'Dance Fever' Host Objects to How Figurine Knocks Off "Signature Dance Moves"

In the film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Steve Martin poses as a crippled man as part of a con and tells a woman that he lost use of his legs after he found his girlfriend having sex with Deney Terrio.

Terrio, the host of TV variety series Dance Fever from 1979 to 1985 who once taught John Travolta his moves for Saturday Night Fever, is proud enough of being name-checked in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to include this detail in a new lawsuit against Hasbro.  Where Terrio (real name: Denis George Mahan) isn't laughing is upon seeing seeing a gekko character named "Vinnie Terrio" in the cartoon, Littlest Pet Shop, with associated figurines being put in McDonald's Happy Meals. Terrio is now claiming such works or products constitute false endorsement under the Lanham Act and a violation of his publicity rights.

Terrio is making the argument that Hasbro has violated his rights in one of its "top grossing productions" by pointing to all the ways that "Vinnie Terrio" is similar to his own likeness. Most notably, there's mention of "signature dance moves," which has only been a colloquial trademark — until maybe now. The complaint (below) has a picture of Terrio's key dance move on the eighth page. There's also noted similarity of "hairstyle" and a "white suit" worn in Terrio's heyday. Sometimes, the lawsuit tries too hard. See for example the picture on the top of the tenth page.

Nevertheless, according to Terrio's complaint, Littlest Pet Show co-creator Julie McNally Cahill has admitted in a tweet at least that Vinnie Terrio is a pun on Deney Terrio. What's more, adds the lawsuit, "actual confusion has already occurred in the marketplace in that consumers, friends and colleagues have contacted Deney Terrio and stated that they were unaware that he had a doll out and that they didn't now he had a deal with Defendants."

The lawsuit appears to be heading down the road of a parody defense, which in some ways is ironic because according to the complaint, Terrio has recently been the choreographer of the Off Broadway play, 3C, which itself is subject to litigation over being either an infringement or protected parody of the late '70s sitcom Three's Company.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner