Courtin' Calls |


Courtin' Calls

Highlighting high-profile disputes

If the trendy beach houses of the Hamptons and Malibu went underused last year, perhaps it’s because the rich and renowned spent so much of their spare time in courtrooms and law offices.

Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted $250 million from the Walt Disney Co. as bonus pay, but maybe he was also mad at his former boss, Michael Eisner, who was forced to admit in court that he’d once said of Katzenberg, ”I think I hate the little midget.” The case was eventually settled, and the court never got to hear that Katzenberg is not — technically, medically — a midget.

Another big, strapping winner was Dustin Hoffman. Los Angeles magazine was ordered to pay $3 million for publishing a digitally altered photograph of the Tootsie star wearing a dress, in part because Judge Dickran Tevrizian appreciated the actor’s stature. ”Mr. Hoffman is truly one of our country’s living treasures,” wrote the judge, ruling that the actor was ”exploited and robbed of [his] dignity.” (The magazine is appealing the judgment.)

Even tall people can be robbed of their dignity, as Rena Mero (a.k.a. Sable) found when the World Wrestling Federation allegedly pressured her to expose her breasts on national TV. She sued for $100 million and went on to pose nude for Playboy. Then the WWF sued Playboy for using its intellectual property, namely Sable. (Mero and the WWF recently settled for an undisclosed amount.)

Though she’s never been pressured to expose her breasts on national TV, Florence Henderson didn’t appreciate seeing her likeness on T-shirts above the words ”Porn Queen.” She sued, saying she’d been ”exposed to contempt and ridicule.”

In numerous interviews, Eminem ridiculed his mother as a loser who habitually filed lawsuits. Debbie Mathers-Briggs said her son was lying—and sued him for $10 million. (The suit is still pending.) On the other end of the musical spectrum, Tammy Wynette’s daughters sued her physician for narcotics-induced wrongful death. Wynette’s widower stood by his woman, saying he regretted that ”her children are willing to drag their mother’s closely guarded private life into the public.” They were also willing to drag her corpse out of its tomb for an autopsy. (The suit is still pending.)

Actor-musician Roger Wilson’s dispute was with Leonardo DiCaprio, who with his posse, Wilson says, made harassing phone calls to his girlfriend, Elizabeth Berkley, in 1998. Instead of suing, Wilson confronted DiCaprio and friends at a restaurant, where one of them allegedly punched him. Then he sued. (Though he and his posse deny the allegations, Leo is still accused of aiding and abetting.)

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman sued The Star over an article headlined ”We Had to Teach Tom and Nicole How to Make Love,” which claimed sex therapists prepared the actors for their performances in Eyes Wide Shut. (The suit was settled when The Star printed a retraction and an apology and paid an undisclosed amount to charity.) According to the lawsuit, the story depicted the couple as ”unqualified as actors because of their inability to portray sufficiently realistic or amorous love scenes.” And all this time we thought actors were supposed to portray characters.