Ay Chihuahua! Taco Bell Dog in Pay Dispute

Suing the prize patrol . . . A firing in ladies' lingerie . . . Sonny Bono's legal legacy.

The company that "discovered" the Taco Bell Chihuahua contends in court papers that the gordita-loving male dog is played by a greedy, star-tripping bi . . . I mean, female dog named Gidget.

Steve Martin's Working Wildlife alleges in its Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that Gidget's owners cut the company out of the 6-pound, quivering canine's contract.

The deal promised Working Wildlife one-third of the money Gidget earned from the hugely successful advertising campaign, court papers contend. The company seeks $59,000 in compensatory damages.

Gidget was a nobody, "a typical, nondescript Chihuahua dog," before her fateful audition with Working Wildlife and Venice ad agency TWBA Chiat Day, charges the suit, filed by attorney John M. Gatti. The dog's owners could not be reached and the ad agency and Taco Bell declined comment.

Since the "Yo quiero Taco Bell!" commercials became a cultural phenom, Gidget's owners--Paul Calabria and Karin McElhatten--have demanded more money and insisted on traveling in limousines and flying first-class with Gidget to shoots, court papers say. They also stay in four-star hotels and eat in expensive restaurants.

What? Ellos no quieren Taco Bell?

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NO CONSOLATION: A woman who believed she had won either $11 million or a $50,000 consolation prize has filed a class-action lawsuit against Ed McMahon, Dick Clark and American Family Publishers.

The Los Angeles Superior Court suit charges that the contest mailer was "patently fraudulent, deceptive and misleading." The suit alleges breach of contract, intentional and negligent misrepresentation and various consumer violations.

According to court papers, an excited Lila S. Hudson filled out the sweepstakes form and mailed it the same day she received it--Dec. 27, 1997. Why? The contest entry stated in bold, capital letters: "Lila Hudson, it's down to a 2 person race for $11,000,000--You and one other person in California were issued the winning number MT674097604--Whoever returns it FIRST wins it all!"

The form, adorned with images of McMahon and Clark, further stated that even if the other winner beat her to the grand prize, "We'll automatically give you a $50,000 consolation prize."

Hudson later found out she had won zip, zilch, nada.

Her lawyer, A. Barry Cappello, of Santa Barbara, said the contest mailer "made it sound like a no-brainer." The two celebs, who could not be reached, were named as defendants because they had lent their "smiley, good guy credibility image" to what the plaintiff calls a misleading contest.

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YOU ARE SOOO FIRED! Live by the perk, die by the perk. The former president and CEO of Frederick's of Hollywood accuses the company in a lawsuit of wrongfully firing her in a most unpleasant way.

Teresa W. Patterson claims in her Los Angeles Superior Court suit that she was canned March 12--just two days after company execs mistakenly sent her a fax of their agreement with a head-hunting firm searching for her replacement.

Once their motives were found out, the suit says, the company "embarked upon a frantic effort" to justify the dumping of Patterson.

They changed the locks on the doors of her office, the suit claims, installed armed guards in the building and scoured through her work and personnel files and records.

Later, Frederick's officials demanded that she return her company car--even though she owned it--and shut off the utilities to the house the company leased for her, the suit says.

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A BONO TO PICK: Cher and a Marina del Rey man who says he's Sonny Bono's illegitimate son have filed claims against the late congressman's estate, according to court papers unearthed in Riverside.

Cher is seeking back alimony.

And Sean Machu, a struggling actor, wants a share of Bono's $1.66-million estate. A judge has ordered the Washoe County, Nev., coroner to turn over a blood sample from the deceased so the 35-year-old Machu can have DNA tests conducted to prove he's Bono's son.

Bono was 62 when he died last year in a skiing accident at South Lake Tahoe. In his autobiography, "The Beat Goes On," he acknowledged an affair with a woman named Mimi. Machu's birth certificate lists Mimi Georgette Machu as his mother and Salvatore Bono, a 29-year-old self-employed record producer, as his father.

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