MTV reality star Johnny "Bananas" Devenanzio may have won the last two installments of "The Challenge," but he lost his defamation lawsuit against HBO, Time Warner and "Entourage" creator Doug Ellin, which the New York Superior Court threw out last week.
"Johnny Bananas" had hired Lindsay Lohan's former attorney, Stephanie Ovadia, and alleged that Johnny Drama's "Entourage" cartoon, titled "Johnny's Bananas," infringed on his nickname, constituted defamation, and had caused him both emotional distress and financial harm.
HuffPost TV talked to a dejected, but resolute "Johnny Bananas" about how he was dealing with the legal setback, and tried to understand why he went forward with the lawsuit in the first place.
Sorry to hear about the lawsuit getting thrown out.
Yeah, it's kind of a bummer, man. But it's kind of the risk you run ... you're kind of taking a chance when you go into the legal realm. We always knew it was a possibility ... I see it more as a hurdle or roadblock that we're gonna have to figure a way around.
So why did you file the lawsuit? What about the Johnny Bananas "Entourage" character felt like a personal attack?
It's a situation where I've spent six years of my life creating a brand, and becoming a public figure being known by that name. So then for a show like "Entourage" to come along, who basically appeals to the same viewing audience as my show does, and turn my character into a cartoon monkey, that just didn't sit right with me.
The example I use is they have their own characters on that show. What would HBO do if I went on my show and started calling myself Johnny Drama? ... I'm sure HBO would have had a problem with that if it was the other way around.
Do you think they would have sued?
I have no idea. They probably would have threatened to.
Did the "Entourage" character actually cause you any financial harm?
Basically what this is about is I make a large part of my living doing appearances, just being at bars and clubs and colleges at different events. The problem that this posed is that there started to be confusion, where people started saying, "Well, who are we booking? Are we booking you, or are we booking the Johnny Drama character? Are people gonna know it's you?"
I've been to clubs before, and people have been like, "Where's Kevin Dillon at? We thought he was appearing here." That's basically what the basis of our law suit was: This has the ability to cause me harm financially and create confusion.
So you didn't see the cartoon character as a personal shot at you?
I didn't think "Entourage" was making fun of me ... but they didn't do their due diligence when researching this character. I'm sure before they came out with this character, somebody somewhere had to know there was another person in the entertainment industry going by Johnny Bananas ... Mark Wahlberg, who's one of the executive producers, is a huge fan of our shows, he watches the "Challenges." So for that to come out and for them to claim that they had no idea the name was being used, I just find that hard to believe.
Have you ever heard of the Chicago mobster named Johnny DiFronzo? He went by "Johnny Bananas" too.
Yeah, yeah. I've heard of him. He went by that too, but here's the thing: In the entertainment industry, nobody knows who that guy is. If you Google the name and scour through it, I'm sure 90 percent of the internet hits were about me.
In the lawsuit, you had claimed emotional stress. Is that just a legal term, or did this actually cause you emotional stress?
That's obviously legal jargon, but it has the ability to cause me financial losses, and that, in turn, yeah. Any time you're losing revenue or the ability to create revenue ... I mean, that could technically create emotional stress.
Did it cost you any money to bring the lawsuit?
No, no. Well, my attorney that was working for me, we had an agreement worked out as far as like, how fees were going to be paid and that sort of thing.
In all honesty, the financial part isn't even the upsetting part. We thought we had a strong case and still do ... the case wasn't dismissed based on merit, but on statue of limitations, which had apparently expired a month before we filed. We literally missed our deadline by a month. I didn't know there was a one-year statue of limitations on defamation, but apparently, that's the case. So that's what I want to make sure everyone understands. A judge didn't look at the case and say, "This is ridiculous. I'm throwing it out."
Editor's note: In addition to the statute of limitations ruling, the judge also included this rebuke: "In any event, the telecast, even if repeated, does not constitute atrocious, indecent or utterly despicable conduct meeting the requirements for an intentional emotional distress claim." HBO was also prepared to argue that nicknames are not protected under New York State law.
So you don't see this as a dead issue?
We'll see. I really haven't had a whole lot of time to digest it yet ... But I'm a fighter, dude.
What would you say to a critic of your lawsuit who might call it frivolous and a way to keep your name in the headlines?
Everyone's going to have their opinions, no matter what I do, no matter what anyone says. You can say whatever you want, I know what this is and what this isn't and that's really all that really matters. I couldn't' care less ... I've had people who disliked me from day one, and anyone who puts themselves in the public realm is going to have that.
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