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What Started this Catherine-Zeta Horseshit

The Catherine Zeta-Jones lawsuit against The Spice House continues

From the Gene Files 11/3/2004: Reno, Nevada – Certainly no stranger to a lawsuit, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has decided to sue The Spice House, a Reno, Nevada strip club for using her image on its website.

The club, which didn’t know it had Zeta-Jones’ pic on their site, pulled the photo immediately when they heard from Zeta-Jones’ attorneys. But Zeta-Jones apparently went ahead and sued any way. Meanwhile, a house dancer named Macy who apparently bears a resemblance to Zeta-Jones when festooned in full stripper regalia, is being courted now by Hustler to appear in a photo layout. Macy, in character, is using the name Ta Ta Jones.

This afternoon I spoke to club publicist Kent Wallice. What’s also funny about this story is that Wallice, in wire stories which have appeared around the globe, is being identified as either the club’s manager or owner. What’s not so funny is the fact that Wallice is also being targeted with a suit.

“This whole thing is unbelievable,” says Wallice. “It’s absurd that it’s gone as far as it has.” Wallice then provided some back story some of which has already circulated in the press. “This started about a year ago, October, 2003,” explains Wallice. “Our webmaster was doing a Google search for a royalty-free picture for our site. “We were looking for a pretty face to put up on the menu bar of the newly designed website. We found a website called

“It licenses stuff as free ware, public domain art work,” he goes on to say. “After all, this is a little topless joint in Reno. So we find this image which was actually three-quarters body shot. The face is looking towards the camera, very attractive, a barely concealed bosom. The whole image itself was very titillating. But what he was looking for was a pretty face to have on the menu bar. He just cropped the photo and put it up. About two weeks later, we get a fax from Catherine Zeta-Jones’s attorney saying that’s our client. All that legal stuff. Within an hour, that picture was off the website.”

Wallice said the club then both wrote back and faxed attorneys telling them they had done so. “We said, hey, we’re sorry about that but this is what happened. We thought if we were fooled by that image, how many thousands of other people or websites downloaded that image being fooled into thinking it was a royalty-free graphic. We even told them where we found it by way of explanation.”

Wallice said a few months later Jones’s attorney again contacted the club asking them for a copy of their insurance policy. “That’s when the red flags went up. The owner said fuck that. No way are we sending them the insurance policy. It’s obvious they want to find out if we’re covered so they can go make a claim. They just want to get some money. Then a year later- almost to the day- they filed a lawsuit. It’s absurd.”

Wallice said if the intention was to use a recognizable image on the club’s website, “With all due respect to Catherine Zeta-Jones, why not use Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson?” he asks. “Better yet, Sunset Thomas or Rebecca Love, two adult stars who have done some stuff for Spice House. The reason is we just wanted a generic, pretty face, just for people to look at. Furthermore, they’re claiming now- they’re saying because I responded- they’re suing me, too. They said it shows that all the while we were trying to exploit her by the fact that we’re garnering press from this. If we wanted press, let’s be honest, we would have said fuck you, we got this for free. We got it off a site. If we were looking for a fight we could have used her name. We would have done it a year ago.”

According to Wallice, the club actually first got wind of the suit from the AP wire service. “We were getting phone calls from people around the country. Apparently AP must have moles at the courthouse and found it on the Web. And AP was getting their [Zeta-Jones’s] side of the story and it wasn’t very flattering.”

Wallice said the first press inquiry he got came in around 4am on a Saturday. “So they were saying in the stories repeated calls to the Spice House went unreturned. It made us sound like shit. So I got out there Monday and said let’s get the facts out. I e-mailed Reuters, AP, Adultfyi, I just got it out to the press. Page Six in New York did a classic.

“Then one of the girls, an enterprising young lady who dances by the name of Macy said, hey, I’m changing my name to Ta Ta Jones. Let’s have some real fun with this. Hustler got wind of the whole thing and now they want to do a feature layout of Ta Ta Jones.”

Wallice is quick to point out that The Spice House isn’t a strip club behemoth like a Deja Vu or Centerfolds. “It’s not a chain. It’s not a big corporate entity. It’s a small, privately owned topless cabaret in Reno that’s been called Reno’s Friendliest Topless Cabaret. We really don’t have feature dancers because it’s not that kind of club. It’s not a high profile club. We have regular house dancers. It’s a very humble little cabaret.”

Wallice notes that at one time Sunset Thomas and Rebecca Love had done a series of commercials for them. “That’s because they were at The Kit Kat and I’ve done some publicity for The Kit Kat. I asked them if they would do it. They were being nice but they’ve never danced there. But that’s the closest to any star quality the Spice Club has ever had or sought.”

I suggest to Wallice that if they heard that quickly from Zeta-Jones’s attorneys [two weeks] someone had to have ratted them out. “This is the one thing we can’t figure out,” he says. “We can’t figure out how they found it. On a good day, Spice House may get 600 hits. Maybe they found it on a Google search. We do a site because everyone expects you to have one.”

I wondered if Zeta-Jones also went after the site that was making her image available. Wallice isn’t sure that she hasn’t.

“I do know that picture is no longer available on their website. Apparently it was taken down pretty promptly too. But it strikes me if they were being sued, we would have heard about it. That’s the same way AP found us.”

Wallice said the club is just trying to make good out of a bad situation. “And why shouldn’t Macy get herself a little press?” he asks. “Hustler hasn’t shot her yet but that’s what we’re in the works on. They want her. They’re working out the details.”

According to Wallice, Macy is brand new to all of this. “She has never been in the adult industry in any way, shape or form. She’s a cocktail waitress that moved to Reno. She’s a total rookie.”

I was also curious how much Zeta-Jones wanted in all this. Wallice who concedes Jones’s right to privacy, tells me neither he nor the club has actually been served with the papers. However, attorneys from L.A. have already been in touch with him.

“One of them sent us a copy of the suit. I guess they got it off the Internet. I’ve seen it but I haven’t been served with it.” Wallice thinks there were nine claims to the suit. “Somehow the way it’s worded is like a minimum of $75,000 per claim. They can ask for that much. But that’s my layman’s interpretation of it.

“The reality is it’s going to cost my guys no matter what,” Wallice continued. “They have to get an attorney. There is no way they can get out of it. This is abuse- this is a shakedown. I think it’s legal extortion on her and her attorney’s part.”



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