Make us your home page
Instagram

Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Club at Treasure Island prepare for legal battle

The sequined gloves are off.

Bill Edwards, who manages the Mahaffey Theater and owns the Club at Treasure Island, and a spokesman for Ruth Eckerd Hall both say their entertainment venues are ready for a heated legal battle against each other.

"We disagree with all claims. We will defend ourselves vigorously," said Eric Blankenship, Ruth Eckerd Hall's marketing director. He was referring to a lawsuit the Club at Treasure Island filed Tuesday against the Clearwater performing arts center accusing it of unfair business practices.

"We've got enough written testimony to kill them," Edwards said. "We've got enough evidence, correspondence back and forth (between Ruth Eckerd Hall and performers) to take care of it."

His club is suing for damages of more than $2 million and alleges Ruth Eckerd staffers spoke disparagingly about Edwards and his club to two performers and "strong-armed" them into backing out of shows scheduled for October and December of this year. Edwards said he could not share copies of the correspondence he has obtained because of the lawsuit.

When asked if Ruth Eckerd staffers contacted comedian Louie Anderson and actor and singer Danny Aiello, the performers at the root of the litigation, Blankenship said he couldn't comment.

Edwards said in an earlier statement that he asked his attorney to reach out privately to Ruth Eckerd Hall's board of directors, hoping the venue's staffers would stop their "bullying tactics." He noted that he was then "shocked" when Ruth Eckerd delivered a notice to preserve evidence related to the Mahaffey Theater, which is owned by the city of St. Petersburg but managed by Edwards.

"We were asked to preserve our documents first, therefore we asked them to preserve theirs," Blankenship said. "Outside of that I can't comment on any other questions at this point."

Ruth Eckerd and Edwards' company, Big 3 Entertainment, both were in the running for the contract to manage the Mahaffey. City leaders decided to go with Edwards in April 2011.

When asked how the Club at Treasure Island obtained copies of correspondence between Ruth Eckerd Hall and the performers, Edwards said it got them by talking with the artists.

Bobby Rossi, Ruth Eckerd's director of entertainment, is also named as a defendant.

"Rossi emotionally assaulted and threatened Aiello's agent regarding the consequences of Aiello's decision to contract with the Club and Edwards, instead of Ruth Eckerd," the suit alleges. "Ruth Eckerd and Rossi went so far as to recruit prominent members of the entertainment industry to assist Rossi in convincing Aiello to perform at Ruth Eckerd and not to perform at the Club."

Aiello was booked in April to perform at Edwards' club in October but canceled his contract in July, according to the suit.

Also in July there was a "reasonable probability" that the Club at Treasure Island would enter into a contract with Anderson to perform at a private show there on Dec. 1. The lawsuit states that Rossi and Ruth Eckerd told Anderson that the Club at Treasure Island and Edwards often promised private shows, but marketed them to the public without regard to any agreement that the show remain private. This statement is false and prevented the club from booking Anderson, the lawsuit states.

When the Club at Treasure Island books performers, members have the first opportunity to buy tickets, but usually some tickets are made available to the public. Its venue seats about 250 people. Ten percent of money made from ticket sales to the public is donated to All Children's Hospital.

Calls to Aiello and Anderson and their agents were not returned.

Aiello is recognizable to many as the fiance to a character Cher played in the movie Moonstruck. He also has acted in more than 50 other movies including Do the Right Thing and The Godfather: Part II.

Louie Anderson has appeared in HBO and Showtime specials, on David Letterman's and Jay Leno's shows.

Edwards said it's not an industry norm to badmouth a competing venue to performers.

"Life's too short to pressure entertainers," he said.

Times staff writer Curtis Krueger and Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Club at Treasure Island prepare for legal battle 08/15/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 16, 2012 12:05am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Who's best global airline? Qatar Airways takes No. 1 spot but Delta tops U.S. carriers

    Airlines

    The good news? Delta Airlines tops all U.S. airlines in a new Skytrax global airline passenger satisfaction survey of the world's best airlines. The bad news? At No. 32, Delta still ranks behind dozens of Middle East, Asian and some European airlines. For Tampa International Airport and the major airlines that operate …

    Southwest Airlines, the biggest carrier at Tampa International Airport, improved its customer satisfaction rating among global airlines in a recent survey.
[Times file photo]
  2. Vinoy resort will ask St. Petersburg voters to approve new parking garage (with tennis courts on top)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment and part of that plan calls for building a new one-story parking garage over eight existing tennis courts.

    The Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment. The Vinoy wants to build a one-story parking garage as part of that project, in place of eight existing tennis courts. The tennis courts would be moved on top of the garage, which would hold 270 parking spots. But the Vinoy needs St. Petersburg voters to approve the project in a November referendum. This is an artists' rendering of the new garage from the street. [Courtesy of Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club]
  3. House committee passes Florida-sponsored flood insurance bill

    Banking

    The House Financial Services Committee pushed through a Florida-sponsored bill intended to cut flood insurance costs. If passed, the bipartisan bill would help create a marketplace for private flood insurance.

    A House committee passed a Florida-sponsored bill meant to lower flood insurance rates.
[Times file photo]
  4. 3 new restaurants open: Deccan Spice Indian food, Farmacy Vegan Kitchen, the Cake Shop

    Food & Dining

    DECCAN SPICE

    Deccan Spice has opened at 2325 Ulmerton Road, in what used to be the elegant and vast Grand Siam space in Feather Sound. It's getting high marks so far for its traditional Indian lunch buffet, and offers a range of southern Indian dishes (vadas and dosas and idlis, oh my) seldom seen …

    Farmacy Vegan Kitchen + Bakery serves wraps, acai bowls, smoothies and juices and plant-based baked goods like strawberry cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Charles Rumph.
  5. The driver who died in a Tesla crash in Florida using Autopilot ignored 7 safety warnings

    Autos

    When Joshua Brown's Tesla slammed into the side of a tractor-trailer last year at more than 70 miles per hour, the fatal accident became the world's first known car crash involving a partly autonomous vehicle.

    Tesla requires its drivers to keep their hands on the wheel even when Autopilot is engaged. A crash in Florida showed that the driver was warned to keep his hands on the steering wheel.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) TXTG101