DENEY TERRIO FROM SNF SAYS YOU SHOULD BE DANCING. . . . .BUT NOT ON HIS DIME
Remember the 1977 megaflick Saturday Night Fever? How about Dance Fever (circa 1979-1985)? Well, they’re back. . . .sort of. In a new lawsuit filed in a Florida federal court Denis George Mahan a/k/a Deney Terrio is suing Hasbro for injunctive relief and damages for the company’s “willful and deliberate” use of his name and image for its “Vinnie Terrio” cartoon character and figurine. Mahan v. Hasbro Inc. et al., No. 15-0188, complaint filed (M.D. Fla., Orlando Div. Feb. 9, 2015).
As many of you might know Mahan/Terrio was the host of the 80s hit show Dance Fever and he is generally recognized as a disco aficionado however, he was also the choreographer who worked with John Travolta in the iconic 1977 flick Saturday Night Fever. In this new suit Mahan/Terrio alleges toy company Hasbro is unlawfully using his image through one of the company’s more popular characters.
According to Mahan/Terrio the story goes like this. Hasbro produces and owns the cartoon Littlest Pet Shop which features a character named “Vinnie Terrio,” a gecko who likes disco dancing. Mahan/Terrio alleges the character is modeled after him. Mahan/Terrio’s complaint goes on to say that the Hasbro designer who created “Vinnie” named the character after Deney, and, that the co-creator and a story editor for “Littlest Pet Shop” admitted in a 2014 tweet that Vinnie Terrio is a pun on Deney Terrio. Littlest Pet Shop is one of Hasbro’s top-grossing productions and according to Mahan/Terrio, the character Vinnie Terrio performs many of Mahan’s signature moves and features his hairstyle.
Mahan/Terrio’s suit also alleges that Hasbro is selling or has authorized the sale of Vinnie Terrio figurines on several internet sites and through McDonald’s Corp., where the figurine is found in Happy Meals.
The gist of the lawsuit is that Mahan/Terrio says that Hasbro’s use of his image and last name has caused and is likely to cause actual confusion as to whether he sponsored or approved the Vinnie Terrio figurines. Mahan/Terrio also alleges Hasbro has profited from the misappropriation of his name, image and likeness.
Mahan/Terrio’s action is for false endorsement under a federal law as well as being based on Florida’s right-of-publicity law which states that no person shall display or otherwise publicly use for commercial purposes the name or other likeness of any natural person without the express consent of that person.
Editor’s Note: Reduced to its most simplest form, the right of publicity gives celebrities the right to realize the economic value of their identities. (By way of contrast, a right of privacy generally applies where the person suing is not a celebrity or famous).
For now, we’ll have to wait for Hasbro’s side of the story and to see how they dance their way out of this one.
KEN “K BO” BIEDZYNSKI