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December 7th, 2010
By: David Moye
A former “Baywatch” beauty is feeling overexposed after going through what she says was a humiliating body scan by Transportation Security Administration agents at Los Angeles International Airport.
Donna D’Errico, who was the Playboy Playmate in September 1995, says she got a few leers along with the scan and isn’t happy about it.
D’Errico, 42, says the encounter occurred at LAX while trying to catch a flight to Pittsburgh with her son, Rhyan, 17.
“We were on our way to see Rhyan’s aunt, who had just been put on life support in the ICU,” D’Errico told AOL News in an exclusive interview. “My boyfriend and his business partner happened to be flying the same airline [American] on their way to New York for business. We got checked in and headed to security.”
After waiting in a long line of holiday travelers, D’Errico and her son finally made it to the moving carrier where all the carry-on bags are placed. That’s when a TSA agent took her by the elbow and told her she needed to “come this way.”
“I said I was traveling with my son, motioning to him, and the agent said he was to come along with me as well,” D’Errico said. “I immediately asked why we were having to go through an extra search, and no one else was being made to do so, indicating the long line of other passengers in front of and behind where we had been in line. In a very sarcastic tone, and still holding me by the elbow, the agent responded, ‘Because you caught my eye, and they’ — pointing to the other passengers — ‘didn’t.’”
D’Errico is still wondering how she caught his eye while others didn’t.
“My boyfriend and his partner sailed through with no problems, which is rather ironic in that my boyfriend fits the stereotypical ‘look’ of a terrorist when his beard has grown in a bit, which it was that evening,” she said.
Although D’Errico was a regular on “Baywatch” from 1996 to 1998, a period when it was one of the most popular shows worldwide, she doesn’t know whether she was singled out because of her fame. “I’m not sure whether they had recognized me or not,” she admitted. “If they did, they didn’t say anything. However, it is my personal belief that they pulled me aside because they thought I was attractive. My boyfriend, as I mentioned before, looks much more like a terrorist than either I or my son do, and he went through security with no problems.”
The TSA rules regarding scans and searches dictate that passengers can select a scan or a search. D’Errico says that was never an option.
“They never even told me what they were doing at all, or that I had any choice,” she said. “It was just, ‘Stand here. Raise your arms above your head like this.’ They never told me that they were going to be conducting a full-body scan, or that I had the option of being searched instead. Had they explained what they were doing, I would have opted for the search. As a matter of fact, my son was made to not only go through the full-body scan, but they also conducted a pat-down search on him as well.
“After the search, I noticed that the male TSA agent who had pulled me out of line was smiling and whispering with two other TSA agents and glancing at me. I was outraged.”
So was her boyfriend, Roy J. Bank, the president of Merv Griffin Entertainment, who says he was in disbelief at what had just occurred.
“Anything that upsets Donna upsets me,” he said. “I hated her being humiliated like that. I was genuinely shocked by both Donna and Rhyan being pulled aside for the extensive scanning.
“I’m all for measures to make us safer when traveling, but when it is so incredibly arbitrary, I don’t feel any safer … and I can promise you that her getting additional screening and the line full of people I saw around us not getting additional screening is not making us any safer!”
Although some might wonder why a woman who appeared nude in Playboy and wore a red bathing suit for three seasons of “Baywatch” is bothered about having one or two TSA agents see a computer scanned image of her naked body, but D’Errico says they are two separate issues.
“I must have overlooked the clause in both my Playboy and ‘Baywatch’ contracts stating that once appearing in that magazine, or on that show, I would forever be subject to being seen naked live and in person by anyone, at anytime, under any conditions, whether I agree to it or not, and for free,” she said sarcastically.
“I posed for Playboy 15 years ago. I was on ‘Baywatch’ 13 years ago. Both of those were controlled environments, with proper lighting, makeup, etc., and were jobs. I contractually agreed to do both of those jobs. I could have stopped or changed my mind at any time. None of those conditions are present when TSA decides for you that you will consent to being scanned or felt up, or you simply won’t be allowed your constitutional right to travel from one place to another freely.”
TSA spokesman Nico Melendez thinks D’Errico’s claims aren’t accurate.
“If you see the images, you’ll know it’s not a naked picture,” he said. “The passengers are selected at random and not because they’re celebrities.”
As far as her claims that the agents were smiling and whispering, Melendez said that people who are celebrities shouldn’t be surprised if and when they’re recognized.
But D’Errico says that even though she has a higher profile than other people, she fears other women may be victims of this invasion of privacy.
“This could, and I’m sure does, happen to other women,” she said. “It isn’t right to hide behind the veil of security and safety in order to take advantage of women, or even men for that matter, so that you can see them naked. It’s a misuse of power and authority, and as much a personal violation as a Peeping Tom. The difference is that Peeping Toms can have charges pressed against them.”
Melendez says that the agents who are looking at the scan are in a closed room and have no communication with anyone other than the person handling the machine.
“It could be a woman or a man,” he said.
D’Errico doesn’t know of any other actresses or models who’ve had the same experience, but she believes other more effective and less invasive security measures should be implemented.
“One of my best friends was flying to New York for business, and at some point during the flight, she stood up to retrieve something from her bag in the overhead compartment,” she said. “When she reached into her bag, something cut her hand. She looked into her bag and discovered a pair of 6-inch gardening shears which she had forgotten to remove prior to packing her bag.
“The bag, and my friend, had passed through security with no issues. How is this full-body scan supposed to be making us safer if 6-inch gardening shears can still make it aboard domestic flights undetected?”