Golden Globes organizers countersue ex-publicist

Tue Feb 8, 2011 3:49pm EST
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By Alex Ben Block

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The organizers of the Golden Globes are blasting back at their former publicist, charging that his lawsuit filed three days before last month's telecast was part of a campaign to "ridicule" the group.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association filed a countersuit Monday against the Michael Russell Group, alleging that Russell, his associate Stephen Locascio and others breached their contract with the group by violating a confidentiality clause and committed fraud by making unsubstantiated allegations, including a claim that it accepted "payola."

The countersuit also details why the HFPA did not renew Russell's contract as their publicist after 17 years. It says Russell was involved with a charity called Stars for a Cause, which the suit says was the subject of a number of fraud lawsuits. Even though all of those suits were dropped, settled or did not result in prosecution, the HFPA says that was enough for them to decide not to renew Russell's contract.

The suit also alleges that Russell improperly tried to charge InStyle magazine, a sponsor of the awards show, $10,000 for the loan of furniture and placement in the sponsors lounge, which was "against HFPA policy."

In any case, says the suit, Russell was working "at will" for the HFPA which means they had the right to terminate his services at any time they chose.

A call to an attorney representing the Michael Russell Group seeking their comment was not immediately returned.

Russell filed his lawsuit three days before the Globes were held on January 16, and acerbic host Ricky Gervais wasted little time belittling the group during his monologue.

Gervais joked that there was a "ridiculous rumor" that surprise contender "The Tourist" was nominated so that the members could hang out with the stars of the costly flop, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

Russell's suit alleged, among other things, that some members were flown at studio expense to see "Burlesque" star Cher perform in Las Vegas.

Gervais commented, "How the hell is that a bribe? Really? 'Do you want to go and see Cher?' 'No' 'Why Not?' 'Cuz it's not 1975.'"