Copyright 2004 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.

Chicago Sun-Times February 1, 2004 Sunday HEADLINE: A thinly veiled plea to R. Kelly BYLINE: Jim DeRogatis; Abdon M. Pallasch HIGHLIGHT: Ex-'best friend' says novel seeks to show pain star has caused BODY: One of R. Kelly's closest confidantes has published what she calls a "thinly fictionalized account" of her friendship with an R&B superstar whose character in the book loses control of his sexual impulses and whose morals become "twisted" by fame and money. Kim Dulaney, a 39-year-old South Side native, mother of two and author of a series of children's books, befriended Kelly in 1990 and had a sexual relationship with him that lasted several years. Dulaney considered the musical giant a "best friend" until last June, when he was indicted in Illinois on 21 counts of making child pornography stemming from a videotape that appears to show him having sex with a 14-year-old girl. The platinum-selling superstar -- whose popularity in the music world has only grown since these charges -- also faces 12 counts of making child pornography in Florida, based on more photographs that prosecutors there say depict him having sex with the same then-underage Chicago girl. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Dulaney said she saw this teen visit Kelly in the studio several times and that the singer used to attend the girl's high school basketball games. She said she never witnessed Kelly engaging in sexual activities with minors, but she believes that the charges against him are warranted and that he needs help to stop what she calls his "sexual addiction." Dulaney said she saw a bootleg copy of one of the controversial "R. Kelly sex tapes" that were briefly for sale on the street in early 2002 and that she recognized not only the underage girl but another woman of legal age, Montina Woods, a dancer who has filed a civil suit against Kelly for allegedly illicitly videotaping one of their sexual liaisons. Dulaney describes her new book, Star Struck, as "a roman a clef -- a thinly fictionalized account" of her 13-year friendship with Robert S. Kelly, 37, whom she calls "Rob" in conversation and "Ben" in the novel. When questioned during an interview about specific scenes in the novel between "Ben" and her character, "Lela," she confirmed that many were based on actual recollections of her own interactions with Kelly. "I wrote the book in fiction form so that I wouldn't have to tell specific things that Rob said to me in confidence, and yet I would like to get the message across that we should be thinking critically about these issues," Dulaney said. The writer is troubled that many in the African-American community support the star without thinking about the underage girl or other women he has been accused of hurting. "To blindly support Rob does a disservice to Rob," she said. Kelly's attorney Ed Genson said he hasn't read the book and doesn't intend to, and he hasn't talked to Kelly about it. Star Struck was published by Dulaney's own company, Unique Expressions, and is available for sale on Amazon.com as well as at some Borders outlets and independent bookstores in Chicago. She has also written and published seven children's books, including I Can Fly (The R. Kelly Story), which she wrote in 1997 with Kelly's blessing.

I Can Fly portrays Kelly as a hero for children to emulate. "His story is an amazing story, which is why this is so sad right now," Dulaney said. Star Struck focuses on the pain that the intensely charismatic character based on Kelly causes many around him. At least nine women -- some of them underage -- have filed suit against Kelly or threatened to sue him, charging that he took advantage of them, lured them into illicit relationships or improperly filmed them having sex with him. He settled out of court with most of the women for undisclosed amounts of money. Attorney Susan Loggans represented several of the girls but is prohibited from discussing details of their relationships with Kelly because of confidentiality agreements. She was retained by a new client late last year. "Since this book came out, I've gotten calls from girls who [were involved with Kelly]," Dulaney said. "They said, 'When I read the book, I cried. I had to stop and just breathe because it was so real, and you captured Rob so well.' " The author lashed out at anyone who charges she is trying to make money on her famous friend's troubles. "Let's not deal with the smog and fog of it all, let's deal with issues," Dulaney said. "I've been a champion of women's and children's rights through my books since 1997. This is what I live for." Star Struck includes a conversation between the character based on Dulaney and the character based on Kelly after a newspaper reports the existence of a videotape similar to the one in the Kelly case. The "Ben" character says of the underage girl's aunt, who identified the girl in the video to police: "I need her done. You know what I mean? I can't say it, in case it ever gets to trial I can say I didn't say it, you know?" Dulaney would not comment on whether that scene was fact or fiction. But she said that if she is subpoenaed to testify at Kelly's trial, "I wouldn't lie for him." She added that many people who have been close to the star are afraid to talk to police and prosecutors, in part because people around him depend on his continued success. "They're afraid of being murdered or something like that because it is to protect a great moneymaking machine," Dulaney said. "I think they have good reason to be afraid -- the same reason that I'm afraid sometimes because you know that a person who is so consumed with saving something, they're not thinking rationally," she said. "The people around them have all the money, so they can just pay somebody who has no respect for life and have something done to you." "There has never been any allegation against Kelly of violence or that he has threatened anybody," Genson said. Prosecutors declined to comment on Dulaney's book. Dulaney said she last spoke to Kelly in October to tell him the book would be published soon, and Kelly voiced no objections. She has not heard from him since, but she said she does not believe the star will sue her for the portrait in her book. "He knows that the core of the book is true," Dulaney said. "And he knows that all of my efforts have been to try to save him, so if I wrote it, he knows that I'm not just being malicious. Basically, I'm still his friend. It would surprise me if he was even mad about it. What I think is that he would be bothered by the fact that he couldn't control this and spin it this way or spin it that way." Dulaney said that while she does not want to see Kelly go to jail, she believes he needs help for his sexual addiction. "I think he needs to go away, to be by himself away from the glare of stardom," she said. "What I'm saying in the book is that this guy is caught up, and his morals are kind of twisted now. I think he can't tell the boundaries of acceptable behavior." Coming Monday: After 20 months, no trial date has been set. GRAPHIC: Jean Lachat, R. Kelly (right) is shown leaving the Criminal Courts Building last summer. LOAD-DATE: February 5, 2004