'Sopranos' showdown as suit goes to court


Registered User
Monday December 10, 2007, 9:30 PM

Six months after he teased, tortured and impressed millions of viewers with his stunningly abrupt series finale, David Chase finally has some answering to do about "The Sopranos."

And this time, he'll do it under oath.

Chase is expected to testify in Trenton against a former North Jersey municipal judge who, for years, has claimed he helped create the blockbuster series and deserves to be paid for it.

The former judge, Robert Baer, even promises to introduce jurors to the Jerseyan he alleges was the real-life inspiration for Tony Soprano during a trial that opens Wednesday in federal court.

The HBO series transformed Chase from a respected but little-known screenwriter into one of television's most respected producers. The show collected a mantel full of Emmys, and Chase reaped millions of dollars.

Critics, fans and bloggers have long sought to trace the gritty characters, plots and locales back to their real-life inspiration. While Chase has discussed the subject in interviews over the years, court papers in the case provide the fullest account yet.

Baer, also a former prosecutor in Hudson and Union counties, first filed his breach-of-contract lawsuit five years ago, claiming it was he who suggested to Chase in 1995 the idea of a mob show based in New Jersey. Chase has acknowledged enlisting Baer's help during his research, but has dismissed Baer's claims as "egocentric fantasies."

Baer has not found a sympathetic audience in U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano. The judge dismissed the case twice, citing the statute of limitations. An appeals court overturned Pisano both times, but upheld much of his rulings. The case survived, but was narrowed dramatically.

As the suit continued this spring, Pisano ruled that it is "clear" Baer did not assist in the creation or development of "The Sopranos." But he found Baer acted as a location scout, researcher and consultant. He said a jury should decide if and how much he should be paid.

Sinn Fein

Infidel and White Interloper
Wackbag Staff
David Chase is a douche, and always came across as kind of an egomaniac (at least in my eyes). He deserves whatever he gets, just as a form of payback for that shitty series finale.


Free Shit / Socialism 2016
David Chase is a douche, and always came across as kind of an egomaniac (at least in my eyes). He deserves whatever he gets, just as a form of payback for that shitty series finale.

I only half agree, I think the series definatly lost some steam, especially the fifth and sixth seasons.

I absolutly LOVED the ending though.


Registered User

'Sopranos' creator David Chase says lawsuit opponent turned down payment

"Sopranos" creator David Chase appeared in federal court today for opening arguments in a trial in which he is being sued by Robert Baer, a former North Jersey municipal judge and county prosecutor who claims he helped develop the HBO mob drama.

A jury sitting before U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano in Trenton will decide whether Baer performed consulting services for Chase before Chase wrote the pilot episode for the show about the Jersey mob, and if and how much he should be paid for those services.

John Agoglia, the former president of NBC Enterprises, which handles the business affairs for entertainment on the network, testified that the services Baer provided were worth upwards of $95,000. Agoglia was an expert witness for Baer.

Chase's attorneys said Baer had no expectation of being paid, and that what transpired between the two men was an exchange of favors typical in the entertainment industry.

The dispute largely centers on a trip Chase took to New Jersey in October 1995, weeks before he wrote the pilot script for "The Sopranos." Baer, who he'd met through a mutual friend, arranged a three-day tour of reputed New Jersey mob hangouts, including a pork store in Elizabeth and a go-go bar in Newark. He also introduced Chase to mob investigators and an Elizabeth waiter he claims was the real-life inspiration for the Tony Soprano character.

Peter Skolnik, Chase's attorney, said Chase tried to pay Baer, but Baer turned it down. He said Chase returned the favor by reading scripts for Baer and providing constructive criticism.

"He remembrs what it's like trying to break into the business," Skolnik said. "It's a soft spot. Because Bob Baer, like David Chase, is a young, aspiring writer."

Harley Breite, Baer's attorney, said Baer and Chase had an agreement: Baer wouldn't be paid, unless the pilot took off and became a success.

"David Chase said that arrangement was fine," Breite said. But, the attorney said, Baer and Chase lost contact, and Baer only learned HBO had picked up the series when filming began in the summer of 1997.

"Mr. Chase never even told Mr. Baer the script had been sold," Breite said.

Baer filed the lawsuit five years ago, initially claiming he was a co-creator of the series and seeking punitive damages. Pisano, however, rejected that claim, saying it was "clear" from the evidence Baer didn't help develop or create the show. The judge, however, ruled a jury should decide if and how much Baer should be paid for the services he provided.

The trial is expected to last five days.


Registered User

No wiseguy, just wisecracks as 'other' Tony Soprano talks
Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tony Soprano survived attempted mob hits, coups and therapy during six seasons of "The Sopranos," but he never had to testify in court. Yesterday, his alleged real-life counterpart did, talking about his gambling problem, the wiseguys he grew up with, and his own minor brushes with the law.

"How we doin', sir?" Tony Spirito asked the judge as he took the stand.

"Not bad, for an old guy," the judge replied.

"Ahh, I'm about as old as you," the 54-year-old Spirito said.

In federal court in Trenton, Spirito testified at a trial to settle a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed against David Chase, the creator of the blockbuster HBO series.

Robert Baer, a former North Jersey municipal judge, sued Chase, alleging he helped create the show. U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano rejected that claim, but ruled a jury should decide if and how much Baer should be paid for services as a location scout, researcher and consultant.

The lawsuit now largely boils down to a trip Chase took to New Jersey in 1995, just before finishing the pilot script. During a three-day tour of mob sites arranged by Baer, Chase met with Spirito over a four-hour lunch in Elizabeth.

"If anybody knows stories about the North Jersey mob, it was me. ... I do know a lot of mobsters. Growing up in Peterstown, New Jersey, you had to," Spirito said, in his thick North Jersey accent, referring to a neighborhood in Elizabeth.

Baer's court papers allege Spirito helped inspire the Tony Soprano character. Chase's lawyers say they'll have a Fox television executive testify that the character was already well-developed by Chase before he ever stepped on the plane to New Jersey.

Spirito said that all he thought he was getting out of the meeting with Chase was a free lunch. But he said that after he saw coming attractions for the Sopranos years later, he made a failed attempt to contact the producer.

"I wanted to cash in, see if I could get a role," he said, referring to what he described as a promise Chase made to give him a bit part if the show materialized.

Spirito said he didn't personally know Baer, but attended the lunch as a favor to a mutual friend. Under cross-examination, Spirito acknowledged that he was surprised to learn Baer was seeking compensation for what he, Spirito, had told Chase.

The producer's attorneys have said Baer had no expectation of being paid by Chase and that what transpired between the two men was an exchange of favors typical in the entertainment industry.

Spirito also testified about how he lost his pizzeria after a bad $20,000 bet on a boxing match that put him in debt with a loan shark. He got a chuckle from the jury when one of Chase's attorneys asked him on cross-examination if he had a gambling problem.

"I call that a gambling problem,' he said. "Yes, sir."

He teased the attorney, David Harris, for his pronunciation of the name of an Italian meat store, Centanni's, and reputed mob hangout Chase visited. "It hurts my ears when you say that," he said. "He butchered it."

But Harris sought to chip away at Spirito's wiseguy credentials.

"You've never done time for any crimes, have you sir?" Harris asked Spirito.

"No, sir," replied Spirito, who said he once was thrown in jail for failure to pay child support.


Humor is reason gone mad
I know thread bumps aren't popular, but whatever. They aired the finale on A&E today (which prompted me to watch the real version), and I gotta say, while i was disappointed the first time, the more times I've watched it, it's actually starting to grow on me