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Settlement Could Make Locke's Day

COURT FILES / ANN W. O'NEILL

May 23, 1999|ANN W. O'NEILL

The Holy See's suit . . . Loni Anderson's adventures in infomercials . . . Why is Mona Lisa smiling?

Rumors that actress Sondra Locke has resolved her differences with Warner Bros. swirled every which way but loose late Friday as her lawsuit against the studio edged toward trial.

She's taking the studio to court for its alleged role in a sham movie development deal secretly funded by Clint Eastwood. Locke charges that he dumped her, then settled her palimony claim by setting her up at the Warner Bros. lot. But, he never told her he was funding the deal. And, by paying for it under the table, she charges, he ensured that while she might pitch her little heart out, all she'd ever develop was laryngitis. The studio went along with its big star to keep him happy, the suit alleges.

Asked late Friday whether she'd reached a settlement, Locke said, "I too have heard those rumors." She added that she was "unsure what the conclusion of this drama will be."

Her lawyer, Neil Papiano, said the two sides remained "significantly apart," but added that anything could happen by the time the doors of the Burbank courthouse swing open again.

Warner Bros. lawyer Robert Schwartz declined comment. But the studio has said in the past that it maintains the right to exercise creative judgment and decide which projects deserve a green light. And as far as Warner Bros. was concerned, none of Locke's ideas did.

The legal scurrying marks the final round of a bitter legal saga, dubbed "Lockwood," that began when, after 14 years together, Eastwood packed up Locke's belongings and changed the locks of their Brentwood home in 1989.

The witness list in the high-stakes case is a veritable Hollywood who's who. Besides Locke and Eastwood, it includes Danny Glover, Diane Keaton, "'The Godfather" producer Al Ruddy, "Analyze This" producer Paula Weinstein and Warner's co-chiefs, Bob Daly and Terry Semel.

Locke's professional viability is on the line. As for Warner Bros., the studio recently has come out on the losing end of two multimillion-dollar verdicts: $25 million this month to the family of a man gunned down after an appearance on the Warner-distributed "Jenny Jones" TV show, and a record $80 million, reduced to $20 million, awarded last year to director Francis Ford Coppola.

VATICAN RAG: Holy fee dispute, counselor! Howarth & Smith, a Los Angeles law firm, says the Vatican owes it more than $1 million for legal work performed on behalf of the Biblioteca Apostolica, also known as the Vatican library.

In its Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, the firm named the Holy See and other top Vatican officials as defendants, and claims it hasn't been fully paid for the five years it defended the Vatican library in licensing disputes involving art and manuscripts.

The suit says the firm was dumped during a Vatican political shake-up shortly before a settlement was reached. Although it has been paid $500,000, the firm claims it is owed an additional $1.2 million, including interest.

"It's a simple matter," said attorney Don Howarth. "We did the work for them. They promised to pay us."

The Vatican's attorney could not be reached Friday.

THIN SKIN 1: An appeals court has overturned a $500,000 jury verdict against Loni Anderson, finding that a former partner in a line of skin care products had no legal standing to personally recover damages from the "WKRP in Cincinnati" star.

Instead, the 2nd District of the state Court of Appeal found that Nancy Nelson should have sued on behalf of Lonan Inc., the corporation the two women formed in 1993. The deal was struck three days before actor Burt Reynolds sued Anderson for divorce.

While the legal issues are somewhat arcane, the court's opinion lays bare the ugly side of the beauty business. The deal went sour, court papers say, after Anderson's new boyfriend, who also was one of their lawyers, began calling the shots.

The boyfriend interfered and tried to take over the project, claimed Nelson, who was a top infomercial host. Eventually, Anderson replaced her because, in the lawyer's opinion, Nelson "looked too old."

THIN SKIN 2: My, how things can change. One interesting sidelight to the previous dispute: Nelson says she tried to save the business by striking a deal with the Home Shopping Network. But, court papers say, the boyfriend said that "Anderson was too busy and did not approve of the Home Shopping Network."

Apparently Anderson has experienced a change of heart. Sandyhook Productions, a company representing her, last week filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court over payments she says she's due for appearances on, hel-lo, the Home Shopping Network. Court papers say she had a deal last year to pitch a line of lounge wear, fragrances and skin care products. The lawsuit seeks $50,000.

DAZZLING SMILE: A copyright dispute over the neon Mona Lisa, which graces the Museum of Neon Art (the acronym is MONA--get it?) in downtown Los Angeles, has been settled for $40,000. This according to Lili Lakich, the artist who created Mona and is founding director of MONA.

Lakich sued Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ada Louise Huxtable in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that she used neon Mona's copyrighted image on the cover of her 1997 book, "Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion." The book was withdrawn last year, but since has been released with a new cover, sans the neon Mona Lisa.

Lakich says she and the museum received $25,000 from the author and $15,000 from the book's publishers.

"This is a victory for all artists," said Lakich. Apparently, even the late, great Leonardo da Vinci.

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