08 January 2009

Reidel takes on Piven

Today's Reidel Report takes on J Pivs and the "mercury poisoning" which forced him to pull out of Speed the Plow. This is my favorite Broadway story of all time, and any/all reporting on it is akin to crack, so this is more than welcome. To top it all off, he ends with an Anecdote about David Merrick (the likes of which are also like crack to me).

SOME backers of "Speed-the- Plow," still seething over Jer emy Piven's
abandonment of the production last month, are pushing for an investigation into
the actor's laughable claim that he was felled by "mercury poisoning."
laughing myself.)
The backers are hoping to "squeeze some money out of him,"
since he destroyed "our chances of making a profit," a source says.
"Speed-the-Plow" was one week away from returning its $3.5 million
investment when Piven skipped off to Los Angeles, waving a note from his doctor
saying his hearty appetite for sushi "elevated the levels of mercury" in his
(I'm still laughing.)
The producers didn't have star insurance
on Piven. If they had, their insurance company would almost certainly
investigate the actor's claim before paying out any money.
But under the
Actors' Equity contract, the producers are entitled to have Piven's medical
records examined by another doctor. If they suspect fraud, they can sue him.
"If it turns out this is phony, it can really kill him," says a veteran
producer who's not involved in "Speed-the-Plow."
Yesterday, the show's lead
producer, Jeffrey Richards, said that Piven has in fact been examined by another
Richards declined to divulge the results, saying, "They are
He adds: "We're in the process of discussing what our next
step will be."
Several top Broadway producers say that if "Speed-the-Plow"
were their show, they'd go after Piven.
"I'd kill the jerk," one says,
"You have an obligation to your investors to make sure he did not
get out of this in an illegal way," says another. "You have recourse, and if I
had suspicions, I'd nail him."
"I'd only bother if the show fell short of
recoupment," says a third. "But I'd let it be known that he's destroyed his
career in the theater."
Legal action is rare on Broadway. Disputes are
usually settled quietly around conference tables or over dinner at Orso.
(Not long before he bolted, Piven was spotted at Orso in the company of two
babes. I note that Orso is an Italian restaurant and does not serve sushi.)
But producers have taken their stars to task before.
In the early '90s,
producers Fran and Barry Weissler accused Anthony Quinn of medical fraud while
he was in a national tour of "A Walk in the Woods."
According to press
reports at the time, Quinn collapsed onstage and had to have triple bypass
surgery. The Weisslers and their insurance company later found out that Quinn
had a history of heart disease but ordered his doctor to lie about his condition
on insurance forms.
The Weisslers won a settlement against him.
Short of
a lawsuit, a producer can always take a page out of legendary producer David
Merrick's playbook and publicly humiliate the "ailing" star.
When Anna Maria
Alberghetti checked into a hospital during the run of "Carnival" in 1961,
Merrick told the press: "She'll be back shortly. And as soon as my doctors get
to her, she'll be OK."
When she returned to the show, as Howard Kissel
reports in his biography of Merrick, "The Abominable Showman," Merrick sent her
wax roses and arranged for photographers to see a man dressed as a doctor headed
to her dressing room with a lie detector.
Now that's producing!

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