As I keep rereading the article in The New York Times, it amazes me how this Todd Remis guy sounds like a complete ass. He sues a wedding photographer for missing photos six years after his nuptials? And the marriage ended after only five? It makes no sense. The article was gripping, though, and almost sounded surreal. You couldn't make this up, I thought. It contained so much salacious material it made Kim Kardashian's sham of a marriage second fiddle: a New York financial analyst whose employment status and marriage to a Latvian beauty both ended as the recession hit; a well-known and beloved photographer, who, upon retiring years earlier, handed over the business to his son, only to be pulled back into service because, technically, he was still the owner, is actually the one being sued; 87 years old, and living in Florida, the man also happens to be a Holocaust survivor who learned his trade shortly after escaping Nazi-occupied Vienna in 1939. Yowza! Have you no heart, Mr. Remis?
To put the icing on the cake, the groom (or Groomzilla, according to one of the ensuing 236 articles on the subject), according to the report, was now suing, not for the $4,100 (the cost of the photographs from the original wedding day), but for the full cost of the wedding, which was in excess of $45,000. This would be necessary in order for him to get those last few shots that he originally missed, because the photographer left the event 15 minutes early (as reported by The Times)!
Unfortunately, I didn't come across the article by chance.
I was reading it because Todd Remis, the disgruntled groom in question, called me 10 minutes earlier to alert me of the situation.
"I'm surprised you haven't called me," he said before I could even say hello.
"What do you mean?" I replied, not understanding the urgent nature of the call. I talk to Todd, an old college friend, maybe once a month since graduating from Bowdoin in 1989. Since then he has worked at a few of the top investment management firms in the industry. Todd is usually reserved and upbeat, especially for a guy who hasn't worked in three years. In 2008 he left work when his long-time boss retired, and Todd also left the firm. For the first year off, I recall he worked on getting his golf handicap to single digits; the second year he called himself semi-retired; and this last year he's deemed himself a professional networker who is now, after extensive travels through Europe and Asia, actively looking for a job.
"Pick up The New York Times. They published an article about my lawsuit and now it's all over the Internet. It doesn't look good. I'm not happy because many of the statements made in the newspaper are incorrect. They are turning this into a circus."
As I read the article, I remembered when Todd first told me about the lawsuit in 2008. We were sitting at a sushi restaurant in Santa Monica, and he mentioned it very matter-of-fact. There was a dispute with the wedding photographer and, while trying to resolve the issue, things just escalated. The owner, Dan Fried, was not conceding anything; in fact, he was aggressively going after Todd, almost calling his bluff for a refund.
As Todd and Dan are roughly the same age, both made a nice living, and, from the looks of things, both are good little boys from well-respected and prominent Jewish families, I'm sure there was a bit of pride involved for both parties. Conceding even an inch was admitting defeat. What resulted was one part pride and one part hubris. The ensuing stand-off reminds me of the joke about the new Chinese Jewish restaurant in New York called "So Su Me."
My response to Todd at the time was "drop it." You don't need this. You're going through a divorce, and the settlement is going to be into the six figures, and this dispute with the photographer represents 1 to 2 percent of your divorce settlement. You're a financial analyst. How could anyone see this as a good example?
"It's not about the money," he told me. "I don't care about the $4,000. It's about the principle; he should have resolved the issue, but instead he went after me. I'm using a lawyer from my dad's firm, and we're going to sue. I'm sure it will just get settled. Why would anyone want this to go to court?"
Even though I was not in agreement about the lawsuit, I could understand Todd's point. If I had Todd's resources and easy access to a law firm, maybe I would have responded the same way. I also thought Dan was being a jerk about the situation, leaving his father's legacy to him, exposed to a suit that could have been easily resolved with the age-old dictum, "The customer is always right." I tend to believe, and if some of the comments I've seen online about H & H are true, Todd is not alone in his dissatisfaction with how he was treated.
Instead of participating in escalating sticks and stones, it would be easy enough to get one of the firm's lawyers to write a note or press on with a lawsuit. I would think H & H, the name of the photography firm, upon receiving a note from a lawyer concerning a lawsuit, would respond accordingly and decide to keep costs at a minimum. Obviously, the $4,000 was nominal to both parties. But pride is a funny thing; hubris a bit less.
No one, at that point, realized how the matter would play out a couple of years down the line, or that it would unfold in the court of public opinion. It essentially became a poker match with each young stud calling the bluff.
I do fault Todd on making a bad decision. We all make bad decisions, and hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately Todd's situation became the perfect media storm. I know Todd never wanted to restage the wedding, especially not to Milena, whom I knew well but who seemed ill-suited to married life with my friend. I joked to him that in her hometown in Latvia, they probably erected a statue of Todd for his philanthropic gift to the city (a rich divorcee). I thought the divorce was good for Todd. Once Milena was out of the picture (no pun intended), and before she was out of the country, the marriage was over and Todd was already dating. As recently as last year he had a serious girlfriend (not from overseas). So this case was never about unrequited love.
I feel bad for Todd because the press has taken the ball and run with it. No one has published his side of the story or, at least, the facts. Having read the lawsuit yesterday, I don't see any mention of actually recreating the wedding, only the dollar amount associated with it. I do agree with the judge with many of the motions that were dismissed and this should have gone straight to small claims court, if to court at all.
Let's keep things in perspective. We all make ill-advised decisions when we let pride get in the way or we're blinded by a wee bit of hubris. My viewpoint is that both Todd and Dan had resources at their disposal that few others can afford; for Todd, easy access to top-level legal representation, and for Dan, the lifestyle afforded, in part, by his father's long-standing and well-respected reputation behind the success of the studio.
Todd has a case against Dan Fried for breach of contract, and it's going to see its day in court. I think it would be great if both Todd and Dan could get out of their fathers' shadows, see the light, and get on with things that really matter. In a case like this, there is no winner.