Monday, July 14, 2008

Reprise on the Seinfeld Cookbook Lawsuit

Saturday's New York Times included an update on the dueling cookbooks lawsuit.

If you're not familiar with the story, you can visit my post from October 17, 2007 here. It all started when Missy Chase Lapine accused Jessica Seinfeld (Yes, Jerry's wife) of plagiarizing her cookbook.

Lapine's book--The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals--was released April 4, 2007 by Running Press. Seinfeld's book--Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Foodwas released almost exactly six months later on October 5 by HarperCollins.

Although Lapine's publisher Running Press complained to HarperCollins when they saw promotional materials for the proposed Seinfeld cookbook, Lapine herself remained silent. HarperCollins did make some minor changes to their cover at Running Press' request. Neither Lapine nor Running Press made any further complaints.

When Seinfeld's book came out, readers raised the question of plagiarism. Still Lapine remained silent.

But then Jerry Seinfeld went on Letterman on the night of October 29, 2007, where he raised the issue himself. He described Lapine as a "whacko-in-waiting" who had been "waiting in the woodwork to spring out and go whacko" by accusing his wife of breaking into HarperCollins to steal her recipes. He describes Lapine (although he never mentions her by name) as "angry and hysterical" and of being a "three-name woman" and everyone knows all the great assassins in history had three names.

To see the entire five-minute interview go here and move the timeline cursor to 4:50 when the interview turns to the subject of the cookbooks.

Although readers of my blog thought it was amusing and not damaging to Lapine, I was not as sanguine. Lapine had been maintaining a dignified silence until that point. I felt Seinfeld intruded upon her privacy and good will in a reprehensible manner. Apparently Missy Chase Lapine felt the same way because eight weeks later, on January 7, she sued both Seinfelds.

The recent New York Times article said this:
Armed with a new set of lawyers, Ms. Lapine recently extended her lawsuit against the Seinfelds to include HarperCollins, the publisher of Ms. Seinfeld’s cookbook. Ms. Lapine’s original lawyers left the case because they also represent News Corporation, which owns HarperCollins, Ms. Lapine said. Ms. Lapine is seeking unspecified damages.
The new lawyers say they expect the case to drag on into the fall.

As I've said before, I don't think much of the plagiarism charge in the lawsuit. However, Jerry Seinfeld should be glad I can't serve on a jury in Manhattan because I'm not so sure I wouldn't be all over him about that defamation charge.

Without knowing any more about the case than I do right now, I think Seinfeld abused his celebrity in mocking a non-celebrity who did not have any other forum in which to respond outside of our courts.

I dislike bullies, especially mean-spirited bullies who hide behind sarcasm, trying to make others laugh at someone else's expense. Just because the victim is 37 instead of 7, it doesn't make it all right.

1 comment:

Michele Lee said...

I absolutely agree.