Crawling on the floor of his Los Angeles apartment is where Lamar Sally says he’s meant to be. He loves helping his 19-month-old son, LJ, pull off a slam-dunk in his mini basketball net. Eager to show visitors iPhone pics of the boy, the proud papa also notes what’s absent in every shot — the child’s mother.
Asks Sally, “What good Christian woman would abandon a child?
“He’s such a good kid. He wants love and I’m scared: Am I giving him enough? Am I enough for both parents?”
LJ’s mother — Sally’s ex-wife, “The View” co-host Sherri Shepherd — has never met the boy, who was conceived via a donor egg and carried by a surrogate, both of which Shepherd pursued and paid for. When the surrogate was five months along, Shepherd broke up with her husband of nearly three years, saying she no longer wanted to be a mother.
Though Sally reports that she first told him she would pay child support, Shepherd later went to court hoping to exempt herself from any legal — and financial — connection to her son. The court ruled against her, and following a denied appeal two weeks ago, she must continue to pay $4,100 in monthly child support.
As Sally, 48, tells it, Shepherd made it clear she wanted a baby from practically the moment they met in November 2009, at an LA party thrown by mutual friend actress Niecy Nash of “Reno 911!”.
Sally, a high-school teacher and comedy writer, recognized Shepherd from the sitcom “Less Than Perfect.” She was just divorced from comedian Jeffrey Tarpley, with whom she had a son, Jeffrey, born in 2005.
Sally says his first phone conversation with Shepherd, a couple of days after they met, was a six-hour marathon during which she grilled him about whether or not he wanted to start a family. He assured her that he did.
“She said, ‘That’s great, I want Jeffrey to have a sibling,’ ” he recalls. “We fell in love hard.”
Still, he felt strong-armed by Shepherd to get engaged a year into the relationship, given that their bicoastal locations meant they only saw each other a couple of weekends a month.
“She was like, ‘I’m no spring chicken . . . I don’t want to be 50 with a newborn,’ ” he says. (Shepherd was 43 at the time.)
He proposed with a $20,000, 2-carat ring on Christmas 2010. “It was the most expensive thing outside of a car I ever bought,” he recalls.
Sally quit his job and moved to New York, and Shepherd, a devout Christian, insisted on celibacy during the engagement. The plan was always clear: “Get married and have a baby.”
The August 2011 wedding, which Shepherd gushed about on “The View,” was a 500-guest blowout in Chicago. Sally estimates the cost at around the half-million dollar mark — though the couple only paid about 20 percent of that. The rest was covered by a reality-TV special that trailed the couple’s path to the altar.
Sally moved into Shepherd’s Trump Tower apartment. Before his bride began her stint on “Dancing With the Stars” in early 2012, the couple learned that there were no viable eggs from their in vitro fertilization attempt. “ ‘I feel less than a woman because I can’t give you a kid,’ ” Sally remembers his sobbing wife telling him.
Plan B: The couple would use a donor egg, but not just any old donor. Sally says Shepherd opted to use facial-recognition software in their quest for the perfect egg. “It allowed us to find a woman in the [egg bank’s] database who matched Sherri’s facial characteristics.”
Meanwhile, Sally, who had previously been a staff writer on the sitcom “Rodney,” was having trouble finding work. He became a house-husband and Jeffrey’s main caretaker. He and his new stepson were inseparable, enjoying after-school games of basketball and trips to Chuck E. Cheese. “When Sherri was out of town, we would have ‘Sal and Jeffrey Day.’
“I tried to make life easy for her,” he says. “I’d have dinner ready. I made sure bills got paid. She appreciated it — to a certain degree.”
He compares his wife, who had no comment on the allegations in this story, to Jekyll and Hyde. “One minute she would say, ‘I couldn’t do “DWTS” if you weren’t in my life’ — because I took care of Jeffrey,” Lamar says. “The next week she complained I wasn’t working.”
In late 2013, after a draining IVF and surrogate process — plus about $100,000 in fees, most of which Sally admits Shepherd footed — the couple had a male embryo implanted in a surrogate living in Pennsylvania. Sally remembers the gender choice, “[Sherri] said, ‘I don’t want a girl — I’m not doing any girl’s hair.’ ”
Sally admits the “happy” couple had some problems, but never argued.
“She had trust issues,” he says. Shepherd’s ex, Tarpley, had secretly fathered a child with his mistress while married to Shepherd.
Sally says that weekly couples-counseling sessions had little effect on helping his wife trust him. Their therapist even tried to appeal to Shepherd. “ ‘This is a good guy. You have to let stuff go,’ ” Sally recalls the counselor saying.
The lack of trust extended to their finances. Sally, who signed a prenup, says that his name was never added to the deed of the million-dollar Allendale, NJ, house they shared, nor did the newlyweds share joint bank accounts.
Still, life was moving forward. Jessica Bartholomew, their surrogate, was 20-weeks pregnant when Shepherd went with her to a sonogram appointment. “She seemed excited to see the ultrasound,” Barthomelew tells The Post.
But one month later, during therapy, Sally claims Shepherd blindsided him.
“She said, ‘I can’t be the wife and mother you need. You can take the kid and go to LA.’ ”
Sally recalls going into shock. “I said, ‘I love you. We don’t have that many problems, but the ones you do have you need to confront. We have a baby on the way and he needs a mother. I’ll meet you halfway.’ ”
Sally says Shepherd told him, “ ‘We’ll work out visitation and I’ll pay you child support.’ ”
In the meantime, he was still living with Shepherd — sleeping in the guest room, but hopeful his wife would have a change of heart. “We talked, we got along, we had dinners together,” he says.
Two weeks after the therapy session was Sherri’s birthday, April 22. Sally was hurt that his wife didn’t want him at the on-air party “The View” threw her. “Something told me, ‘Check her e-mail.’ I’d never done that before.”
Sally walked into the office and saw Shepherd’s e-mail was open. He claims he scrolled through and hit on a land mine. The e-mail was from a lawyer who, it turned out, Shepherd already had on a $10,000 retainer. “It said, ‘We will get you out of the surrogacy contract. We don’t think it’s enforceable,’ ” Sally remembers.
“My stomach dropped, I burst into tears. This is someone I love. How can you get out of being a mother to this child?”
He chose not to confront her and, to this day, has never told her what he discovered.
A heartbroken Sally was booked the next day for emergency dental surgery. After the procedure, his doctor told him he shouldn’t fly for three days. When he got home, still in pain, Shepherd told him to leave, Sally explains.
Click here to continue reading.
SOURCE: Page Six – Doree Lewak