Hartley: Litigious scumbags doing what scumbags do
October 24, 2014
In case you've been wondering — what with all the other crap going on in the world today — whether the good old-fashioned American ethic of suing everybody over everything still exists, you'll be happy to know (or maybe not) that it is alive and well. A perfect case in point is the lawsuit filed last week against Fox Television Studios by actor Frank Sivero.
In the suit, Sivero, who played a gangster named Frankie Carbone in the movie "Goodfellas," alleges that "The Simpsons" stole his likeness for the character of Louie, a low-level mafia henchman who has appeared in 16 episodes of the show since 1991. The suit contends that "Louie's appearance and mannerisms are strongly evocative of the character actor Frank Sivero" and asks for $250 million in damages.
You read that right: Sivero believes he is entitled to $250 million because a minor "Simpsons" character looks kind of like him.
Let me just get this part out of the way first: Hey, Sivero, you're a freaking scumbag. Screw you, and I hope you don't get a dime. Actually, I hope Fox countersues you and takes you for every dime you've ever earned.
Now that we've dispensed with that, let's move on.
If you remember Sivero at all, it's as a helmet-haired goon who has essentially never played anything other than a low-level mafia henchman. A quick look through his filmography on IMDB shows that his credited roles include Thug No. 2, Mobster No. 2, Tommy Two-Lips, Snake, Pickpocket, The Mugger, Bookie and no less than nine characters named Frank or Frankie.
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If you don't remember him, there's still a chance that you may have heard Sivero's name mentioned recently due to the fact that back in July he tried to sue a deli in California for using his image and naming one of its sandwiches the "Frankie Carbone."
The part of this story that is the most galling is that it's obvious Sivero somehow believes he is Carbone. His suit against Fox claims that "The Simpsons" based Louie "on the character of Frankie Carbone, a character played and developed by Sivero."
But here's the thing, Sivero: You didn't develop Carbone. The character was developed by the author Nicholas Pilleggi, who co-wrote the "Goodfellas" script with Martin Scorsese based on his 1986 semi-autobiographical novel "Wiseguy." Pilleggi based Carbone on a real-life mafioso named Angelo Sepe who was murdered in 1984 after a robbery gone wrong.
By Sivero's imbecilic logic, Sepe's family and heirs ought to be able to sue Sivero for untold millions for co-opting Sepe's mannerisms for his role in "Goodfellas." I would actually encourage them to do that just so Sivero can get a taste of his own litigious medicine.
Let's be honest, though: Scumtastic as Sivero may be, he's merely a symptom of a morally bankrupt U.S. legal system that encourages jerks like he is to file frivolous lawsuits against anyone and anything. Sivero may have had the idea of suing Fox, but he still needed a shady, unscrupulous lawyer to take the case. You can bet there were probably dozens, if not hundreds, of douchebag shysters just waiting to sign on.
This kind of behavior needs to stop, although I understand why it won't. Because of sue-happy lawyers like the one handling Sivero's case, the cost of everything, particularly health care, has gone way up, and the American public is left footing the bill.
The answer, obviously, is tort reform, but I know we'll never get that because it would require lawyers to act like decent human beings, and there's little incentive for them to do that as long as they're getting paid. (My apologies to any lawyers out there who are still in possession of their souls, if there are any. The above comments are not directed at you.)
In the meantime, however, we'll continue to get outrageous, unfounded lawsuits like Sivero v. Fox. Sadly enough, with the way our court system is set up, there's probably some idiotic legal precedent that will allow Sivero to win, meaning that he'll reap millions for nothing. His image wasn't harmed. His career didn't suffer. But a cartoon character looks like him, so he's got to get paid.
If that happens, seeing as how $250 million is a hefty sum even for a well-heeled studio, Sivero may actually accomplish what years of mediocre episodes haven't and force "The Simpsons" off the air.
Thanks in advance, scumbag. I hope your millions make you happy when everyone hates you.
Todd Hartley is suing the Internet for $100 billion because it used his picture without permission. To read more or leave a comment, please visit http://zerobudget.net.
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