When I walk on the stage,” maintains minister-cum-faith-healer Kathryn Kuhlman, “I am as simple as a child.” Behind the scenes, however, life is a bit more complicated for the Pittsburgh-based Kuhlman, star of her own syndicated TV show, author of three throbbing best-sellers, and an evangelist earning $2 million a year. Paul Bartholomew, her former TV agent and “personal administrator,” has charged her with breach of his contract and is suing for $515,000 in damages. More embarrassing, potentially, is Bartholomew’s accusation that the evangelist has diverted funds for her own use from the charitable, tax-exempt Kathryn Kuhlman Foundation.
The cause of Kuhlman’s falling-out with him, Bartholomew suspects, may be his sleek, dark-haired brother-in-law—and her former pianist-companion—Dino Kartsonakis. The 33-year-old Kartsonakis, who performed with Kuhlman for five years, broke with her last February after she refused to give him a $20,000-a-year contract and, he claims, vigorously objected to his steady girl—now his wife—Debby. At first, says Kartsonakis, a former Juilliard School of Music student with a dozen record albums to his credit, he had been attracted to Kuhlman as a performer and fellow believer. Later, he says, she began to “feel relaxed around me and could let her red locks down.” A devotee of expensive restaurants and first-class travel, Kuhlman frequently took Kartsonakis along as an escort, and reportedly paid for his tailor-made suits. In return, he maintains, she possessively demanded all his attention and criticized anyone he dated. “As long as I had a whip and a chair, everything was all right,” he jokes, “but every once in a while I had to escape the cage.”
Eventually, claims Kartsonakis, he became disillusioned by Kuhlman’s “double standard of living.” Although Kuhlman purportedly accepts only a $25,000-a-year salary, Kartsonakis speculates that her home in suburban Fox Chapel, Pa. contains more than $1 million worth of art and antiques. Art works in her Newport Beach, Calif. apartment have been appraised at $184,000, and Kartsonakis says that her jewelry is worth another $1 million. “She wouldn’t be caught dead in costume jewelry,” he insists. “She wants the best of everything.”
Kartsonakis professes to be grateful to Kuhlman but does not regret their estrangement. “Her overt acts were in complete contrast with what was being preached from the stage,” he asserts. “When I got caught up in this web, I prayed and prayed to the Lord. Nobody else understood; all they saw was the glamour.”
Kuhlman was in a Tulsa hospital late last month with a “minor heart flare-up.” She and her lawyers have denied all of Bartholomew’s complaints, leaving the former agent to recall her words when he was hired. “Paul,” he quotes her as saying, “you will have a job with me until Jesus comes again.” Kuhlman refers to Kartsonakis’ allegations as an attempt to “ruin my ministry.” She denies her onetime escort’s claim that she owns a flawless 15-carat diamond (“I wish I did,” she remarks with a smile) and declines to discuss innuendos about her drinking habits. “I wouldn’t dignify that question with an answer,” she says. “What do you do when you’re in India—drink the water?” As for the rest of Kartsonakis’ charges, she says, “I have to live with myself. I can’t be a dual personality. My life is an open book.”