Old TV Stars Sue Over Merchandising Royalties
Here are some of the recent litigation smackdowns involving celebrities and the often-murky world of action figures and other crap commemorating boob-tube classics.
David Cassidy, The Partridge Family
The former teen idol told CNN in August that he has been paid a meager $5,000 for all the lunch boxes and board games sold with his name and likeness as part of TV's rock-singing family. He wants Sony's Screen Gems to fork over 15% of the revenues, just like he said his contract stipulated back in the day. When CNN asked for comment, Sony pressed the mute button. Given events of late, The Price of Fame would like to suggest a few tweaks to the titles of Cassidy's hit songs. How about I Think I Sue You and I Woke Up in Court This Morning?
Happy Days cast
Even the estate of the late Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham) is dancing in this high-stakes sock hop. Anson Williams (Potsie Weber), Marion Ross (Marion Cunningham), Don Most (Ralph Malph), Erin Moran (Joanie Cunningham) and Patricia Bosley, wife of the actor, are suing the consumer arm of CBS (CBS) for $10 million over souvenir proceeds from the 1974-84 comedy. What reportedly angered the cast, which submitted court papers in April, was when casino slot machines with a Happy Days motif popped up in 2008. The defendant admitted that it owed some money initially and even wrote $6,500 checks to the plaintiffs in July. But that's milk money, so the suit apparently says. The two cast members who made that Milwaukee-set series famous, Ron Howard (Richie) and Henry Winkler (Fonzie), are sitting this one out.
James Best, The Dukes of Hazzard
The now 85-year-old actor who portrayed Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane wants more than moonshine from the Dixie hot-rods-and-hot-bods 1979-85 series. His suit, reported in August, claims Warner Bros. Entertainment (TWX) could owe him as much as $25 million in royalties. The suit says his original contract dictated that he be paid 2.5% of merchandise during the show's original run and for spinoffs, and that Warner Bros. has behaved like the show's scheming Boss Hogg.
Donna Douglas, The Beverly Hillbillies
The actress who played buxom bumpkin Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbilliesfiled suit against Mattel (MAT) in May, claiming the toy manufacturer made an Elly May Barbie without her permission. Douglas, 77, wants damages for the pilferin' of her name and likeness.
Harlan Ellison, Star Trek
A 1967 time-traveling episode that Ellison penned, City on the Edge of Forever, has the famous science-fiction scribe more apt to give Paramount (VIA) and CBS the finger than the Vulcan salute. His 2010 action sought a "trailer truck full of cash" for subsequent books and productions that he claims were spun off from the story. His lawyer called it "relentless exploitation." Ellison didn't cloak his intentions. "It ain't about the principle, friend," he says in a press release. "It's about THE MONEY!"