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THE WORD : Two Angry Men

March 06, 1994|R. Daniel Foster

It may not be on a par with Hedda and Louella, but a rivalry between two local gay 'zines has become so heated that it's ending up in court. Planet Homo and Spunk, two gossip-driven guides to L.A.'s underground that have livened up the gay magazine scene, are suing each other--on charges ranging from breach of contract to defamation.

Paul West, a former ad rep, launched Planet Homo in 1992, later selling the publication for $50,000 to Peter Deep, owner of the Zone, a club for gay men. Within months, West started Spunk, which, like PH, offers up celebrity interviews and gossip--including outing innuendoes--on who's who at underground clubs and news and features on gay culture.

Deep stopped payments on PH six months after signing the contract, claiming that Spunk was in violation of a non-competition clause. West sued Deep for non-payment and Deep cross-complained, accusing West of taking copies of PH out of news racks and duping advertisers into believing PH had gone out of business. West denies the charges. The whole mess will soon be in the hands of Superior Court.

The feud found its way into print, with Spunk making ad hominem attacks on Deep, with puns on his name and vituperative critiques of his publication. And PH has made plenty of catty counter-comments of its own.

"The jabs we've printed about each other get people reading the publications," says West. "But now it's gone from gossip to something that's at stake."

Bill Bricker, owner of the ad firm McMan & Tate, which does ads for both mags, says "Peter and Paul were friends, worked together and had admiration for each other. That's probably why they hate each other so much now."

West says he never befriended Deep, but as one of the many lawyers involved in the case has commented: "Who cares? It's all ego."

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