Sunday and Monday might be happy days, but turns out Tuesday is a sue-happy day.
Four members of the iconic Happy Days cast along with the estate of the late Tom Bosley are suing CBS, claiming their famous mugs have been slapped on everything from games to cards to T-shirts to, yes, slot machines without any of them seeing a dime.
“CBS has adopted a don’t ask, don’t pay policy,” their lawyer, Jon Pfeiffer, tells E! News. “If you don’t ask, we don’t pay.”
So which castmembers are ready to rumble?
Giving two big Fonz-like thumbs downs to the network are Anson Williams (Potsie), Don Most (Ralph Malph), Marion Ross (Marion Cunningham) and Erin Moran (Joanie Cunningham). The quartet spoke to CNN today about the bitter money battle, claiming that the “endless” merchandising has become such a success that they want to see some cash as per the terms of their old contracts.
Pfeiffer estimates that the castmembers are owed around $2 million each from the years since the goodies started being hawked. But what got their attention was when they learned they had been slapped on slot machines in 2008 and they began wondering where the heck all that money was going.
“Part of [the $2 million amount] is T-shirts and mugs and greeting cards and that is a small component,” he expained. “The big component is the slot machines, they are worldwide. That is what put them over the edge is the slot machines.”
Pfeiffer said he is currently working on trying to get a handle on exactly how many machines there are around the world and said that the cast first became suspicious when Moran’s husband noticed something was fishy.
“Her husband asked her, ‘Have you ever checked on this?’ and Erin’s mom kept everything, so they pulled her original contract and they saw it in there,” Pfeiffer said. “They gave her 600 and something dollars and she went back to the studio in 2002 and 2003 and was told you’re not owed any money. SAG looks out for actors when it comes to residuals, but it’s not up to them to keep track of merchandising so they have to rely on the studio. They typically send out revenue statements and they never sent any.
“CBS has acknowledged that money is owed, so they will prevail, the next question is how much and that can only truly be answered after the raw data and what the licensees have paid,” says Pfeiffer. It’s so hard to tell how much in the small categories, but with the slot machines and DVD sales it will be a fairly easy number to verify.”
Speaking to CNN, the cast sounded particularly peeved.
“[The show] represented to the public what the best of America has to offer. The friendships, the opportunities, the warmth,” said Williams. “Unfortunately now Happy Days also represents the worst of America—of what major companies are trying to get from it, trying to use it for, and forgetting the family it created.”
“It takes a lot to make me angry because so often my expectations are so low,” said Ross. “But the other day someone came up to me and said ‘You must be cleaning up on those casinos.’ And I said, ‘Well, what are you talking about?’ And he said, ‘If you get five Marions, you get the jackpot.’ “
Williams added to the slot machine anger, saying he trusted that if there was money being made off the spin machine with names like “Cunninghams Go Wild” and “The Fonz,” the cast would be getting checks in the mail.
“We didn’t think about it,” he said. “But when those slot machines hit, it just woke us all up to look back and say ‘Wait a minute.’ “
Even Mr. C. couldn’t take it.
According to Pfeiffer, Bosley “was upset” and just two days before he died, the seminal TV dad called Most and left a voicemail asking for the latest updates on the money issue.
The castmembers see themselves as trailblazers and insist they won’t be the last cast to engage in this kind of fight.
“This is just the way that business is done, and we have, in our original contracts, it says we’re supposed to get ‘X’ amount for merchandising, it says in our contract,” Most told CNN. “But the fact is, we haven’t gotten paid, and many other actors in other shows haven’t gotten paid.”