HARPER PLANS TO SUE OVER ‘VALERIE’ OUSTER
A tearful but tough Valerie Harper told a packed press conference Tuesday that she plans to sue Lorimar Telepictures over her dismissal from the NBC-TV series “Valerie.”
Harper said that Lorimar, the company producing the show, spread “lies, half-truths and disinformation” about her role in the recent imbroglio, claiming that the show--created and customized for her particular talents--was “taken away from me” by Lorimar, which Harper said “prevented me from delivering on a commitment I made to our audience.”
Harper and her attorney, Barry Langberg, said they were planning to file the lawsuit--alleging Lorimar’s breach of Harper’s contract and enjoining Lorimar from using the name “Valerie” in the show’s title--later this month in Superior Court.
“I was fired from ‘Valerie’; I did not walk away from that show,” the four-time Emmy-winning actress said in a quavering voice at the Le Bel Age Hotel press conference. “It’s not comfortable to talk about it, but the truth is I was turned out and told not to come back. It was a shocking, painful experience that even 17 years in this business didn’t prepare me for.”
Harper cast the first stone in the skirmish. She told Lorimar that she wanted to renegotiate her contract in July and refused to work on the show until the new round of negotiations was completed. After missing one episode, Harper returned Aug. 3, worked for two days and then was told by Lorimar executives not to return to the set.
She subsequently was replaced by Sandy Duncan, who will play her sister-in-law, and the show was retitled “Valerie’s Family.”
Numerous accounts of the squabble in the news media reported that the main issue separating the star of “Valerie” and Lorimar was salary. It was said that Harper wanted $88,000 per episode, a raise of $31,000 per episode--but Harper denied that Tuesday.
“The salary issue was settled on Aug. 2, during the time my contract with Lorimar was being re-negotiated,” Harper said. “I can’t talk specifics, but I can tell you the new salary wound up being about a 15% raise over last year--not much when you think about how much better the show did last year than the year before.”
Actually, Nielsen ratings for the show decreased between the 1985-86 season and the 1986-87 season, from an average audience of 15.3 million households to 12.9 million.
Harper said that other aspects of the six-year contract with Lorimar, such as creative input to the story lines of the series, were of equal importance to her. Four years remained on the Lorimar agreement--a contract that Harper and Langberg insisted was “open to renegotiation if and when the series became successful” and was renegotiated Aug. 2 “with all parties in agreement on all issues.”
Those marathon negotiations went so well, Harper said, that she was “completely blind-sided” by Lorimar’s dismissal of her. “I had no idea I was going to be fired, and no reason was given as to why I was being shown the door.” She dismissed rumors that the increased roles of Jason Bateman, Danny Ponce and Jeremy Licht, who play her sons on “Valerie,” had anything to do with her dismissal, or that the role played by her husband, Tony Cacciotti, as co-executive producer was a factor.
Cacciotti, also dismissed by Lorimar, attended the news conference but did not speak.
Harper suggested that “emotional issues” and “internal disagreements” among Lorimar executives led to her firing, but added that the hints were “just hunches” and that she remains ignorant of the reasons for her dismissal.
Lorimar vice president for communications Barbara Brogliatti said that the company had no official comment on Harper’s allegations and could not comment on the impending litigation.
However, Brogliatti said, Harper and Cacciotti moved out of their Lorimar offices May 12. “We were subsequently informed they left for undefined financial and creative reasons.” Brogliatti added that Lorimar, NBC and studio audiences were “extremely happy” with the new show with Duncan.