Entertainment Law

It’s Friday, let’s play a game. A word search. Guess the URL for entertainment lawyer Roger A. Pliakas, Esquire.

Hint: Sean Connery would take therapist…

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It has been said that one has truly arrived as a small-firm superstar when he appears in this column. Who said that? Someone, I am sure. While I simply cannot confer that honor to all small-firm attorneys, there is a second place honor: a feature in the New York Times. Martin Singer — the “guard dog” to Hollywood royalty, and founder of the small firm Lavely & Singer — is one of these superstars.

Singer’s client list includes some major starpower: Charlie Sheen, Jeremy Piven (remember when Ari Gold had mercury poisoning?), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Harry Reid, Quentin Tarantino, and (gasp) Sylvester Stallone. Through these relationships, Singer has developed a niche that anyone would want to scratch: “shielding stars and their adjuncts from annoyance.”

While Singer’s firm specializes in all things entertainment, “[n]othing gets Mr. Singer going like a whiff of defamation.” And when he gets going, he does what has made him famous: “kill, or at least maim, unflattering stories that have yet to surface.” Some attorneys do not believe the hype about Singer’s ability to kill said stories (e.g., noted First Amendment lawyer Martin Garbus, who described Singer as a “blowhard”). But Hollywood publicists are convinced that Singer is the man to call when a story breaks about their clients’ love child or sex tape.

Do not be fooled by the glitz and glamour associated with representing celebrities. After the jump, see how Lavely & Singer is like many other successful small firms….

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Manual Lawyering

I think we’re all used to the really terrible jobs being offered to recent law graduates these days. The last one we did was so bad that the school that posted it had to apologize.

In this market, you need to have something especially terrible about your job listing to get our attention. Today’s bad job offer has that something special.

Sure, this job offers a very low hourly wage to a recent law graduate. But it also requires some manual labor, and that’s just especially crappy….

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Justice Barbara Lenk

* On the same day that Lady Kaga wrote her first dissent, Governor Deval Patrick nominated Barbara Lenk, an openly gay woman, to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Big week for… uhh, female judges. [New York Times]

* The prosecution in the Barry Bonds case rested their case yesterday, and the judge is considering throwing out previous testimony about Bonds’s shrunken testicles. National League something something small ball. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* This mob lawyer was allegedly just a mob mobster. [New York Law Journal]

* Fordham Law School hosted a conference on Bob Dylan and the law, featuring “law professors, a Dylan historian, a disc jockey and a guitar player.” Then she opened a book of poems and handed it to me. Written by an Italian jurist from the 20th century. And every one of Scalia’s words rang true and glowed like burning coal. [City Room / New York Times]

* White O’Connor, the Hollywood entertainment-law firm, is merging with “NYC white-shoe powerhouse” Kelley Drye. [Deadline.com]

* A mother has sued the Chicago public school system and her daughter’s teacher after the teacher posted the daughter’s picture on Facebook and mocked her hairstyle. The hairstyle featured an assortment of Jolly Ranchers. Sweet. [ABA Journal]

* The people of Wisconsin have spoken! And as of this morning, it’s still not entirely clear what they’re saying. The race for a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat is too close to call. [Politico]

Watch out, Warner Bros. and Munger Tolles: the machete-wielding, tiger-blood-fueled Charlie Sheen is coming after you. The seemingly deranged actor, who was recently fired from the CBS hit show “Two and a Half Men,” has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. and Chuck Lorre, the studio and executive producer of the show, respectively.

You can read more via the links below. And in case you missed it, be sure to check out Marin’s awesomely hilarious post, “The Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Charlie Sheen’s Bitchin’ Termination Letter,” which takes a closer look at some of the issues that will likely arise in this litigation.

Charlie Sheen sues Warner Bros., Chuck Lorre for $100 million
[Los Angeles Times via WSJ Law Blog]
Sheen Sues Warner Bros. & Lorre for $100 Million [TMZ via ABA Journal]

Earlier: Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Charlie Sheen’s Bitchin’ Termination Letter

You don’t have to be a total bitchin’ rock star from Mars to have predicted that Warner Bros. — the company that produces Two and a Half Angry Men and, not un-coincidentally, Looney Tunes — would fire Charlie Sheen from the show. And on Monday, that’s exactly what happened. Writing on behalf of Warner Bros., Munger Tolles (specifically, partner John Spiegel) fired off an 11-page letter immediately axing Charlie from Two and a Half Laughs, Ever Men.

But even if someone wields a machete from a roof or requests a battle in the Octagon, you can’t necessarily fire him for cause just because he’s crazy. For instance, Tom Cruise jumps on couches and he has gone on to not be fired from several lackluster movies, most notably Valkyrie. Warner Bros. needs cause to fire Charlie under his $1.8 million per episode contract, and in the letter, they offer up a kitchen sink of it.

A lot rides on the outcome here: if Charlie prevails in arbitration and proves that Warner Bros did not have cause to fire him, he stands to get paid for the ten remaining episodes in the show’s ninth (!!) season. And if the reports are accurate, he also has a “Michael J. Fox” clause in his contract, which specifically permits a washed-up 80s actor to continue to draw paychecks from humorless sitcoms that remain in production after the actor has left the show to fade into obscurity – a hold over from the days when Sheen replaced Fox in Spin City and Fox continued to get paid. If Warner Bros. prevails, they may seek 10 episodes worth of lost revenue from Charlie, though admittedly it will be difficult to convince an arbitrator that anybody watches the show, must less pays to advertise on it.

In any event, down to brass tacks. Here are the various allegations Warner Bros. makes in the termination letter to assert that they have cause to fire Charlie under his contract, along with my evaluation of their merits….

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Yonni Barrios and his mistress Susan Valenzuela. It's going to be awesome when Angelina Jolie plays her in the movie.

I don’t normally follow the news, because that’s how I roll. But stories that involve “miracles,” “tests of courage” and the “triumph of the human spirit” have my name written all over them. Such was the case with yesterday’s rescue of the Chilean miners.

The premise of 33 sweaty, sex-starved men entombed 20,000 leagues under the earth’s surface is itself an automatic made-for-tv-movie starring Mario Lopez and Tony Danza. Throw in some of the rich details that have come out of this underground vacation from hell, and you have surefire Oscar gold.

There’s the preposterous Lord of the Flies-esque ascribing of a persona to each of the miners (medic, scribe, ingénue, happy, sleepy, dopey, etc.); the amazing eBay crap that they sent down to the miners, which included dice, pocket bibles, signed Barcelona soccer shirts, game consoles, and a photo of Elvis; the hilarious subplot of avarice and entitlement (sending back a dessert of canned apples, requesting pillows); and, finally, the pièce de résistance, the priceless vignette of miner Yonni Barrios’s wife and secret mistress discovering each other at the makeshift vigil-city. 

So, what should the movie be called?

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In order to maximize their control over the creature, the “Jaws” filmmakers built three sharks for their 1975 movie. All created from the same mold, the sharks were dubbed “Bruce” after Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer.

‘Jaws’ Shark Hunted Down

Conan Leno.jpgOn Tuesday, we tuned in to the late night show debacle unfolding at NBC. On his show that night, Conan O’Brien shared insights about the lawyerly wranglings. From US Magazine:

“Hi, I’m Conan O’Brien, and I’m just three days away from the biggest drinking binge in history,” he said during Tuesday’s monologue. “I spent the afternoon at Universal Studios’ amusement park, enjoying their brand-new ride, the ‘Tunnel of Litigation.’”

Noting reports that he is legally prohibited from bad-mouthing the network behind the mess (Jay Leno is taking over O’Brien’s time slot after his prime time show was axed), O’Brien joked in his monologue Tuesday “Nobody said anything about speaking in Spanish.”

He then rails off an insult in Spanish which translates to: “NBC is run by brainless sons of goats who eat money and crap trouble.”

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the Litigation Rollercoaster Ride rolled to a stop at 1 a.m. PST, thanks to operators at Gibson Dunn and Glaser Weil.

The final deal includes a payout of approximately $32.5 million for Mr. O’Brien and roughly $12 million for his staff, according a person familiar with the matter. The agreement will allow Mr. O’Brien to appear on another network beginning Sept. 1, the person said….

NBC, which is controlled by General Electric Co., will retain the rights to at least some of the comedic material from the show, according to people familiar with the matter. The deal also includes a non-disparagement clause, both for the 46-year-old comedian and NBC, and a provision that was said to bar or limit Mr. O’Brien from appearing on others’ shows for a period of time, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

Jay Leno gets to reclaim his 11:35 p.m. show starting March 1. Meanwhile, David Letterman is probably just happy that Leno and Conan are monopolizing the late night news cycle instead of his own legal troubles.

What impact will this $45-million ruffling of the Peacock Network’s feathers have on entertainment law practices?

Two experts opine on what this means for the entertainment law industry, and the major takeaway lesson for talent lawyers, after the jump.

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