Lawsuit over a thank-you is dismissed

April 28, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- A federal judge has dismissed an unusua libel suit by a high-powered Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer who claimed that celebrity author Kitty Kelley defamed him when she thanked him for acting as a source for her unauthorized biography of Nancy Reagan.

In Ms. Kelley's controversial 1991 book on the former first lady, she listed attorney Mickey Rudin as one of 612 sources -- the people she said had made "the most important contribution to this book."

Mr. Rudin has steadfastly maintained that he never talked to Ms. Kelley or provided any assistance to the writer, with whom he had previously tangled when she wrote her stinging volume "My Way" on his long-time client Frank Sinatra.

Among the most controversial charges in Ms. Kelley's book, "Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography," was that Mr. Sinatra and Mrs. Reagan were involved in a lengthy affair, including assignations during long White House "lunches." Mr. Sintra denied such a relationship, Mrs. Reagan made no direct comment and Mr. Rudin said in an interview that he did not believe the pair were an item.

Mr. Rudin's primary contention in his suit was that Ms. Kelley had maliciously listed him as a source for the Reagan book to create the false impression that he revealed confidential information about Mr. Sinatra, whom he represented from 1955 to 1987.

However, Mr. Rudin is not quoted in the book, nor mentioned in the 528 pages of text. The only mentions of him are in the acknowledgments section and in the footnotes to one chapter which refer to correspondence with Mr. Rudin.

The case was so unusual that Victor Navasky, editor of the Nation magazine, dubbed it "libel by thank you."

Mr. Rudin claimed that he suffered injury to his personal and professional reputation, incurred legal fees in waging the suit and suffered "great upset, shock, mental suffering, and emotional distress, along with shame, humiliation and embarrassment."

In two separate opinions in recent weeks, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ruled against Mr. Rudin, who has been one of the country's most powerful show business lawyers for four decades.

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