LOS ANGELES (CN) – Ted Williams, a formerly homeless man whose vocal talents hit YouTube and made him a national sensation this year, says three Hollywood producers took him for a ride while he struggled with drug and alcohol problems.
In his Superior Court complaint, Williams says that Zev Suissa, Randy Thomas and Joe Cipriano exploited his intoxicated state to have him sign a two-year shop agreement for a reality TV show, movie, radio show and book.
“Defendants Suissa, Thomas and Cipriano, who during meetings in Los Angeles, with knowledge of plaintiff’s incapacity and inability to comprehend the gravity of his actions or understand any written agreement, induced plaintiff to sign a one-sided, onerous, burdensome, non-negotiated and blatantly unfair term sheet,” the lawsuit states.
Titled “Untitled Ted Williams Project,” the term sheet grants the producers at least a 20 percent cut of gross fees for any radio show, book or personal appearances. Williams attached the document as an exhibit to his lawsuit.
The terms for an “unscripted” TV series or movie state that producers’ fees shall fall “within customary parameters” of the film and television industry.
The producers reserved the right to extend the agreement if Williams entered rehab. They also required Williams to stay sober, attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and submit to a sobriety test if he misses any work days or “key” meetings.
Williams was panhandling on the streets and highways of Franklin County, Ohio, when a Columbus Dispatch videographer recorded him for an online interview. He was known to locals as the Radio Man and had formerly worked as a radio announcer before drug and alcohol problems landed him in jail.
“The video – which highlighted plaintiff’s phenomenal vocal talents – gained national attention, and plaintiff, who was in the throes of substance abuse, began a whirlwind run of guest appearances on local and national television shows, including ‘The Early Show‘ on CBS and ‘Today’ on NBC,” the complaint says.
“Unfortunately, plaintiff was unable to deal with the stress and the pressures that came with his national recognition, and his dependence and use of alcohol and drugs became more severe,” the suit adds.
Williams claims his personal manager, Al Battle, introduced him to the three producers while signing him up for voice work with Kraft Foods and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Tragically, instead of helping plaintiff deal with his significant drug and alcohol abuse, Battle made things worse, and plaintiff was totally incapable of understanding what was happening to him or handling plaintiff’s own affairs,” the suit says.
Williams says his “impaired mental condition was obvious to any person with ordinary life experience” and claims that when he signed the producer agreement he did not have the benefit of “independent counsel” to advise him.
“The complaint tells its own tale,” attorney Kenneth Freundlich, who filed suit on behalf of Williams, told Courthouse News. “We’re going to move forward and make sure Williams is free to pursue his career free of the defendants.”