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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"National Enquirer" Will Fund an Annual $45,000 Prize for Unproduced Plays

Posted by on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 2:14 PM

It wasn't their idea, of course.

But the magazine made some appallingly false claims about playwright and screenwriter David Bar Katz, a longtime friend of Philip Seymour Hoffman, in the days after Hoffman's death. Katz sued. The Enquirer quickly settled for an undisclosed sum and Katz, to his eternal credit, turned that money into a new playwrights' foundation which will award an annual prize.

It's the thinnest of silver linings in the Hoffman story—another completely preventable, completely senseless overdose that happened because we as a society are too prudish, squeamish, and fundamentally chickenshit to face the scientifically demonstrable facts about drug addiction and drug prohibition—but it's something.

From the NYT:

... the article, published by The National Enquirer, was the first pebble of a landslide of malignant fiction that sprawled across the web.

It quoted Mr. Katz as saying he and Mr. Hoffman were lovers who had freebased cocaine the night before his death, and said Mr. Katz claimed to have seen him using heroin many times.

“After I dropped the kids at school, I looked at my phone, and I’ve gotten a million calls,” Mr. Katz said. Photographers were stalking him on the street.

Mr. Katz had not spoken with The Enquirer that week, or ever. Mr. Hoffman had never used drugs in his presence, he said, and had spoken often with him about addiction and his pursuit of sobriety. In a matter of hours, Mr. Katz signed the complaint in a libel suit. Within two days, The Enquirer had withdrawn the article and apologized.

... on Tuesday, less than three weeks after the article was published, Mr. Katz said he had formed the American Playwriting Foundation, which will give out an annual prize of $45,000 for an unproduced play. In honor of Mr. Hoffman’s dogged pursuit of artistic truth, it will be called the Relentless Award.

The foundation and the prize are being paid for by The Enquirer and its publisher, American Media Incorporated, under a settlement of the lawsuit, said Judd Burstein, the lawyer for Mr. Katz

Beautifully done, Mr. Katz. His lawyer says there's enough money in the pot "to give out these grants for years to come."

The Enquirer was also famously sued by Carol Burnett after it claimed she had had a loud, drunken argument with Henry Kissinger in a D.C. restaurant.

 

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