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Reality star John Devenanzio, who says he is popularly known in the entertainment world as “Johnny Bananas,” has gone ahead with threats and sued the producers of the recently completed HBO series, Entourage. The plaintiff is demanding that the network be permanently barred from distributing episodes containing “Johnny Bananas,” which would wipe out the seventh and last season of the show.
This past summer, Devenanzio, who appeared as a cast member on MTV’s The Real World Key West and several other MTV reality shows, had his lawyer fire off a cease-and-desist letter to HBO.
The threats apparently did nothing to scare the network.
So, on Monday, Devenanzio filed a complaint in New York Superior Court against HBO, parent Time Warner, and “Entourage” creator Doug Ellin.
The lawsuit charges the defendants with featuring an “unwarranted, unauthorized, and unfavorable mention of plaintiff’s name and personality, and allusions to plaintiff’s physical and mental character.”
Devenanzio’s legal claims are remarkably vague. It appears that Devenanzio is not asserting any allegation of trademark infringement, but rather accusing HBO of violating his publicity and privacy rights, defaming him, and causing emotional distress.
VIDEO: ‘Entourage’ Roundtable
It’s worth noting that Devenanzio’s lawyer is Stephanie Ovadia, the same individual who represented Lindsay Lohan when the actress sued E-Trade for airing a commercial during the Super Bowl that featured a “milkaholic” baby named Lindsay.
The two cases have similarities.
Lindsay Lohan didn’t have a trademark on her name either, so Ovadia attempted to offer a theory how some lucky individuals have names that acquire such popularity and notoriety, they are deserving of special protection from aggravation, harassment, and commercial advantage. Ovadia’s court briefs were pretty entertaining, sloppy, and befuddling before that lawsuit settled.
Ovadia is now taking up some of the same issues from the Lohan case in her new “Johnny Bananas” lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Devenanzio “has undergone tremendous emotional distress that has been intentionally inflicted upon plaintiff by defendants’ unwarranted, unauthorized, and unjustified use of plaintiff’s name and characterization in an offensive and disparaging manner in named ‘Entourage’.” (Underline ours)
For his part, Kevin Dillon, who had the character-playing-character role of “Johnny Bananas” in Entourage, told reporters in August that neither he nor Ellin “knew anything about [Devenanzio]” when the character was created, saying the potential lawsuit was a “bummer,” partly because there was discussions of a real “Johnny Bananas” spin-off.
Regardless of the merits of the claim, those plans are probably off now, as Devenanzio not only seeks an injunction but also compensatory and punitive damages.
It’s highly unlikely that Devenanzio will achieve an injunction, and his success in the lawsuit may depend on whether he can find anything in discovery that shows Ellin and his writers had Devenanzio in mind when they created the “Johnny Bananas” character. Even then, a judge could find the use of name to be protected free speech.
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