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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Who's like a virgin? Woody Allen mudwrestles with Dov Charney


Apparently wildly jealous that Los Angeles seems to have a monopoly on nearly all of the great sleazeball celebrity trials -- the more recent being the seemingly endless Phil Spector trial, which has been loaded with all sorts of strange and wacky moments, as chronicled here -- the New York Post has really been putting some elbow grease into its effort to build up interest in the ongoing Manhattan federal court suit involving Woody Allen and controversial American Apparel chief Dov Charney. Allen is demanding $10 million from Charney's clothing firm for plastering his face on billboards that appeared briefly in New York and L.A. two years ago.

According to the most recent Post story, Charney's lawyers are playing hardball, unleashing "a torrent of trash talk," saying that Allen's deposition claim that his $10-million asking price for appearing in a U.S. ad was hardly credible since Allen's scandalous past had driven down the value of his celebrity. Allen had been critical of the use of his image in the American Apparel ads, saying he was an advertising "virgin." Here's the juiciest excerpt:

"We believe that Mr. Allen's popularity has decreased significantly, especially in light of the scandals he's been associated with," American Apparel lawyer Stuart Slotnick told the Post. "We believe that he greatly overvalues the worth of his endorsement -- if he can get one." American Apparel cites Allen's notoriously bitter custody battle with ex-girlfriend Mia Farrow, as well as his horndog high jinks with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, whom Allen secretly romanced and later wed.

Just to make sure we understood the gravity of that last reference, the Post quotes from a statement in court papers where Charney's lawyers said: "The term 'sex scandal' shall mean ... your relationship with Soon-Yi Previn including the discovery and public reports thereof, the nude pictures you took of Soon-Yi Previn, and your marriage to Soon-Yi Previn."

Eager to appear fair-minded, the Post did quote from a deposition by Allen's agent, ICM's John Burnham, who testified that his client was one of five or 10 "iconic" figures in American cinema, right up there with Clint Eastwood, Charles Chaplin and Frank Sinatra (who, talk about degrees of separation, had his own relationship with Farrow before Allen). To be even more evenhanded, the Post described Allen's adversary as a man "who has been repeatedly been sued for sex harassment and once reportedly masturbated in front of a reporter."

The trial is set to begin May 18. I've already asked my editors if I can fly out to cover the proceedings. If they could only sell tickets, I'd bet scalpers could get more for the day of Allen's testimony than for any Knicks game.

Photo of Woody Allen by Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (1)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Dov used Woody's likeness without permission, end of story. Woody's been paid millions to advertise products in the past, including the famous vodka ad and apparently a television commercial in Japan years ago. The thing is, he doesn't wish to endorse products. But it seems that his choice makes it more difficult for him to prove what he might be able to earn if he were interested in endorsing a product. This does not detract from the basic fact that Woody never gave Dov permission to use his likeness to promote a product.

Does Woody have to now go out and do a television commercial for $10 million to prove what his endorsement is worth? It seems a shame if this is how it works - that he has to do what he doesn't wish to do only to prove his point that he was harmed by someone who did what he shouldn't have done in the first place.

We are talking about a very understated person here who refuses to over-promote his own films, who takes pains to let the public decide whether they like his films without the need for the whole promotional /l advertising machine. Why else would he refuse to accept advertising dollars when he could easily do so?

But the worst part of this whole affair is how Dov is sinking to the low level of suggesting that Woody has damaged his own reputation. Woody has taken the high road on that whole matter and has never slung the mud that others have.

Woody has never and would never lend his image to a billboard advertisement - so to me it's irrelevant if such an advertisement would pay less. I say that they used his image without permission, and he has in the past earned millions for his endorsements so it seems to me that Dov owes Woody.

If I were Woody's lawyer, I'd tell him to spend another weekend in Europe filming a hilarious vodka ad and bring home a photocopy of the check. Or better yet, just show Dov the offer letter to do so.


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