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Deborah Gregory’s Bad Deal with Disney–Black History Month in LA Times

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In an allegedly heart-tugging Column One piece, Josh Gitlin writes a classic victim story. The author of the Cheetah Girls books, Deborah Gregory, got screwed by Disney. Have the editors at the paper have been sitting on this story, waiting for Black History month? Black Enterprise ran nearly the exact same story,written by Nicole Marie Richardson, in Dec. 2006.

Gregory was a free-lance journalist who got a $40,000 advance from Hyperion Books to write a series aimed a urban kids. She dreamed up the Cheetah Girls. Producer Cheryl Hill brought the idea to BrownHouse Productions. Disney Channel went for it in a big way.

Flanked by her entertainment attorney, Lita Richardson, she signed a 2001 contract giving Disney approval to make a movie or TV series based on the books, as well as additional projects such as DVDs, CDs and other merchandising. In return she would get 4% of the net profits.

Gregory wrote a total of 16 novels, got $180,000 in advances and was co-producer on the films, but no “creative input”. Welcome to showbiz. And while she did make a lousy deal with a company run by raptors, her lawyer didn’t do her any favors. Lita Richardson is a former vice-president for Magic Johnson Enterprises and now a movie and television producer.

Richardson didn’t talk to Getlin:

Asked to explain what happened to her former client, Richardson declined to comment, even though Gregory gave her permission to talk about the case. The attorney said she represented the author long ago and that the files were in storage.

Blaming Disney for this lousy deal is like blaming a coyote for eating Fluffy–that’s what they do. Gregory has a new book and a new attorney, Lisa Davis, who’s presumably a better advocate for her client, but then again, Gregory’s not a first-time author. The book comes out in June. So, if the deal is old news and the book’s not out yet, why is the LAT reporting on this now?

A blog by Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, a front page story about an African-American woman as victim–the LA Times is really on a roll. Why not let Erin Aubry Kaplan be guest editor for the whole month?

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