Simmons's former Texas teammate, Harris, also jumped ship, in part, he says, because Walters never came up with the BMW Harris says he was promised after the second game of his senior year.
In an apparent effort to stem the unfavorable tide, Walters hired former NFL wide receiver Ron Jessie, who sought to dissuade the players from leaving the fold. "I talked to some of them...to try and warn them of the consequences of [deserting Walters!," Jessie says. "If they had listened to me and settled with Norby and treated it as a business, a whole lot of this FBI stuff would have been avoided."
Walters aired his grievances with his clients in a March 12 story in The Atlanta Constitution and further publicized them by filing the breach-of-contract suits. "I'm suing these players because they have wronged me," Walters insists. "I've taken care of their mommies and their daddies and their babies and their cars. They are the immoral ones. They took the money from the schools. They took the money from their alumni. They signed a contract with me. They took my money.
"Other agents were assuming that I would just roll over and accept [the players] leaving. That's not going to happen. I will continue to sue each and every businessman who goes into business with me and breaks the contract. I don't consider a player anything other than a businessman."
Of course, when he speaks of the sanctity of his contracts, Walters glosses over the fact that in signing the players in the first place, he was interfering with their commitments to their schools. But Walters is justified in questioning the morality of many college players, a fact underscored by ex-client Harris, who told SI: "We all know that you take money from these guys but you don't have to go with them in the end. Play out the string. String them along. Take all the money he's going to offer and just quit him when there's no more.... Older players will tell you: Take money from agents, alumni, anybody who will give it to you; take all the money they'll give you." Sums up Harris: "This is how the world works: Everybody is trying to get over on somebody."
Harris alleges that Walters and Bloom not only threatened violence against his "football-playing buddies," but also talked about having Mafia connections. "They've got friends in Las Vegas," Harris claims. "Tough friends. They told me about their Mafia people. I heard Lloyd talk about one of them. We were at the Beverly Hills Hotel, in the lobby. He pointed to a guy and said, 'That dude's in the Mafia. He owns a casino in Las Vegas.' Lloyd said it to me in a quiet voice. He then said, 'But don't say anything.' "
Bloom denies that he knows any members of the Mafia. Walters calls reports that he was responsible for threats against players "a tremendous affront to my dignity" and also denies published reports that he may have provided drugs or prostitutes to players. "Right now if somebody in this show business life—the fast lane—asked me 'do you know a prostitute?' I would have to find out, 'does somebody know one somewheres,' " Walters told The Washington Post. Of suggestions that he has organized-crime ties, Walters says, "I don't even know what the word Mafia is. I've never met anybody like that."
But those last statements call into question Walters's veracity. There is, first of all, his onetime involvement in Norby Walters' Supper Club. "I don't have any idea if mob people hung out at my club," he says. But Norby's brother, Walter, says, matter-of-factly, "All five [New York Mafia] families were well represented. We were friends with all of them. They were good customers." Walter Walters also recalls that the men whose slayings resulted in the club's closing in 1968, Bruni and Parisi, were underlings of a reputed major Mafia figure, Carmine Lombardozzi, who was present at the time of the shootings. Walter Walters says that after the gunfire ended, Norby grabbed Lombardozzi and took him out through a passageway that led to the Copacabana.
Norby Walters is no more forthcoming in discussing his relationship with Michael Franzese, a capo in the Colombo crime family who is currently serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison in Terminal Island, Calif., and his stepfather, John (Sonny) Franzese, a Colombo family member. Sonny, convicted in 1967 of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, is in a Petersburg, Va., federal prison for parole violation. Walters told SI that he has known the Franzeses for years but said he had "never been out social, not even once," and had never done any business with either of them. Walters also claimed he had only "a nodding acquaintance" with Michael Franzese.
Interviewed by SI's Bruce Selcraig in prison, however, Michael Franzese said that he and his stepfather were lifelong friends of Walters and his family, that the two families had frequently socialized and once vacationed together. The 36-year-old Franzese said that as a child he knew Walters as "Uncle Norby." Franzese also said that Walters asked for his help in either late 1983 or early 1984 when Norby was trying unsuccessfully to become the booking agent for Michael Jackson's Victory Tour. Justice Department sources told SI that Walters was questioned by a federal prosecutor and acknowledged having discussed with Michael Franzese the Mafia man's possible involvement in the tour. Franzese also told SI he and Walters had discussed using some of Walters's music clients in films that he was producing. Nevertheless, Walters says, "I have nothing to do with the man—zero, zip, zero, zip, zero, zero. Now that's a lot of zeros I just gave you."