Here's how those "Charles & YaVaughnie" billboards came to be, according to people the couple spoke to: Charles was publicly sucking up to his wife, while mistress YaVaughnie was busy launching an incriminating online photo album. Spurned lover, much?
It's still just a working hypothesis, since we've yet to hear back from either member of the couple. But everything we've heard from associated parties today is further evidence for the theory in our last post: YaVaughnie Wilkins is a scorned mistress bent on publicizing her eight-year relationship with Charles E. Phillips, Oracle co-president and member of President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
The pair first come to light in a mysterious Times Square billboard we posted about on Tuesday. The billboards included the address of a romantic online photo album, CharlesPhillipsAndYaVaughnieWilkins.com, and a quote attributed to "C.E.P.:" "You are my soulmate forever!" Our readers quickly figured out that the man in the billboard was Oracle's Charles Phillips, and we wondered if the co-president was emulating his attention-grubbing boss, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. But then came evidence of Phillips' marriage to one Karen Phillips, who Charles Phillips called his wife in a 2006 interview and who appeared with him in the society pages recently. We wondered if Wilkins wasn't out for revenge.
She was certainly acting alone, according to the man who designed the website advertised on the mystery billboards. The designer Béla Kovács, told us in an interview that he dealt only with Wilkins, and consistent with the lovey-dovey look of the billboards that just went up, he thought Wilkins was trying to do something nice for her sweetie.
"My understanding was that the site was for a gift to Charles, that's what I was told," Kovács told us. Was there any hint she wanted to embarrass Phillips? "That was not my impression, no," he told us. "She was ecstatic when it finally launched and the whole thing was done... she gave me indication that Charles liked it," too. But "she was my only source" on that.
Wilkins found Kovács' San Jose-based Web design company on Craigslist, he said, and called him out of the blue asking for help putting together the "gift" site. Kovács' experience digitizing analog media, both audio and visual, was an asset in importing some of Wilkins' prints, though many of her photos were already digital.
The site was completed in October or November, he said. He was "absolutely not" aware that it would later be promoted on billboards.
We don't know when Charles became aware of the site but after it went live, Charles was still attending events with his wife, Karen. As we noted, in our last post, the couple attended the American Natural History Museum's gala event last November. And now, we've heard from a source who was on hand at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on Dec. 3 to hear Charles accept the Dwight D. Eisenhower Global Innovation Award from the Business Council for International Understanding. In his speech, he effused about the very special woman in his life. This was, mind you, barely a month and a half ago. Said our audience source:
Instead of giving a normal acceptance speech, he spent the entire time talking about how he owes everything to his wife, Karen (he gestured to someone while saying this, so I assume she was there with him). So, as of December 09 he was still making public appearances with Karen, referring to her as his wife, and, apparently, sucking up to her big time.
It's not clear if Wilkins already was working on a publicity campaign which includes at least three billboards in New York, at least one more in San Francisco and a sign in Atlanta (pictured up top, thanks to an email tipster there).
So far, Kovács said no one has contacted him to complain or to demand that the site be taken down, which is just as well, since Wilkins had the site transferred to her own account at internet services company 1And1 and so it is no longer hosted through Kovács.
Whether 1And1 keeps the site live, and whether Clear Channel continues to display the associated billboards, remains to be seen. Phillips is no small fish in the tech world, after all, and we're increasingly getting the feeling he wasn't particularly grateful for this "gift" from his sometime girlfriend.