‘Gossip Girl’ Star Kelly Rutherford Clears the Air Regarding Her Custody Drama
The Gossip Girl actress has been locked in a bitter custody battle with her ex-husband Daniel Giersch. She opens up to Dana Kennedy about the troubling ordeal.
MONTE CARLO, Monaco - His name is Daniel Giersch. He’s a German national with a Monaco residency who lives in this sun-kissed, glamorous principality with his two young children, Hermes and Helena. A woman who saw them at a garden party in the hills above Monte Carlo ten days ago said he seemed charming and his son and daughter looked healthy and beautiful.
But for actress Kelly Rutherford, Giersch's American ex-wife and the mother of the two children at the garden party, Giersch is a Mr. Wrong straight out of central casting’s film noir department. Rutherford, who played matriarch Lily van der Woodsen on TV’s Gossip Girl, said she has not seen her kids since March because when she flew to France last month to see them, Giersch insisted she relinquish their U.S. passports before visiting with them and she refused.
Giersch has not responded to numerous interview requests from the Daily Beast to state his side of the story. His L.A. attorney Fahi Takesh Hallin finally returned a call Friday but has yet to provide a statement.
On Thursday, in a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling, one of several issued since Rutherford and Giersch divorced in 2010 and began fighting over custody of their kids, Superior Court Judge Mark Juhas said that the kids should come home to the U.S. for the summer while he and a judge in Monaco decide who has jurisdiction over the children. Hallin, told Juhas that Giersch had no problem with the children spending the summer with the actress. Several of Rutherford’s four attorneys, however, doubt Giersch will send the kids to the U.S. as ordered given the pattern of surreal twists and turns in the long-running battle. Giersch, meanwhile, has his own hearing in Monaco on June 22 where he could file for sole custody.
To Rutherford and those who know the case, including two sources who were not hired by either Rutherford or Giersch, the story is not just the heartrending tale of a mother victimized by an L.A. judge who bizarrely ruled three years ago that Rutherford’s two American-born kids had to go live in Monaco with their dad who was deported from the U.S. Rutherford has traveled to Monaco 70 times to see the kids, she says, and has had to file bankruptcy because of the costs.
The sources believe Rutherford was targeted from the start by Giersch with the help of a Beverly Hills waitress and that his goal now, in the words of one investigator, “is to destroy Kelly by keeping her kids away from her for as long as he can, maybe forever.”
When she met Giersch in 2005, Rutherford was a working actress in L.A., a girl from Kentucky who was already a TV soap opera vet (Loving and Melrose Place) and just about to be cast in Gossip Girl. At 36, she lacked little, except for a husband and a family, which she badly wanted. Her biological clock was ticking, she said, loudly.
Rutherford spoke exclusively with The Daily Beast about how she met and married Giersch, a man infamous in his native Germany for successfully suing Google as well as a host of small companies throughout Europe. He successfully fought Google for years in a lengthy court battle over rights to the name “Gmail” in Germany and the domain name, gmail.de. He successfully sued the corporation in 2007, forcing Google to rebrand its service there as googlemail.
Among other things, Giersch was accused by Rutherford’s lawyer Wendy Murphy at the L.A. hearing last week of giving an L.A. court a seemingly fake email from a “U.S. Consulate” in Berlin that made it seem as if he was not allowed to enter the U.S. without a visa, just one of a dizzying series of documents, so-called job titles, and companies involving Giersch that may or may not be real.
A YouTube video from 2008 shows the boyishly handsome Giersch at the building site of his “dream” Bel Air home in 2008 talking about his “fairy tale” life in Hollywood with his famous TV actress wife.
How did you meet Daniel Giersch?
Kelly Rutherford: It was strange. I used to go to Il Fornaio in Beverly Hills. It was a chic cafe where I liked to have breakfast every morning and write in my journal. I was a regular. There was a waitress there who pressured me for weeks to go out with this man that she knew.
Who was the waitress? Had she become a friend?
Not really. I just remember she had a foreign accent and she was married to a Middle Eastern guy and her kids were in Kuwait. I think her name was Carla. She said this German man had spotted me at the restaurant and wanted to go out with me. She said he was super cute. She handed me his business card and said how great he was and how I ought to call him because he really wanted to go out with me.
So did you call him?
Initially I thought no way am I going to call some guy I don’t know. And each time Carla would push it. Finally I emailed him. I thought, you never know. We met for a drink. He was cute. A charming European. My first instinct, and of course I’ve thought about this a lot in hindsight, was that he was a playboy. Which is why I thought it was odd that the waitress was so adamant that I go out with him. I wanted very much at that time in my life to get married and have kids. I told him that when I first met him. Because he seemed like such a playboy I figured he’d just end up as a friend.
But you started to date him anyway and got pregnant with your son Hermes pretty soon after, right?
Yes. We met in late 2005 and Hermes was born in October 2006. It happened so fast that I almost forget all the details. He asked me to come to Germany. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I was going to have a baby.
Did you google him or do an official background check at any point prior to marrying him or even afterwards?
No. I just never assumed I needed to do one. When I saw red flags in the beginning I just thought it had to do with cultural differences.
I don't totally get the sense from the tone of our conversation that you were madly in love with him. Were you?
(Slight pause.) Yes. I was charmed. I fell in love and also it was the fact that I was ready for marriage and children. It was a combination of things coming at the right time. And he’s very good at what he does which is charming people. I thought we were both in love with each other and that our son would bring us even closer together.
Were there good times?
There were some. We traveled to Morocco and Spain as well as Germany. At the same time it was stressful. Strange stuff kept popping up.
What kind of strange stuff?
One of the weirdest things happened when we brought Hermes to Hamburg when he was barely six months old. Daniel kept pressuring me to get him a German passport. His mother was there with us in Hamburg and Daniel and his mother have the strangest mother-son relationship I’ve ever witnessed. It’s a very close, unusual, bizarre relationship. They do everything together and he puts everything in her name. Still I was shocked when Daniel’s mother said to me, out of the blue, “Why don’t you leave Hermes here in Germany with us?”
What else was weird?
The longer we were together, the stranger things got. He’d pop off for five days without telling me where he was going or why. I found out he bought a house in the south of France and never told me. He also told me he never wanted to be a U.S. resident or get a green card. He wanted to keep his residence in Monaco.
Did he support you financially while you were together?
He’d pay for occasional dinners and plane tickets but not much else. He was living in my house in L.A. but I paid the bills. I got Gossip Girl by then so I had a little money. He was building this huge home in Bel Air. The building of it went on for at least seven years. He asked me for a bridge loan for it which I signed and he also asked me to sign a quitclaim deed. Looking back of course it makes no sense. He’s supposed to be this savvy, multi-millionaire businessman from Germany but he’s living in my house, has no Social Security card, and needs me to get loans. There was some strange German couple, I think they were hairdressers, and all the money involving the Bel Air house went through their bank accounts. Then I think they disappeared.
Did your friends or family voice suspicions about him?
Some did, yes. But I was still in love with him and pregnant with my second child and I wanted it to work at all costs. I wanted my children so much and waited so long to have them. I never dreamed I’d end up having them with a man who turned out to be someone I didn’t really know and who I don’t think I’ll ever know. I was scared. I knew I was in love with the idea of a person, not the real person. I was just panicking, thinking how do I make this work?
What was your everyday life like with him in L.A.?
He seemed very interested in fame and being famous. He wanted to hire a publicist. I didn’t even have one when we met because I was in between shows and hadn’t gotten Gossip Girl. He wanted to go to every event with me and be photographed. He also wanted me to do press with him in Germany.
Was there a turning point when things got bad enough you gave up?
Things just got to be too much. Daniel became verbally abusive and I was pregnant with our daughter and I couldn't take the stress.
Did he want to end things too?
It was more that he viewed me like one of his business deals, like all his lawsuits against everyone. He said I’m going to come after you like I did everyone else. I was terrified.
Do you think he ever loved you?
I don’t know. I don’t think I ever will know. I’m very accommodating. I’m a peaceful person. I want a good resolution. I want the kids to have their dad. I only wanted things to end up amicably with us and for all of us to be friends.
How often are you in touch with them?
I Skype with them almost every day. I don’t say anything bad about their father but I don’t lie to them either. I wish him the best because of our children.
Is he there with them when you Skype them?
Yes. He’s always right there and he only speaks German to them and I can’t understand German.
How do you deal with being apart from your kids and all the uncertainty about your future with them?
They’re my babies. I keep going. I’ll never stop fighting for them.