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The Bitter Battle Over 'Valerie'

October 01, 1987|DIANE HAITHMAN | Times Staff Writer

The increasingly bitter battle between Valerie Harper and Lorimar Productions intensified Wednesday as the actress reacted with outrage to allegations by the company that her release from the NBC series "Valerie" was prompted by her "fury, hysteria, combativeness and paranoia."

In documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court this week, Lorimar executives contended that their decision to replace Harper with Sandy Duncan in August was the result of Harper's "disruptive" behavior, which included "yelling and screaming," continued expressions of her desire to quit the show and "a substandard performance" on the set.

Harper responded Wednesday in a statement released to the news media: "The declarations filed with the court by the producers contain outrageous stories of things that never happened."

The statements were "simply another manifestation of the bad-faith dealings these people are willing to engage in," she said, and constituted an attempt "to cover up their wrongdoings."

The two sides are due to square off Friday in Superior Court to debate Harper's request for an injunction to prevent Lorimar from using "Valerie" in the show's title, now called "Valerie's Family" to reflect the fact that Harper's character, homemaker Valerie Hogan, is no longer in the show.

Although Harper and Lorimar have been trading charges in the press about the reasons for her departure for the last two months, and have filed lawsuits against each other, the documents filed by Lorimar in response to Harper's court action contain new details about the case--from the producers' allegations of her unprofessional behavior to information about Harper's original contract, her demands for a salary increase and the tentative agreement between Harper's company, A.V. Productions, and Lorimar, which ended abruptly when Lorimar dismissed Harper for breach of contract.

One of Harper's attorneys, Robert Albrecht, charged in a telephone interview Wednesday that Lorimar's decision to release the documents to the press was not an attempt to illuminate the details of the title issue, but rather an attempt "to smear Valerie's good name in public."

"Furthermore, had these statements been made in a public statement rather than in the course of a litigated matter, we would be suing them (Lorimar) for libel," Albrecht continued heatedly. "They are using the cloak of the court to protect themselves from libel."

According to Lorimar, the dispute began last April when Harper and her husband, Tony Cacciotti, supervising producer of "Valerie," threatened to leave the show if they weren't given an improved financial deal and creative control of the series.

In its filing with the court, Lorimar said that the original terms of Harper's and Cacciotti's 1985 contract with Lorimar called for the actress to receive $56,750 per episode, escalating to $90,000 per episode in the sixth year (1990-91). In addition, the pair would receive 10% of the show's "adjusted gross profits."

In May, Lorimar continued, Harper and Cacciotti demanded, among other things, that Harper be paid $100,000 per episode in 1987-88, escalating to $140,000 in 1991-92, and that the couple would receive 35% of the show's profits. Lorimar refused the request and contends that the two left the show May 12.

A tentative agreement eventually was reached Aug. 2, Lorimar said, calling for Harper and Cacciotti to receive 12.5% of the domestic gross receipts and for Harper to receive $65,000 per episode in 1987-88, escalating to $125,000 per episode in 1991-92. Cacciotti would have received payments escalating from $10,000 to $15,000 per episode in the same period, the production company said.

Included in Lorimar's filing as further indication that the differences had been resolved was an Aug. 3 "Dear Val and Tony" letter from Lorimar Chairman Merv Adelson, inviting the couple to be his guests for a weekend at La Costa to "recover from the aggravation of the past few weeks."

But in statements filed with the court, "Valerie" executive producers Robert L. Boyett and Thomas Miller said that problems continued after Harper returned to work Aug. 4.

Boyett, who claimed that Harper had been "difficult to guide, direct or deal with" during the show's first two seasons, said that the actress was "alternately screaming and crying" and "verbally assaulted various of the show's creative personnel" at a meeting with the show's producers held soon after her return.

Miller said in his court document that Harper appeared "humble and glad to be back" for a day or two, but that the attitude did not last.

"By the end of the week, she had dredged up all of her old complaints, grievances and antagonisms and it was clearly only a matter of time before she destructed," Miller said in his statement filed with the court. "At the meeting on Aug. 7, 1987, before filming the one episode she did for the new season, she said she had been double-crossed, lied to, and stated 'I can't do this with my life, cut me loose.' "

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