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Suing With the Stars: The Trump-Maher Feud and Other Celebrity Lawsuits

Donald Trump announced last week that he is dropping his $5 million lawsuit against comedian Bill Maher over Maher's statement on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno that he would donate $5 million to a charity of Trump's choice if Trump could prove that he was not "the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan." The joke was a reference to an offer that Trump -- a supporter of the so-called "birther" movement -- made to President Barack Obama last fall to donate $5 million to charity if Obama would release his college transcripts.

Trump produced his birth certificate and sued Maher for $5 million, saying that Maher didn't honor his end of the bargain. The spat escalated with Maher's incredulous response on his TV show, Real Time with Bill Maher, in which he said Trump needed to learn "what a joke is and what a contract is" and that the legal system is "not a toy for rich idiots to play with." As The Am Law Daily reported ("Comic Maher Goes Ape Over Cooley-Repped Trump's Simian Sex Suit"), Maher also took some comic shots at Trump's lawyer, Cooley's Scott Balber, showing a letter from Balber and saying, "Look at the lawyer's signature -- it just kind of trails off, as if to say, 'I'm too embarrassed to even finish this.'"

Trump has now "temporarily withdrawn" the suit, saying he may amend and refile it at a later date. Inspired by the (possible?) resolution of the dispute, Flavorwire compiled an interesting list of lawsuits brought by celebrities against other celebrities over the years. Below are a few of the notable Hollywood legal battles.

  • Cary Grant vs. Chevy Chase

In a 1980 lawsuit, also sparked by a talk-show appearance, silver-screen giant Cary Grant sued comedian-actor Chevy Chase over a joke Chase told on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow show. Chase said of Grant: "I understand he was a homo. He was brilliant. What a gal!" Grant filed a $10 million slander suit against Chase, which settled out of court. Grant's daughter, Jennifer Grant, addressed rumors that her father was gay in her 2011 memoir about him: "Dad somewhat enjoyed being called gay. He said it made women want to prove the assertion wrong."

  • Quentin Tarantino vs. Alan Ball

Their houses may be bigger, but celebrities apparently squabble with their neighbors just like the rest of us. Flavorwire cites several Hollywood-neighbor legal battles (including Wes Craven vs. Pauly Shore; and Jim Belushi vs. Julie Newmar) -- the most colorful being the 2011 fight between two Academy Award-winning writer-directors, Quentin Tarantino and Alan Ball, over some very vocal exotic birds. Tarantino sued Ball over the noise from an outdoor aviary on Ball's property, alleging that Ball's pet macaws emitted "blood-curdling screams at random intervals" throughout the day and that the "obnoxious, pteradactyl-like screams" disturbed Tarantino's ability to work in his home. Tarantino's complaint opened with a literary flourish in the form of a quote from Goethe: "He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home." Tarantino''s peace was presumably restored by an agreement with Ball, as the case settled out of court.

  • Gore Vidal vs. Truman Capote

In an earlier writerly match-up, Gore Vidal filed a million-dollar libel suit against Truman Capote over a 1975 Playgirl interview in which Capote said that Vidal had been thrown out of a 1961 White House party honoring Princess Lee Radziwill because of his drunken behavior. Radziwill earned the ire of her former friend Capote by taking Vidal's side in the dispute, and mutual friends and eyewitnesses including George Plimpton were caught in the crossfire. In a 1979 People magazine story, Plimpton said of Vidal and Capote's fight, "I don't know what division the feud should be in. I don't want to say flyweight -- maybe bantamweight. I wish they'd go back to having tea at the Plaza."

Capote and Vidal settled the legal matter, but the feud was a a lifelong one, inspiring some of the most colorful put-downs on record. Said Capote of Vidal: "I'm always sad about Gore -- very sad that he has to breathe every day." Recalling Capote in a 2008 interview, Vidal said: "Capote I truly loathed. The way you might loathe an animal. A filthy animal that has found its way into the house."

Posted by Laurel Newby on April 8, 2013 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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