Announcer to Ollie: "Let's Rumble!"

Michael Buffer accuses North of stealing his line

By Marcus Errico May 03, 1997 8:00 PMTags
Michael Buffer--known to boxing fans worldwide as the "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" guy--is getting ready for a different kind of brawl. The boxing announcer is squaring off against none other than Iran-Contra conspirator Ollie North for allegedly swiping his trademark, pre-bout yell.

Audio Clip: Michael Buffer, "Let's Get Ready to Rumble"
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In a lawsuit filed this week, North is accused of copyright infringement by playing a recording of Buffer's battle cry to open the syndicated Oliver North Show. "It's what we call 'reproducing' or 'replicating' Michael Buffer's actual tape and voice--it's fully trademarked," said Buffer's attorney Mark Kalmansohn. North and his radio-show producer, Salem Communications, are listed as co-defendants.

Buffer's suit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Wednesday, April 30, also alleges that, because North is an unsavory character, his use of the "rumble" phrase has hurt Buffer's business. "North has been accused of violating federal law," claims the suit, "by facilitating or authorizing the sale and delivery of armaments to the terrorist, fundamentalist regime in Iran and channeling some of the proceeds therefrom to Nicaraguan 'contras'...and lying to the Congress of the United States of America."

"Mr. Buffer would not have chosen to associate his name or trademark with Oliver North "because of Ollie's 'controversial reputation,' to put it mildly," Kalmansohn said. He added that Buffer carefully controls licensing of the yelp and is always compensated, which he wasn't in this case.

The suit requests that North--and guest host, former U.S. Representative Robert "B-1 Bob" Dornan--stop using the line and pay unspecified damages. While not named as a defendant, Dornan is described as "an intemperate and disorderly extremist."

To prevent a courtroom KO, Salem and North have promised to stop using the Buffer clip, according to the suit. Speaking for the defendants, Salem chief operating officer Eric Halvorson declined to comment on the case, citing company policy against discussing litigation.

North isn't Buffer's first legal punching bag. Kalmansohn says Buffer has filed about a half-dozen suits against people or companies for filching the "rumble" line, including Sony and New Line movie studios for Rumble in the Bronx and Booty Call.