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Police Probe of Play Will Be Sought : Theater: Prosecutor will ask detectives to find out if promoter's ads for staging of 'A Christmas Carol' are truthful.

October 08, 1994|LESLIE BERGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A city prosecutor said Friday she would ask police to check out a staging of "A Christmas Carol" at the Raymond Theatre in Pasadena whose producer has a history of consumer-fraud convictions, including a bogus theatrical promotion in the San Fernando Valley.

Deputy City Atty. Ruth Kwan said that because of Kevin Von Feldt's record of aborted efforts and disappointed ticket buyers, "We will certainly closely scrutinize his conduct."

Kwan, who heads the consumer protection division of the city attorney's office, said she would ask Los Angeles police detectives to determine whether Von Feldt's newspaper advertisements for the Nov. 15-20 show--which tout such stars as Shirley Jones, Patrick McGoohan, Brian Keith and Michael Tucker--have been truthful.

Von Feldt has been advertising $20-$35 tickets for the holiday classic, though he has yet to secure a crucial Actors' Equity Assn. contract, the union's director said this week. Meanwhile, other sources said Friday he is using backdrops, props and a taped narration by Sir John Gielgud that he never fully paid for.

The eminent British actor is owed 40,000 pounds (about $60,000) for a tape recording made in 1992 for a Von Feldt production that failed before it could open at the Scottish Rite Temple in West Los Angeles, said Gielgud's New York attorney, J. Stephen Sheppard.

Newspaper ads and promotional flyers for the Pasadena run of the play--which is supposed to launch an eight-city tour--have touted "narration by Sir John Gielgud" while omitting the fact that it is taped.

"He's used it to raise money, and he's certainly advertised in Sir John's name," said Sheppard. He said he did not know about the current effort, but did know that Von Feldt used Gielgud's tape without permission to promote a failed "Christmas Carol" last year.

"Sir John Gielgud is probably the single greatest English-speaking actor in the world, and he went to a recording studio in London and took whatever amount of time it took to read this narration, and he just wants to be paid," said Sheppard, adding that the tape lent the play "not only the extraordinary quality of his voice and talents as an actor but the cachet of having a narration by Sir John Gielgud."

Asked about Gielgud's claim, Von Feldt said Friday, "Well, that's in dispute." He refused to comment further or take more questions and hung up the phone.

Another creditor, meanwhile, said that under the terms of a judgment won against Von Feldt last year in Los Angeles Superior Court, the creditor is owed $50,000 for stage sets built in 1992. The same judgment awarded more than $200,000 to one of Von Feldt's backers on that production.

Set builder Marc Saget of Burbank also said he finally won possession of the sets after suing Von Feldt, and he questioned how "A Christmas Carol" could open in Pasadena next month without them.

"I have the sets in a storage area he's not privy to," Saget said, adding that Von Feldt also had no right to the painted backdrops he had shown a reporter at the Raymond Theatre this week.

Von Feldt, 44, was convicted in 1991 of one count of untrue and misleading advertising after the city attorney's office accused him of promoting four Broadway hits at North Hollywood's fading El Portal Theatre without first securing contracts with Actors' Equity or his stars, some of whom complained about the use of their names.

He was placed on three years probation, fined more than $1,700 and ordered to pay restitution to ticket buyers.

In 1987, he pleaded no contest to 10 counts of untrue and misleading advertising for two ticket-selling scams--an airline with no planes and a movie promotion without films. He was sentenced to a year in County Jail.

Efforts to produce his adaptation of "A Christmas Carol," part of which he wrote behind bars, failed in 1989, 1992 and 1993.

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