Aretha Suing Mad at "Star"

Soul legend files her $50 million federal defamation lawsuit against supermarket tabloid over alcoholism allegations

By Josh Grossberg Nov 29, 2001 9:45 PMTags
Naturally, editors of the Star have made Aretha Franklin feel like an angry woman.

So angry, in fact, that the iconic R&B songstress has launced a $50 million federal defamation lawsuit against the supermarket tabloid. Franklin is fuming over an article published in December 2000 alleging the Queen of Soul had missed several concert dates due to her battles with the bottle.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Michigan by Franklin's attorneys, claims the Star defamed Franklin's reputation and threatened her career by fabricating the story and lying about the state of her health. Franklin's camp seeks $50 million in damages.

The suit makes good on a threat Franklin made almost a year ago. When the article was first published, she lashed out at Star and vowed to bring a lawsuit. But it took her attorneys 11 months to actually file the paperwork.

According to Franklin's Los Angeles-based attorney, Barry Langberg, the reason for the delay was because the singer was waiting on the paper to publicly retract the story.

"There were a few letters, maybe two or three, asking for a direct retraction [to the story]," says Langberg. "But what they printed actually exacerbated the situation and added to her frustration."

Langberg, who has made a career of suing the Star, noted that it also took Franklin some time to hire the right attorneys, who then needed time to sort out the case.

Reps for the Star, meanwhile, had no comment, citing the pending litigation.

When she first found out about the story (headlined "Aretha Franklin Drinking Herself Into Grave"), Franklin released a statement through Arista, her record company, saying she "canceled one or two appearances out of 50 or more this year for legitimate reasons."

Then, after labeling the article "trashy and grossly untrue," Aretha really let the tabloid have it.

"I realize this magazine, as most intelligent Americans do, writes sleaze for big Gs about innocent celebrities and high-profile people with reckless regard for the truth and no proof of such things; based on hearsay and their personal resentments; and on the old lame bulls--t of 'sources close to.' Hopefully, 'sources close to' have advised them that I am filing a $50 million lawsuit for defamation of character, gross inaccuracies, and lies and the writer's cheap, low-class, vicious, and reckless attempt at journalism at my expense," she said in her statement.

The allegations of alcoholism, though, have hardly dampened the 59-year-old Franklin's luster. In fact, R&B's original diva was honored by VH1 with her own TV special earlier this year in which she and other artists performed at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

And Franklin, the first female performer ever to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is also featured on the just-released Ali soundtrack, which also includes cuts from Alicia Keys, Al Green, Lisa Gerard and Everlast.