Friday, March 29, 2002
Chicago A retired Chicago janitor is taking on Hollywood powerhouses such as Eddie Murphy and Ron Howard, alleging in a federal lawsuit his likeness was used without his permission for a popular character on the former Fox network show, "The PJs."
The lawsuit by Tally Collier, a 73-year-old great-grandfather, alleges he shared at least nine characteristics with the animated show's Mr. Sanchez character, most strikingly that they both use a voice box to speak.
The suit contends that the image of Collier and numerous others in "The PJs" came from a 1997 videotape of life in the Robert Taylor Homes made by a documentary filmmaker. Collier lived and worked in the public housing development for more than 30 years.
The filmmaker, according to the lawsuit, sent a copy of the videotape to Oprah Winfrey, suggesting that she pass it along to others if she decided not to air it. Nine months later, the suit alleges, "The PJs" went on the air with the strikingly similar Sanchez character.
In addition to the voice box, the suit says, Collier and Sanchez both have dark eyebrows, jowled cheeks, a similar nose, chin and build, and walk with canes.
According to the suit, relatives of Collier's from around the country as well as complete strangers have commented on the similarities.
Numerous other residents of the Taylor Homes who were depicted in the videotape also bear uncanny resemblance to additional characters in the show, the suit contended.
"The possibility this is all one big coincidence defies the imagination," attorneys Marc N. Blumenthal and James A. Karamanis wrote in the lawsuit.
Among those sued are Murphy, identified as a creator of the show and a voice of one character; Howard, said to be an executive producer of the show; as well as Fox Broadcasting Co. and Warner Bros. Television.
The suit seeks a minimum of $10 million in punitive damages and said that reducing Collier "without his consent to a cartoon figure, has defamed, insulted, humiliated and embarrassed him."