Fabian Forte, one of the most popular teen idols in the late '50s and early '60s, yesterday filed a $64-million lawsuit against the makers of the movie "The Idol-maker." The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, charges the film's distributors (Transamerica/United Artists), producers (Kirkwood/Kock), technical adviser (Bob Marcucci) and screenwriter (Edward DiLorenzo) with invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress and slander, as well as unauthorized appropriation of Fabian's life story and image without his consent.
The film, which opened here in November, depicts the career of a rock promoter and manager called Vinnie Varcari who creates two teen idols named Tommy Dee and Cesare. In real life, Marcucci managed Frankie Avalon and Fabian. The suit charges that the Cesare character is identifiable as Fabian.
Marcucci said yesterday from his Los Angeles home that "there's nothing slanderous about the movie and it isn't Fabian's life. What can I say? If I was going to do his life, I would have portrayed it the way it was. I just told the writer about my experiences as a manager. My life was much more interesting than that picture."
DiLorenzo, reached in Los Angeles yesterday, said, "It's sad that he [Fabian] feels he has to do that. My approach was basically to do a story about idols . . . a composite of idols of the time. I never spoke to either Fabian or to Avalon."
Neither United Artists nor Kirkwood/Koch Productions would comment on the suit yesterday. Spokesmen said that neither organization had been served with papers.
Howard Gaines -- of the Los Angeles law firm Hodge and Skoog -- is representing Fabian. Yesterday he listed some of the specific complaints in the slander portion of the suit: That the movie portrays Cesare "vomiting from extreme nervousness" after his first performance; shows him "mocked, scorned and laughed at" after the same performance; shows him "cowering half-naked in a dressing room, scared before another major performance; and portrays him as a "totally manufactured" character, a pretty face without any singing ability or talent.
The suit also charged that the film depicts Cesare "drinking and driving in violation of posted speed limites and conspiring with his manager to buy off law enforcement officers and cover up his driving violation."
And finally, Gaines said, the film shows Cesare "smashing a mirror with his hand in an act that could be interpreted as self-destructive or an intication of a severe mental disorder." The 24-page complaint, which also requests an injunction against any future showings or distribution of the film, claims that the Cesare character has been accepted by the public as being based on Fabian's life and that it has affected his work as an actor and performer. Fabian was not available for comment yesterday.