When Celebrities Sue Celebrities: A History


The news that Donald Trump is dropping — for now, anyway! — his monumentally stupid (even for him) lawsuit against Bill Maher may be good for the humorless blowhard and reality TV star, but it’s disappointing for late-night comedy writers and celeb jurisprudence fans. C’mon, admit it: that would’ve been a fun trial, if for nothing else than Maher’s testimony. At any rate, while we’re waiting to see if Trump holds true on his threat to return to the matter at a later date, here’s a look back at other instances of celebrities — real and C-list — who’ve taken each other to court.

Cary Grant vs. Chevy Chase

The year: 1980

The charge: During an appearance on Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow, Snyder told the former Saturday Night Live star — then trying to make a name as a romantic comedy leading man — that many people had compared him favorably to Cary Grant. Chase responded, apparently humorously, “I understand he was a homo. He was brilliant. What a gal!” Grant didn’t care for the joke, and the next day, he filed a $10 million lawsuit against Chase for slander.

The verdict: They eventually settled out of court, with Grant reportedly pocketing $1 million in the deal.

Gore Vidal vs. Truman Capote

The year: 1979

The charge: In a 1975 Playboy interview, Capote alleged that fellow writer and longtime rival Vidal had been tossed from a White House party back in 1961 for drunken behavior. A furious Vidal countered the claim by suing Capote for libel.

The verdict: The pair ultimately settled the matter out of court, with Capote grudgingly writing an apology to Vidal.

R. Kelly vs. Jay-Z

The year: 2004

The charge: Hew boy, where to start with this one? When J and R decided to hit the road in support of their Unfinished Business collaboration, they didn’t exactly make beautiful music together; the tour was plagued with clashes of ego and reports of uninspired performances and unfinished sets, mostly from Kelly. But when Jay-Z tossed him off the tour, Kelly filed a $75 million lawsuit against Hova, along with his business associates and the tour’s promoter, claiming sabotage and assault. That last claim had some merit, but Jay-Z countersued, calling the tour “a nightmarish odyssey fueled by R. Kelly’s financial woes, insecurities, and unsafe and unpredictable behavior.”

The verdict: Jay’s suit was thrown out, and the pair settled Kelly’s original suit out of court.

Wes Craven vs. Pauly Shore

The year: 2008

The charge: It’s always wacky to hear about Hollywood neighbors, who lives next to who, etc. — though about the only time we do is when there’s a dispute. And that’s what happened when Nightmare on Elm Street director Wes Craven took “The Weasel” to court over work on his home (a pool, a spa, and some landscaping) that the filmmaker said caused water runoff that damaged his property. Shore (all together now) countersued, alleging that Craven’s poor upkeep of his property caused a landslide and rodent troubles. Related question: who knew Pauly Shore had enough income for home improvements?

The verdict: A trial was set for October of 2008, but the two men hammered out a settlement in August, in which Shore agreed to help Craven repair his damages.

Jim Belushi vs. Julie Newmar

The year: 2004

The charge: More fun with neighbors: According to Jim star Jim Belushi filed a $4 million suit against his neighbor, Julie Newmar (who played Catwoman on the old Batman series), claiming a campaign of harassment and defamation aimed at getting him tossed from the neighborhood. And can you blame her? Did you ever watch According to Jim?

The verdict: After two years, Belushi agreed to settle out of court with Newmar, with publicists announcing that “they look forward to a peaceful and neighborly relationship.” To show that the fence was mended, Newmar even did a guest shot on According to Jim, so I think we can agree that whoever would’ve won the suit, in the end, we all lost.

Quentin Tarantino vs. Alan Ball

The year: 2011

The charge: Fun with neighbors, round three. Turns out, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Quentin Tarantino lives next door to Academy Award-winning screenwriter Alan Ball (American Beauty, True Blood), and in March of 2011, he filed suit against Ball, claiming that the “blood-curdling screams” emitted day and night by Ball’s outdoor “exotic bird menagerie” were preventing him from working and sleeping and stuff. Only in Hollywood, am I right?

The verdict: As much fun as we’d have had hearing Quentin on the stand losing his shit over birds, this one also didn’t make it to court; the two writers settled amicably later that year.

Chris Brown vs. Drake

The year: 2013

The charge: In June 2012, the R&B singers and their entourages engaged in a bottle-throwing brawl (like you do) at the New York nightclub W.i.P. Shortly thereafter, one of the fight’s bystanders, male model Romain Julien, filed a suit against both singers and the club itself, asking for damages related to injuries he claimed to have sustained in the incident. And that’s when Brown and Drake’s attorneys swung into action, each one filing documents that blame the other for the melee — hoping that a judgment in Julien’s favor would put the other party on the hook. (If you’re curious, the fight was reportedly over a girl. How romantic!)

The verdict: Still pending, but Brown doesn’t strike us as the “settle amicably out of court” type.

Martha Raye vs. Bette Midler

The year: 1992

The charge: Most audiences ignored Bette Midler’s 1991 WWII-era musical drama For the Boys, but one viewer saw it, and didn’t care for what she saw: Martha Raye, the legendary entertainer and actress (mostly known by that point for her denture commercials). Raye claimed that Midler’s character was clearly based on her, and the film was obviously inspired by her own experiences entertaining the troops — and further contended that she’d pitched the idea to Midler several years previous. So she filed a $5 million suit against Midler, the filmmakers, and 20th Century Fox, claiming breach of contract and fraud.

The verdict: Hey, this one finally made it to court! And it didn’t do so well; in March 1993, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge tossed all but one of the complaints as “frivolous.” Midler was willing to settle on the final claim (breach of contract), but Raye’s husband refused. In 1994, the final claim was dismissed as well.

Elke Sommer vs. Zsa Zsa Gabor

The year: 1993

The charge: Actress and ‘60s icon Sommer (A Shot in the Dark) filed a defamation suit against ‘90s punchline Gabor, who told three German magazines that Sommer was a financially unstable Hollywood has-been. (Kettle, a telegram just arrived from Pot…)

The verdict: Another one that actually saw a courtroom — and Gabor lost, big time. A jury awarded Sommer $2 million in general damages and $1.3 million in punitive damages. When the time came to pay up, Gabor had to file for bankruptcy, which seems like kind of a financially unstable Hollywood has-been movie, if you ask… oh, right, this is where we came in.

Mariah Carey vs. Mary Carey

The year: 2006

The charge: This one might stretch the definition of “celebrity,” but from what we hear, the latter Ms. Carey was certainly considered a celebrity by some websites. Mary Carey was the nom de porn for adult actress (and occasional joke political candidate) Mary Ellen Cook, but in 2006, pop diva Mariah Carey decided their names were too close for her comfort — because, y’know, there might be people out there who thought she was doing porn? Point is, when Mary Carey made a bid to trademark her stage name, Mariah filed a formal opposition. In it, her lawyers insisted that “the public is likely to mistakenly associate the goods and services offered by the applicant under the mark MARY CAREY with Opposer or Opposer’s goods and services.” (Hee hee, “goods and services.”)

The verdict: A win for Mariah, and the stipulation that Mary would drop her stage name — which she basically ignored and kept using anyway.