Friday, December 22, 2006

Trump And Rosie;The War Of The Rosie

The verbal battle between billionaire businessman Donald Trump and comic Rosie O'Donnell has continued to heat up during the last couple of days, leaving many celebrities and fans of both caught between. It's almost like a child watching their two parents fight, with torn emotions that love both. But the verbal handgrenades launched by both Trump and O'Donnell took an ugly turn when Trump threatened a lawsuit against O'Donnell.

In reality, there is increasingly less legal grounds to sue comics for jokes than there used to be at one time. The landmark U.S. Supreme Court case involving a Hustler Magazine parody involving Rev. Jerry Falwell helped to improve the legal status of comics to parody other celebrities, even if their facts are grossly distorted or just plain wrong. There appears to be far less legal grounds to pursue libel cases against what is recognized as comedy or satire. Comedy has also seen some increasing grounds for protection against obscenity actions as well. At one time a comic like Lenny Bruce was so persecuted for his humor, that NY police used to attend his shows with a laptop tape recorder, and while Bruce was in jail, political and social critic comic, Mort Saul used to fill in for his gigs at comedy clubs until Bruce was out on bail. Police would tape Mort Saul, who never used outrageous language in his political comedy routines. Bruce eventually took his own life. In recent years, Bruce was given a posthumous pardon by the Mayor of NY for his past obscenity charges. In recent years, the band Two Man Live Crew was acquited of obscenity charges in Florida for their absurd and over the top material. Some jurors even asked the judge for the permission to laugh during the trial to avoid contempt of court or other juror impropriety. Comedy is now given wide means in the legal system for artistic freedom.

In the case of Trump and O'Donnell, some of the allegations that each other charged were exaggerated or less than completely accurate. Both have suffered some business setbacks. During the early 1990's many businesses owned by Trump such as casinos hit some very hard times. Even the Trump Plaza was forced into Chapter 11 bankrupty protection by 1992. Part of the eventual recovery plan by Trump reduced his share of ownership to just 27 percent, with stockholders now controlling a majority share in his business interests, now renamed Trump Entertainment Enterprises. At one point his debt totalled $900 million in personal debt, and $3.5 billion in business debt. Today, after emerging from business reorganization, Trump is still estimated to be worth about $2.5 billion dollars, probably considerably less than his once pre90's value. But his name is still associated with success despite some huge financial setbacks. His NBC TV show, THE APPRENTICE has seen much softer ratings than previous years, where NBC is waiting until January to premiere the show. The Martha Stewart version of the show was a quick ratings failure. And his personal relationships with women including divorces have been well documented in the press.

Rosie O'Donnell started out as a stand-up comic. She eventually gained a vastly successful talk show, that often donated large amounts of money to charities that aided children. A magazine that was named ROSIE fell into eventual hard times with insufficient advertising to cover publication costs, and editorial conflict between O'Donnell and the magazine staff including a lawsuit that was dismissed in court, where the judge found insufficient grounds to grant either side a judgement. Rosie O'Donnell eventually decided to leave her talk show, and raise her children and only do Stand-up comedy on a limited basis, and her former show was a quick failure with new hostess, comic Caroline Rhea, and only limped through just one season before cancellation.

There certainly is enough setbacks and personal garbage that can be dredged up to smear both celebrities. And Trump would be wise to put his efforts into making his January APPRENTICE show the best that he could. Soft raings could signal cancellation of this series this time around, as not being on the Fall NBC Schedule was a sure sign of ratings weakness. The continued public fight with Rosie O'Donnell can only poison some viewers from watching his show. And Trump would have a hard time promoting a lawsuit against O'Donnell, as previously stated, legal actions against comedy face a real uphill effort. The viewing public has largely proven that they like Rosie O'Donnell. She may be loud and outrageous, and not absolutely accurate in all of her statements, but she has proven to be a potent ratings powerhouse both with her own show and on THE VIEW. Other comics such as David Letterman, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien have taken funny swipes at "The Donald" before. Trump should learn to ignore the comics and do the best he can with his business and APPRENTICE tv show. Unlike emerging from personal or business setbacks, winning a battle with comedy is a sure losing effort. Coming into office, president Richard Nixon once hoped and didn't want the press and comics to mock him the way they did LBJ. Look at where that got him. Comedy will survive no matter what the target of the joke thinks. That's been proven.


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