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`Bumfight' Producers Throw In the Towel

April 07, 2006|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — The makers of the cult favorite "Bumfights" videos have agreed not to make any more such videos and will pay damages to three men who said they were plied with alcohol and drugs to get them to perform dangerous and degrading stunts.

The filmmakers agreed to those terms to settle a lawsuit by Rufus Hannah, Donald Brennan and Peter LaForte, who are featured in the videos.

"The moral of the story is don't take advantage of handicapped, disabled or homeless people," said Santa Monica attorney Mark T. Quigley, who represented the three. "It's the wrong thing to do."

The settlement, announced Thursday as the lawsuit was to go to trial, may make it more difficult for fans of cruelty-tinged "ruckus" humor to find the videos. The filmmakers, who were high-school students when they got the idea to film homeless alcoholics and others, agreed not to sell or distribute the videos.

But pirated versions of the three videos -- "Bumfights: Cause for Concern," "Bumfights 2" and "Bumfights 3: The Felony Footage" -- are readily available on the Internet and at stores. Those versions are not affected by the settlement.

The financial settlement is confidential but apparently involves more than $300,000, with some of the money coming from an insurance policy carried by the family of one of the filmmakers.

The original "Bumfights" became a sensation after radio shock-jock Howard Stern praised its cinema-verite portrayal of street fights, "chick" fights, homeless people and a buxom model saying suggestive things. The "bums" were seen fighting, bashing their heads into walls and riding shopping carts down steep hills.

The four filmmakers were slapped by the district attorney's office in 2002 with felony charges, including battery. A judge reduced the counts to misdemeanors, and the four pleaded guilty in 2003 to arranging a fight without a permit. They were fined $500 each and scolded by the judge as devoid of decency.

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