According to Hannah’s brother Phillip, the comic collapsed at his Dallas-area home Monday. He was 45.
Sam and his wife Joyce are battling it out against the Weinstein Co. and MGM, the studio he claims ripped him of his story for a film starring Samuel L. Jackson.
The couple has been in an ugly legal fight for some time, but now it’s taking a whole new form.
Options for a TV series is now on the table and is looking like fresh bait for a bonus court case.
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According to the New York Post, the couple filed notice this week that they will appeal a federal judge’s dismissal of a claim that a 2008 movie — “Soul Men,” starring Jackson and Bernie Mac — was ripped off from Moore’s time in the Memphis soul duo Sam & Dave.
“The fat lady hasn’t started to sing yet. And I may be the one to squeeze her toe,” says Joyce. “We believe there were many errors made. We absolutely believe there were issues, and facts, that are still undiscovered. Sam feels his identity has been ripped away from him.”
The new series, “Soul Man” debuted Wednesday last week starring Cedric the Entertainer.
The suit claims that the company infringed upon his trademark, “The Legendary Soul Man.”
But Tennessee District Court Judge Aleta Trauger ruled against Moore, saying the show contains no references to “Sam & Dave” or “Sam Moore.”
The couple, however, has decided to continue to pursue their claims and won’t give up without a favorable ruling.
*A 98-page opinion was issued last week by a Tennessee federal judge that dismissed a lawsuit from Grammy-winning singer Sam Moore against The Weinstein Company over the 2008 film, “Soul Men,” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Moore brought the lawsuit in 2009 alleging that the film about two African-American soul singers was a thinly-veiled rip-off of his part in the popular Memphis Soul singing duo Sam & Dave, whose hits included the 1967 song “Soul Man.”
The case became contentious even by Hollywood brass-knuckle standards and featured such peculiarities as Jackson testifying in a deposition that he often doesn’t watch the documentary films he’s agreed to voice. The case also touched upon so many burning legal controversies in entertainment law, it could easily serve as a primer for anyone considering the field.
Moore said his publicity rights were violated because the film was allegedly too similar to his career. Further, he alleged he’s referred to as “Sam Moore ‘The Legendary Soul Man’” and that the film violated his trademarks. He also argued that the film’s soundtrack was passed off as a project he endorsed and constituted unfair competition to his own musical works. And Moore believed that because the film was close enough to his life experiences, the divergences (the characters swear, hurl racial epithets, brandish weapons, etc.) put him in a false light.
All of these claims were pitted against a First Amendment right to free expression, and when the judge first refused to dismiss the case in 2010, it appeared that one of Hollywood’s favorite genres – the biopic – could be endangered. Or at very least, Hollywood producers might have to pay for “life rights” to any celebrity whose publicity rights might be implicated by a film or TV show.
But then the case went through a nearly two-year-long discovery fight. Experts were brought forward and doubted. Depositions were taken, and in the case of Jackson, interrogated hard. The actor testified, among other things, that he didn’t base his dancing moves on “Sam & Dave” dancing moves, which were previously shown in a PBS documentary that he once narrated—which he didn’t actually view, as was his customary practice.
The culmination of this long ordeal was a decision last week by Tennessee District Court Judge Aleta Trauger granting the Weinsteins’ motion for summary judgment.
The lengthy opinion first knocks out some of the plaintiff’s experts as inadequate and unreliable. One of them didn’t even watch the film and yet came to the conclusion that the Weinsteins “must have known” about the plaintiff’s “Soul Man” when they produced and marketed Soul Men. Judge Trauger isn’t impressed by the assumption.
Instead, the judge weighs the film’s relationship with the plaintiff:
“Notwithstanding these broad similarities, the Movie contains no direct references to “Sam & Dave” or “Sam Moore.” Sam Moore’s name is never mentioned in the Movie, nor does the Movie contain any photographs or images of Sam Moore or Sam & Dave. The Movie begins with a disclaimer that “The persons and events in this motion picture are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons or events is unintentional.” The Movie does not contain any “Sam & Dave” recordings; the only Sam & Dave song in the film is the cover version of “Hold On I’m Comin,’” performed by The Real Deal (i.e., Jackson and Mac). The Movie contains various original recordings of musical performances by other R&B artists, covers of several non-Sam & Dave songs by The Real Deal, and the original song “A Walk in the Park,” which was recorded by Jackson and Mac specifically for the Movie.”
Then, claim-by-claim, the judge picks apart Moore’s case.
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According to WBBM Newsradio, the West 69th Street, where Mac grew up will inherit his name and be called Bernie Mac Street.
The dedication ceremony is set to begin at 10 a.m. today, Tuesday at 69th and Sangamon streets.
The comedian was born in 1957 in Chicago and grew up on the South Side. At the tender age of 19, he began telling jokes as a standup comic in his home city, often appearing at the Regal Theater.
He starred in the hit Fox TV comedy series “The Bernie Mac Show” from 2001 to 2006.
The Mac Man is also known for his comedic role in stand-up comedy film “Kings of Comedy.”
He passed away Aug. 9, 2008.
*It’s been three years since the death of comedian/actor Bernie Mac. But his family and friends are coming together for special tribute to the Mac Man called “I Ain’t Scared of You: A Tribute to Bernie Mac.”
Taking part in the all-star recognition to Mac will be Chris Rock, Zoe Saldana and Cedric the Entertainer, along with Bernie’s wife of 33 years, Rhonda Mac. They will share their personal stories about the late comedian, who died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 50. He was also battling sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease.
Comedy Central will air the documentary on February 19 and an an accompanying DVD will be released on February 21.
One example of how dear Bernie Mac was to those who knew him is this comment from Chris Rock:
“His number is in my phone right now. I won’t get rid of his number. There’s only one Bernie.”
Check out this sneak peek of the tribute:
*With his “Hot in Cleveland” spinoff moving forward on TV Land, Cedric the Entertainer took some time out to reflect on his journey thus far, which began with his first big break courtesy of Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons.
“Definitely for me one of the great eras of comedy was those early 90s when Russell brought out ‘Def Comedy Jam,’ said Ced in a recent phone interview of the popular HBO series. “It was an opportunity for the urban comic to find a voice, and a voice that was speaking directly to that core African American audience.”
Ced said the show, which he also hosted for a stint, was not just a highly-rated comedy showcase, but also a pop culture phenomenon that led to sudden fame for most of its participants.
“That’s Russell’s thing, from early on with the innovations of rap music and bringing it out in such a real way with Run DMC and the Beastie Boys and all that,” said Ced. “But you know, we became stars, all of us on the ‘Kings of Comedy’ — me, Bernie Mac, and Steve Harvey, guys like Chris Tucker — you know, you started to see these faces and they popped out on the scene. We all have gone on to have great careers and ‘Def Comedy Jam’ was the catalyst to that for sure.” [Scroll down to watch Ced on "Def Comedy Jam."]
But, enough of looking back. In the bonus audio below, Ced told us what young comics to look out for as the industry’s next big thing.