American Apparel agreed Monday to pay Woody Allen a $5 million settlement to end a lawsuit the famed director filed last year against the Los Angeles-based clothing company.
American Apparel, long known for its racy advertisements and controversial chief executive, had used, without Allen’s permission, an image of him dressed as a Chasidic Jew from “Annie Hall.” Allen quickly demanded that the company take down the billboards, which appeared in Echo Park and Manhattan in 2007, with the Yiddish characters for “der heyliker rebe.”
“It’s of course possible that going through the trial, the jury might have awarded me more money,” Allen said Monday, May 18, reading from a prepared statement outside a New York courthouse. “But this is not how I make my living, and $5 million is enough to discourage American Apparel, or anyone else, from ever trying such a thing again.”
The trial, which was set to begin that day, focused not only on the tension between protecting free speech and intellectual property but also squared off two high-profile American Jews, whose sex lives have previously been the subject of lawsuits.
“Certainly, our belief is that after the various sex scandals that Woody Allen has been associated with, corporate America’s desire to have Woody Allen endorse their product is not what he may believe it is,” an attorney for American Apparel told the Associated Press last month.
Dov Charney, American Apparel’s founder and CEO, has also been dogged by sexual harassment lawsuits. He offered brief remarks outside the courthouse. “I’m not sorry for expressing myself,” he said.
Charney also gave a longer statement on American Apparel’s Web site.
“The billboards were designed to inspire dialogue. They were certainly never intended to sell clothes,” Charney wrote. “I appreciate Woody Allen’s work, but I also appreciate the First Amendment. Let’s not forget that Woody Allen himself has referenced many public figures over the course of his long career, often for the purpose of parody, such as Fidel Castro in the movie ‘Bananas.’”
— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer
Low-Cost, No-Frills Day School Could Cap Skyrocketing Tuition
Administrators and lay leaders from several Modern Orthodox day schools gathered recently at West Coast Orthodox Union headquarters to explore ways to make day schools more affordable, including creating schools with a tuition cap that is roughly half the $12,000 to $24,000 parents are currently paying.
“Within the next few years, annual tuition increases will not be able to sustain themselves,” said Rabbi Saul Zucker, director of the OU’s department of day school and educational services. “The financial burden will come crashing down on both parents and schools. Some schools may go out of business. Some parents may have to pull their children from Jewish schools and send them to public schools, a process that is already beginning to happen.”
Zucker is proposing creating no-frills day schools with a tuition cap of $6,500. The savings would be achieved through increased class sizes of 25 students, fewer teacher aides and only the essential academic offerings. He acknowledged that community leaders might have to grapple with an educational caste system that the introduction of lower-end schools might create.
Zucker also proposed several cost-cutting measures for existing schools — everything from switching to solar energy to changing janitorial suppliers. The OU is now offering schools and synagogues the opportunity to buy into a nationwide collective health benefits plan.
Zucker floated the idea of a Kehilla Fund, where each member of the community, whether they have kids in day school or not, pays a suggested $30 a month toward supporting day schools.
“There is a lot of interest and intrigue,” said Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, West Coast OU director of synagogue and community services.
“He presented a multifaceted plan — there is no silver bullet, no panacea. But what he was trying to present is the direness of the situation. We cannot continue with the status quo.”
— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Senior Writer
Riding for a Buddy Who Can’t
On Tuesday, about 85 3- to 5-year-olds from Kehillat Israel’s Early Childhood Center rode their bikes, tricycles and scooters around a miniracetrack to raise money for Beit Issie Shapiro, an Israeli-based organization that treats developmentally disabled children. The ECC at the Reconstructionist congregation in the Pacific Palisades was one of approximately 25 Los Angeles area schools that hosted a Cycles for Smiles fundraiser this year.
Each school was assigned a child with developmental disabilities who attends the Beit Issie Shapiro facilities in Israel. Kehillat Israel’s child, Oren, is a 3-year-old with a metabolic illness and mental retardation. The teachers explained Oren’s disabilities and other types of special needs with the help of dolls in wheelchairs and with walkers.
The children’s enthusiasm for the project was highlighted when they lined up on the starting line. Paul Hoffman, the ECC director, cheered, “Who are you riding for?” “Oren!” the kids yelled.
In attendance were Naomi Stuchiner, founder and CEO international of Beit Issie Shapiro, and Ed Ward, national director of American Friends of Beit Issie Shapiro. Stuchiner, Issie Shapiro’s daughter, started the organization in her father’s memory in 1980. “When [learning about disabilities] starts very young, that’s when you have a society that’s caring and compassionate,” Stuchiner said of the Cycles for Smiles fundraiser.
The first Cycles for Smiles event was set up by Stuchiner’s good friend, Margie Ipp, six years ago at Temple Judea in Tarzana. Since then, thousands of children in the Los Angeles area have participated in the fundraisers, which have raised a total of $250,000. On June 28, there will be a communitywide Cycle for Smiles event at Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles. At the event, Emmy-winner Carol Leifer, who wrote for “Seinfeld,” will speak about her new book.
— Jason Lipeles, Contributing Writer