Hollywood Docket: Jon Lovitz Countersued; Dish's Expensive Lawyer; Ticketmaster's Lawsuit
A roundup of entertainment law news including a Johnny Ramone photograph lawsuit and a "Price is Right" settlement.
Frank Kelley, who managed Jon Lovitz' eponymous Los Angeles comedy club, has filed counterclaims against the comedian.
Last month, Lovitz sued Kelley, alleging that his partner stole money for his own personal use and mismanaged the The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club.
"In this lawsuit," says the counterclaim, "(Lovitz) appears to be channeling one of his most recognizable characters, 'Tommy Flanagan, The Pathological Liar.'"
Kelley blames Lovitz for everything that went wrong with the comedy club.
He says that the two entered into an agreement in 2009 and that Lovitz was to obtain the funds necessary to operate the club, Kelley would manage, and the two would be 50/50 partners.
"From the very beginning, Kelley had great difficult meeting the club's financial obligations due to Lovitz's inability or unwillingness to provide the necessary capital to properly fund the joint venture coupled with the fact that the club's expenses exceeded its revenues."
Among the bad expenses that Kelley cites in his cross-complaint (read in full here) are "Jon's unilateral and irresponsible decision to spend $210,000 on a TV sign promoting the club and his inexplicably spending approximately $20,000 on a 'Get Happy' advertising campaigning that did not actually reference Jon Lovitz Comedy Club."
In the original lawsuit, Lovitz alleged that Kelley has failed to pay many of the club's performers, choosing instead to keep this money for himself.
Kelley strikes back with a defamation claim against Lovitz for telling performers including Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman that they weren't being paid because the manager had taken their money and was embezzling funds.
The counterclaims filed by attorney Alexander Polyachenko at Bash & Polyachenko also assert breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
In other entertainment law news:
- If Charlie Ergen is "The Most Hated Man in Hollywood," it might make sense that he has hired "The Most Expensive Lawyer in Hollywood." That would be Barry Ostrager of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. In 2007, The Wall Street Journal marveled how Ostrager's billable hour rate had cracked the $1,000 mark. Well, according to an affidavit that was filed in litigation with ESPN on Wednesday, Ostrager's billable hour rate is now up to $1,170 per hour. That's about two years of Dish satellite TV basic service for every hour he works. It also adds up to more than Ergen's compensation, although doesn't come close to touching CBS president Les Moonves' take-home pay. (Certain other top Hollywood lawyers like Bert Fields also command more than $1,000 per hour.) Ostrager's billable hour rate was revealed yesterday because Dish and ESPN are fighting over who prevailed at a recent trial -- which entitles the winner to attorney fees. ESPN already submitted a motion to collect $5 million in legal fees, so now Dish wants about the same. In a motion, Dish explains why it really won the case and deserves the money while at the same time, arguing that ESPN's legal fees are the "result of its own obstructionist strategy." Here's the full motion.
- Can copyright law be used to dent the practice of ticket scalping? That's what Ticketmaster is testing in a new lawsuit against 21 people. In a complaint filed against Joseph Shalom, a producer of live events, and others, Ticketmaster alleges the defendants use "bots" to bypass access-control measures like Captchas -- those annoying moments when buyers of tickets are asked to input nearly illegible letters-and-numbers combinations. Besides a fraud claim, Ticketmaster is asserting copyright claims based on the circumvention of its security system.
- Starz Media, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Plain Jane Productions are being sued by PIX International, a photo agency, for allegedly using their copyrighted picture of punk rock guitarist Johnny Ramone on the DVD cover of the film, Too Tough to Die. "Given the worldwide popularity of Johnny Ramone and the tragically early end to his prolific life in 2004, images of the legendary guitarist are limited and highly valuable." Here's the full complaint.
- Former Price is Right model Lanisha Cole has settled a lawsuit with FremantleMedia North America and two of the show's producers. She filed a sexual harassment claim in 2011 alleging that after some trouble responding on-stage with host Drew Carey, one of the show's producers barged into her dressing room when she was partially nude. The terms of the settlement haven't been reported.