It's Raining Lawsuits
The holiday season is near. A time of merriment and cheer -- and lawsuits.
This week's Manhattan suit has a familiar ring: a celeb, the celeb's employee, allegations of sexual harassment, a countersuit and millions of dollars at stake. We bet Bill O'Reilly is thanking his lucky stars that Liza Minnelli has knocked him out of the sexual harassment lawsuit du jour limelight.
Minnelli's bodyguard-chauffeur, M'Hammed Soumayah, is seeking more than $100 million in damages, claiming that after repeated overtures he finally succumbed to his boss's advances "without his consent." And not only does he claim to have proof of their relationship (a thought we don't need), but the six-page complaint, unsealed Wednesday, adds that she abused him -- which is also the prime complaint of the $10 million lawsuit by her soon-to-be-ex, David Gest.
Soumayah, who has worked for the diva since 1994, says he stuck it out with the superstar for fear of losing his lucrative job. (Hey, he was banking $238,000 a year.) But now he wants $50 mil for her "intentional assault and battery" and another $50 mil for sexual harassment, and let's not forget a cool $89,000 in back wages.
Minnelli countersued earlier this week, slapping him with breach of contract, and says she will "vigorously" fight his charges. By violating their confidentiality agreement, she says, Soumayah has created "a great deal of personal distress and pain."
Meanwhile, in La-La Land, Bill Maher is getting sued by an ex-girlfriend, former Playboy poser Coco Johnsen, for $9 mil. Johnsen, real name Nancy Johnson, says in the suit that Maher persuaded her to give up her 12-year gig as a flight attendant with Delta, promising to marry her and buy her a Beverly Hills mansion (formerly occupied by Ben Affleck and J. Lo). She maintains that after she quit working to devote herself full time to Maher, he became abusive, making "insulting, humiliating and degrading racial comments" about her (she is African American, he is white). She also alleges he physically threatened and abused her. So after dating the HBO star for 17 months, she's seeking compensatory damages.
A Kerry Sighting
Just call Cafe Milano "Cafe Standing-O."
John Kerry made quite an entrance when he breezed through the G-town hot spot Wednesday eve to meet pals, campaign adviser Richard Holbrooke and Jim Johnson. As he strolled through the main room, many of those seated at tables stood and cheered, we're told. Though the tall senator didn't stay long -- in and out in 30 minutes or so -- he was certainly the golden boy of the night (complete with his "lucky" golden barn jacket) shaking everyone's hand and taking pictures.
The Dem superstar barely missed an actual superstar, actress Sandra Bullock, who was enjoying the sleek atmosphere with her motorcycle man, Jesse James. Earlier this week, Veep Cheney was spotted there, too, proving that D.C. may be Democratic, but Milano, as always, is bipartisan.
Visit to the Sick Bay
Poor Vincent D'Onofrio. The "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" star passed out after shooting a scene in Brooklyn and was hospitalized Wednesday. Though the scene was apparently strenuous, insiders tell the New York Post that D'Onofrio, a huge Kerry supporter, just hasn't been himself since Kerry lost the election. This spy also tattled that D'Onofrio "insisted" on plastering anti-Bush posters on the set -- which led producers to forbid any sort of political discussions -- and "would attack anyone who disagreed with him." But a rep for show creator Dick Wolf says it's not Dubya; it's work: "The stress of being the first among equals on a one-hour drama is the most exhausting job in show business." Good thing he doesn't live in Washington -- we can only imagine how many times he'd be hospitalized.
-- Compiled by Anne Schroeder
from staff and wire reports