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Women: Caretaker of famous gorilla pressured us to bare our breasts
CourtTV.com ^ | Aug. 12, 2005 | Lisa Sweetingham

Posted on 08/15/2005 12:32:16 PM PDT by OESY

Two former caretakers for Koko, the famous gorilla who communicates with humans using sign language, say they were continually pressured to show Koko their breasts or face the consequences.

Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller are suing Koko's primary caretaker, Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson, because she allegedly asked them to "perform bizarre sexual acts with Koko" — namely, taking off their tops — to bond with the five-foot-tall, 280-pound female gorilla.

"Patterson would interpret certain hand movements made by Koko as a 'demand' to see exposed human nipples," the suit alleges. "[Patterson] made it known to Keller and Alperin that if [they] did not indulge Koko's nipple fetish, their employment with the Gorilla Foundation would suffer."

Claiming severe emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, anger, disappointment and worry, the women filed suit in February, naming the Gorilla Foundation — the Woodside, Calif., nonprofit charged with Koko's care — and Patterson, its president and research director.

They are seeking more than $1 million in damages for sexual discrimination and wrongful termination, among other claims, and say they were fired after reporting "filthy and dangerous" working conditions to state health officials.

A third woman named in the suit, Sandra Marchese, claims she was misled when Patterson offered her a research associate position, and then made her clean cages and mop floors.

The women were expected to file a second amended complaint this week, emphasizing details of Koko's alleged "nipple fetish" and Patterson's indulgence of the ape's sexually aggressive behavior, when it appeared that Koko's camp agreed to enter into negotiations.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Stephen Sommers, confirmed to Courttv.com that the two sides were in discussions, but did not return calls for comment after those discussions began.

The Gorilla Foundation's legal counsel, Todd Roberts of Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley, also declined to comment, saying, "Our position has been consistent: We're not going to litigate this in the press. We will litigate it in court."

It's not known how these developments will affect the separate case of former Foundation administrative assistant Iris Rivera, who filed suit a week after Alperin and Keller, claiming she acquiesced to Koko's alleged demands seven or eight times over a two-month period last summer.

According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, when Rivera grudgingly lifted her T-shirt and bra for the ape, Patterson exclaimed, "Oh look, Koko, she has big nipples." Rivera quit her job in January.

Her attorney did not return calls for comment.

The Gorilla Foundation is not talking about the case, but issued a statement through its Web site saying the suits are meritless.

"To be clear, we unequivocally deny the hurtful allegations of the suits and intend to vigorously defend the cases through trial, if necessary, in the San Mateo County Superior Court," the statement says. "We will not be deterred from our ultimate mission."

Girl meets gorilla

Grad student Penny Patterson, was studying developmental psychology in 1972 at Stanford University, when she met a one-year-old baby gorilla named Hanabi-Ko at the San Francisco Zoo.

Patterson began to teach Koko sign language as part of her master's thesis on the potential for "interspecies communication." The experience developed into a lifelong bond with Koko, whom she hand-raised.

Koko's first words, "eat" "drink" and "more," evolved into a "talking" vocabulary of some 1,000 signs, including such abstract concepts as "love," "jealous," and "shame."

According to her Web site, she has an IQ of between 70 and 95; she can understand and respond to about 2,000 words of spoken English; her favorite book is "The Three Little Kittens," and her favorite movie is "Free Willy."

In 1976, Patterson teamed with Dr. Ronald Cohn to establish the Gorilla Foundation, which holds trust over Koko and works toward gorilla preservation efforts worldwide.

Koko celebrates her 30th birthday with Patterson.

Koko, according to Patterson, has expressed a desire to have a baby of her own, and the Foundation is working to build a gorilla preserve in Maui, Hawaii, where Koko, her mate Ndume, and other apes may one day live, and interspecies communication can be studied.

Honorary co-chairs and supporters of the Maui Preserve include comedian Robin Williams, musician Sting, and their wives.

But Alperin and Keller say Koko's celebrity status doesn't give her a pass for inappropriate behavior.

Alperin was hired in April 2004 to be a research assistant and gorilla caregiver at the Foundation. On at least three occasions, she claims, Patterson pressured her to show Koko her nipples as a way to bond with the gorilla.

According to the complaint, Patterson would communicate to Koko, saying, "Oh yes, Koko, Nancy has nipples. Nancy can show you her nipples," or, "Oh Koko, why don't you and Nancy have a visit? I will go and do some other things. I wouldn't want anything to impede the relationship between you two."

Keller, who was hired as a research associate and gorilla caregiver in March 2004, claims she was twice asked to show Koko her breasts, alleging that Patterson once told the gorilla, "Koko, you see my nipples all the time. You are probably bored with my nipples. You need to see new nipples. I will turn my back so Kendra can show you her nipples."

Both women say they refused to show Koko their nipples.

The women also allege that they were so alarmed by the "filthy and dangerous conditions" — including rats in the food prep area and gorilla urine stored in the refrigerator next to employees' food — that Alperin notified California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health on July 16, 2004.

Cal/OSHA fined the Foundation $300 for violations after making an Aug. 5 inspection.

The women claim they received letters from Patterson the day after the inspection, confirming their termination.

But the Gorilla Foundation noted in its response to the complaint that Keller and Alperin admit they were originally fired on or about July 18 and July 21, respectively.

Because the inspections did not occur until Aug. 5, the response says, "It is impossible ... to prove any nexus between Alperin's complaint and the termination of their employment."

Dirty work?

Former research associate Sandra Marchese, who was hired in July 2003, says she found the working conditions at the Foundation "unbearable" and is suing along with Keller and Alperin for emotional distress.

Marchese, who has sign language skills and degrees in anthropology, says she took a leave of absence from her job as a public school teacher in Washington and traveled to California to work for the Gorilla Foundation.

She says she had little time for research, because she was saddled with "a broad range of menial tasks."

Those tasks included cleaning the gorilla cages and trailers, sorting through produce and tidying up the home of Foundation co-founder RonCohn.

"Cleaning the trailers included removing feces and urine-soaked blankets and toys, washing the blankets and toys (sometimes by hand), sweeping, mopping and replenishing the blankets and toys," according to the suit. She says she was not given the proper tools to pick up gorilla feces.

"Marchese requested protective clothing or a 'pooper scooper,' to which Mr. Cohn suggested Marchese cut a paper plate in half and use that to accomplish the task," the suit alleges.

When Cohn's chained pit bull "Max" bit her arm, leaving a scrape, Marchese claims that Cohn suggested she take the dog for regular walks so that Max and Marchese could "get to know each other."

Marchese gave two weeks' notice and left in April 2004. She is asking for $300,000 in damages.

According to Sommers, Alperin has returned to social work and Keller has gone back to being a sign language interpreter for the deaf. Alperin is asking for more than $700,000 in damages. Keller wants more than $360,000.

The women also claim they were not paid overtime, or given rest periods.

In its response to the complaint, the Gorilla Foundation denied allegations of untoward monkey business on Patterson's behalf.

"There are no allegations that Dr. Patterson's translations were sexual advances of any type, that the statements involved 'sex,' or that they resulted in any adverse consequences to Keller or Alperin," the response notes. "There are no facts suggesting any discrimination based on conduct of a sexual nature."


TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Miscellaneous; Political Humor/Cartoons; US: California
KEYWORDS: alperin; animalwhackos; ape; breasts; gorilla; keller; koko; lawsuit; ndume; patterson; ronaldcohn; sommers
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1 posted on 08/15/2005 12:32:18 PM PDT by OESY
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To: OESY

Sorry, that was me, dressed in a gorilla suit. I'll try to be more mature next time, but, man, was that fun!


2 posted on 08/15/2005 12:33:38 PM PDT by mallardx
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To: OESY

Kinky Koko.


3 posted on 08/15/2005 12:33:54 PM PDT by battlegearboat
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To: OESY

I nominate this for "most confusing headline of the day."


4 posted on 08/15/2005 12:34:07 PM PDT by TheBigB (Gum would be perfection!)
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To: OESY
ROFLMAO!

I guess they didn't teach Koko a sign for "indecent exposure."

5 posted on 08/15/2005 12:35:50 PM PDT by meowmeow (Meow! Meow!)
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To: TheBigB
OSHA fined the Gorilla $300!

That's alot of bananas!

6 posted on 08/15/2005 12:37:05 PM PDT by battlegearboat
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To: TheBigB

Ya sure that wasn't you dressed up in a Gorilla suit B? ;)


7 posted on 08/15/2005 12:37:11 PM PDT by najida (OK, sometimes cropping a picture keeps you from getting in trouble.)
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To: OESY
Two former caretakers for Koko, the famous gorilla who communicates with humans using sign language, say they were continually pressured to show Koko their breasts or face the consequences.

Sounds like a typical Democratic Party weekend retreat at the Kennedy compound. ;)

8 posted on 08/15/2005 12:38:39 PM PDT by Mr. Jeeves ("Feelings are not a tool of cognition, therefore they are not a criterion of morality." -- Ayn Rand)
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To: OESY

(S)So is this reasearch going to carry over to human trials?(/s)


9 posted on 08/15/2005 12:40:33 PM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE!)
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To: OESY

They should explain to Koko that is not permissible. Same sex relations are okay but sexual attraction to breasts is an animal instinct that humans are told to shun.

Koko has a lot to learn about political correctness.


10 posted on 08/15/2005 12:41:16 PM PDT by weegee (The Rovebaiting by DUAC must stop. It is nothing but a partisan witchhunt.)
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To: OESY
Two former caretakers for Koko, the famous gorilla who communicates with humans using sign language, say they were continually pressured to show Koko their breasts or face the consequences.

Or what?? Koko was going to throw Koko-poo at them?

11 posted on 08/15/2005 12:41:36 PM PDT by yankeedame ("Oh, I can take it but I'd much rather dish it out.")
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To: TheBigB
I nominate this for "most confusing headline of the day."

Nipple confusion....

12 posted on 08/15/2005 12:42:33 PM PDT by The_Victor (I'm adrift, my tagline just snapped)
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To: OESY

Shouldn't you be smarter than the gorilla to be it's caretaker?


13 posted on 08/15/2005 12:42:35 PM PDT by MadJack
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To: OESY
"Patterson would interpret certain hand movements made by Koko as a 'demand' to see exposed human nipples," the suit alleges.

Well, at least we know what Rosie O'Donnell's up to these days.
14 posted on 08/15/2005 12:44:25 PM PDT by reagan_fanatic (Islam is war)
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To: mallardx

sounds more like buddy hacket was in there


15 posted on 08/15/2005 12:44:27 PM PDT by NormB (Yes, but watch your cookies!!)
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To: dead
Koko's first words, "eat" "drink" and "more," evolved into a "talking" vocabulary of some 1,000 signs, including such abstract concepts as "love," "jealous,","shame" and "Show me your tits".
16 posted on 08/15/2005 12:44:44 PM PDT by AppyPappy
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To: OESY

"Now, tell HIM you've got a headache!!!"


17 posted on 08/15/2005 12:44:55 PM PDT by VRWCmember
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To: mallardx
Sorry, that was me, dressed in a gorilla suit. I'll try to be more mature next time, but, man, was that fun!

You wish...

It was THIS guy < /sarcasm >

Gorilla X, Gorilla to the Stars


18 posted on 08/15/2005 12:45:36 PM PDT by weegee (The Rovebaiting by DUAC must stop. It is nothing but a partisan witchhunt.)
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To: OESY

Holy cow! The monkey had a "nipple fetish"? Ugh. Too much information.

Only in America could this type of story end up in a courtroom. I can hear it now: "Your honor, Koko is a beast and should be locked in a cage!"


19 posted on 08/15/2005 12:45:50 PM PDT by RexBeach (Pardon me, but is that a malaise sandwich in your pocket or are you just glad to be in a funk?)
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To: AppyPappy

What's the byline on this story? New Orleans?


20 posted on 08/15/2005 12:46:12 PM PDT by weegee (The Rovebaiting by DUAC must stop. It is nothing but a partisan witchhunt.)
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To: OESY
The women also allege that they were so alarmed by the "filthy and dangerous conditions" — including rats in the food prep area and gorilla urine stored in the refrigerator next to employees' food — that Alperin notified California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health on July 16, 2004.

Cal/OSHA fined the Foundation $300 for violations after making an Aug. 5 inspection.

$300 for Gorilla urine in the fridge!! Glad to see the goverment is looking out for us!

21 posted on 08/15/2005 12:46:50 PM PDT by pikachu (What if there were no more hypothetical questions?)
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To: mallardx

Well, I guess you'll be asked to "act out the incident" at the trial.


22 posted on 08/15/2005 12:46:51 PM PDT by battlegearboat
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To: OESY

Nothing more than a naked money grab.


23 posted on 08/15/2005 12:47:04 PM PDT by CAWats (The floggings will continue until morale improves.)
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To: OESY

So Koko is a lez?


24 posted on 08/15/2005 12:47:12 PM PDT by ozzymandus
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To: weegee

Gorgeous!!! (The girl ain't bad either).


25 posted on 08/15/2005 12:48:06 PM PDT by CAWats (The floggings will continue until morale improves.)
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To: OESY

Hmmmm, they can teach a gorilla sign language, but can't housebreak them? I'll keep my dog thank you.


26 posted on 08/15/2005 12:48:14 PM PDT by TC Rider (The United States Constitution 1791. All Rights Reserved.)
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To: OESY
But Alperin and Keller say Koko's celebrity status doesn't give her a pass for inappropriate behavior.

Oh, I don't know. It works for the Hollywood crowd.

27 posted on 08/15/2005 12:50:16 PM PDT by atomic conspiracy (This message prepared with MS-CBS Word 72 software)
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To: OESY

Koko is a gorilla for goodness sake, Robin Williams' hairy nipples would be more attractive (and familiar) to her.


28 posted on 08/15/2005 12:52:15 PM PDT by timsbella (Mark Steyn for Prime Minister of Canada!)
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To: OESY

Anyone here that absolutely most cloying commercial by Robin Williams about his mind-altering experience communicating with Koko. He's trying to save Koko and her species. Sounds like he's not the only boob involved.


29 posted on 08/15/2005 12:53:31 PM PDT by JewishRighter
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To: OESY

They could have just bought Koko a _Girls Gone Wild_ video.


30 posted on 08/15/2005 12:54:00 PM PDT by RatSlayer
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To: OESY
OK. Who was the one who taught Koko to sign...

S-h-o-w M-e Y-o-u-r B-o-o-b-i-e-s
31 posted on 08/15/2005 12:54:11 PM PDT by linkinpunk
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To: CAWats
Well it has to be worth more than 4 times this payout...

Man Outed on Radio Show to Receive $270K

as these women were being ASKED to engage in an unnatural act for their employer.

32 posted on 08/15/2005 1:21:24 PM PDT by weegee (The Rovebaiting by DUAC must stop. It is nothing but a partisan witchhunt.)
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To: CAWats

BTW, maybe you should pitch that as a new reality based game show for Court TV: "Naked Money Grab"


33 posted on 08/15/2005 1:22:07 PM PDT by weegee (The Rovebaiting by DUAC must stop. It is nothing but a partisan witchhunt.)
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To: OESY
Patterson, eh?

So what was she lookin' for while the gorilla was lookin' fer babes?
34 posted on 08/15/2005 1:24:52 PM PDT by Robert A. Cook, PE (-I contribute to FR monthly, but ABBCNNBCBS supports Hillary's Secular Sexual Socialism every day.)
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To: OESY
Leave it to FR to have an old thread containing the requisite picture:


35 posted on 08/15/2005 1:26:40 PM PDT by r9etb
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To: OESY

Wow! How can you be THAT smart and THAT naive at the same time? LOL


36 posted on 08/15/2005 1:35:06 PM PDT by Bluegrass Conservative
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To: CAWats
Nothing more than a naked money grab.

For a moment there I thought your post read:
Nothing more than a naked monkey grab. ;)

37 posted on 08/15/2005 1:35:16 PM PDT by anymouse
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To: anymouse

When questioned, the gorilla coyly refused to answer, playing it close to the vest.


38 posted on 08/15/2005 1:40:18 PM PDT by CAWats (The floggings will continue until morale improves.)
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To: OESY

Could been worse. Koko coulda been a male gorilla.


39 posted on 08/15/2005 1:43:32 PM PDT by wildbill
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To: wildbill

I heard Koko could sign..."Look at those GAZUMBAZZ!!!!


40 posted on 08/15/2005 1:46:30 PM PDT by samadams2000 (Pitchforks and Lanterns..with a smiley face!)
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To: r9etb

Are you telling me that the women in the picture are the ones complaining?

My take is that KOKO wanted to be reassured that her caretakers were really females.


41 posted on 08/15/2005 1:46:59 PM PDT by wildbill
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To: wildbill

Koko is a lesbian low land girlilla ?


42 posted on 08/15/2005 1:49:23 PM PDT by al baby (Father of the beeber)
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To: OESY


Sounds like biker week at Laconia NH


Show me your t*ts!


43 posted on 08/15/2005 1:50:35 PM PDT by rockabyebaby (What do you like best about your life?)
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To: wildbill
My take is that KOKO wanted to be reassured that her caretakers were really females.

My take is that they're filing first in hopes of pre-empting Koko's "mental anguish" suit....

44 posted on 08/15/2005 1:51:11 PM PDT by r9etb
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To: linkinpunk
OK. Who was the one who taught Koko to sign... S-h-o-w M-e Y-o-u-r B-o-o-b-i-e-s

Bill Clinton or Mr. Rogers?


45 posted on 08/15/2005 1:53:36 PM PDT by al baby (Father of the beeber)
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To: OESY

Man, this story was WRITTEN with Iowahawk in mind...here's hoping he gives us a decent parody!


46 posted on 08/15/2005 1:55:58 PM PDT by ImaGraftedBranch (God is my Fulcrum; prayer is my lever -- Saint Therese of Lisieux)
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To: mallardx
Sorry, that was me, dressed in a gorilla suit.

What gave it away?

Stuffing $1 bills in her underwear?

47 posted on 08/15/2005 1:56:34 PM PDT by linkinpunk
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To: OESY
"I want to see your nipples"


48 posted on 08/15/2005 1:59:17 PM PDT by linkinpunk
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To: OESY
her favorite book is "The Three Little Kittens," and her favorite movie is "Free Willy."

I bet I know what her favorite restaurant is.

49 posted on 08/15/2005 2:04:28 PM PDT by avg_freeper (Gunga galunga. Gunga, gunga galunga)
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To: OESY

What happened to multi-culturalism? If Koko wants to see her human caretakers breasts, I think they should, in the interest of multi-culturalism, comply.

Do they want to communicate with Koko or not? Isn't that they whole idea?


50 posted on 08/15/2005 2:07:40 PM PDT by Lorianne
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