago. She attended the couple's wedding reception at the Museum of Fine Arts in 1993. She says Valerie told everyone about her marital problems, and Courtney denies scheming to break up the twosome. In fact, says Courtney, there was no marriage to disrupt.
"Their marriage had been over for some time, and it was common knowledge," she observes. "They were living at the same house in name only. She was out of town quite a bit. Not with her husband, not with her child."
She and Valerie grew apart after Valerie starting running with another crowd, Courtney says. "Our interests had diverged, definitely."
Meanwhile, Courtney and the short, plumpish Chris were just good buddies, she says.
"We'd join together in social situations, Rockets games, parties, hunting trips. Never had a romantic relationship, just a friendship." Mutual interests gradually drew them closer.
"We had a ton in common. He's real interested in the real estate business, and I'm interested in what he does. He's a professor kind of a geek who loves to sit and talk about economics. And we would sit and talk about that."
Courtney says they found romance in March, two months before he moved out of his home, and "have a meaningful, loving relationship." "We're not living together at all," she says. "We really aren't seeing much of each other right now." Courtney did try to find Chris an apartment at her parent's condo, the Huntingdon, after Galik awarded him temporary custody of Gillian.
Courtney says she and Chris are trying to weather the legal storm and do what's best for his child. Chris has temporary custody and agreed to allow Valerie to keep her during the daytime, while he has her at night. One rule in the custody order is that Chris keep any of his female companions away from the little girl.
"I have not spent one moment nor talked one moment to Gillian, his daughter, since this whole process has begun," Courtney declares. "His primary concern right now is his daughter."
As for the future, Courtney notes that Chris has hit it off with her parents, who often accompany them to dinner.
"They get along great," enthuses Courtney. "Christopher and my dad spend four hours talking about business. And what mother doesn't like a man that's nice to her daughter?"
The Laniers don't seem concerned that the rest of River Oaks is buzzing about L'Affair Sarofim. "They're only concerned to the extent they don't want me to feel bad," says Courtney.
At press time the divorce lawyers were still negotiating over permanent child custody. If there's no agreement, Lilly predicts "a knock-down-drag-out custody hearing" within a few weeks. Lilly and Fullenweider both say they are hopeful that a trial can be avoided.
"As the heir to a billionaire, does he want his dirt in the street?" asks Lilly rhetorically. "I doubt it. Does she need any more publicity on some errant behavior on her part for a short period of time?" His answer sounds a bit like a threat.
"I believe that these people will settle this case, because of the dirt that will not inure to the benefit of anybody."
Maybe so, but that reasoning sure didn't stop the previous generation of Sarofims from letting it all hang out.
EarlyPoelemics from the Right
District Judge Ted Poe is considered the strong favorite to win the GOP nomination to replace retiring District Attorney Johnny Holmes Jr. [see "Shame, Shame, Shame," by Richard Connelly, November 11]. But the longer Poe hangs on to his bench and holds off declaring for the race, the more restless the Republican natives are becoming.
In a signal that the contest might not be so open-and-shut, a consultant affiliated with westside political kingmaker Steven Hotze is claiming the good doctor will back veteran prosecutor Chuck Rosenthal.
According to consultant Allen Blakemore, Hotze will endorse Rosenthal, with or without Poe in the contest. Asked why Hotze would go with an early underdog, Blakemore took a few shots at Poe's media grandstanding with so-called shame sentencing.
"That's Ted Poe's claim to fame -- he makes folks wear sandwich boards and walk around the street. That's not what the D.A.'s office does. It prosecutes criminals."
Previewing Rosenthal's campaign strategy, Blakemore snipes, "Poe made it clear that's not what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to get out of the D.A.'s office. By contrast, Rosenthal wants to stay."
Poe has told associates he'd like Hotze's support if he runs but believes he can win regardless.
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