The one person that every celebrity in Hollywood has on speed dial – even above their publicist and plastic surgeon – is Marty Singer. With a style and reputation that British lawyers can only dream of, it’s no wonder he’s the go-to litigator of choice for celebrities in the US.
This article was first published in January 2015. Marty Singer is no longer working for Bill Cosby, and appears to have has avoided litigation with Janice Dickinson (at least for the moment).
Last week, three more women came forward with new allegations against Bill Cosby, pushing the grand total of those who are publicly claiming to have been sexually assaulted by him to around the 30 mark. Cosby’s reaction to this? He’s now joking about it on stage.
To make light of such serious allegations when fresh ones are emerging on an almost weekly basis is a pretty ballsy response (even Jim Davidson had the good grace to wait until police confirmed there would be no charges brought against him before he turned his Yewtree experience into a one-man show).
But after so many years of refusing to even acknowledge these allegations, much less answer them, where on earth has Cosby suddenly mustered the courage to start cracking gags about the fact that he’s a widely suspected date rapist?
The answer may not lie so much in a change in Bill Cosby’s attitude, more in a change in his personnel. You see, Cosby has recently added somebody new to the payroll. Litigator sans frontières, Martin D. Singer.
Meet Marty Singer
The name Marty Singer is well known inside Hollywood. It’s well known inside media and legal circles too, but it remains relatively unknown in the real world. If you keep up with your gossip, the chances are that you’ll have read the name a number of times, but it’s a detail that few people commit to memory – because, really, who cares who’s issuing the statement for Sylvester Stallone, or Celine Dion, or Nicolas Cage? But Singer is someone who links an unprecedented number of celebrity scandals.
A colossus of celebrity litigation, he occupies a space in the American legal system unlike anyone else. Because American law differs somewhat from UK law, there isn’t really a clear-cut British equivalent. British firms like Carter-Ruck and Schillings have been known to throw their weight around aggressively, but they look like fairground goldfish when compared with the wild piranha that is Marty Singer.
Moreover, comparing Marty to Carter-Ruck or Schillings doesn’t really paint the full picture, because although Marty does have a well-established reputation for being bullishly efficient, he’s also regarded equally highly as something of a fixer too. The person you go to if you need something a little more than legal representation. The person you go to if you have a problem that needs ‘disappearing’.
The closest equivalent in that respect would have been someone like Max Clifford (until Max Clifford went and made that analogy potentially libellous by getting himself imprisoned for sexually assaulting underage girls), for Marty Singer is a man who is unafraid to roll up his sleeves and get stuck into the seedy side of celebrity.
Say, for example, you fucked your friend’s wife, got her pregnant and needed someone to help you manage the ensuing shitstorm when the press inevitably finds out that the cuckolded party has called you out by name in their divorce papers. You call Marty Singer (Simon Cowell did).
Or, to take another, say you can’t seem to sit through a single massage without popping an almighty boner, throwing yourself on your masseur and french-kissing him passionately against his will. Worry not. Marty Singer will have your back, no matter how many men come forward with similar stories (he worked wonders for John Travolta).
It’s not like you have to stand accused of slipping quaaludes into women’s drinks and then having non-consensual intercourse with them in order to qualify for the Singer treatment. Your problem can be something as simple as enforcing a noise abatement order.
In 2011, Quentin Tarantino was having a personal issue with his neighbour, Alan Ball (creator of Six Feet Under and True Blood). More correctly, he was having an issue with Alan Ball’s collection of exotic birds. Their squawking had become so invasively loud that Tarantino felt he was no longer able to work in his home and so, taking no chances, he hired Singer to file a lawsuit against Ball. In legal terms, it’s a little like using a chainsaw to crack a Kinder Egg – excessive, but there’s no denying that it gets the job done.
The case was resolved without the use of the courts, Tarantino enjoyed enough peace and quiet to be able to finish his script, but because the details of the resolution are secret, the fate of the birds – somewhat ominously – remains unknown.
The Singer Style
In positioning himself as this unique combination of both prosecutor and publicist, Marty has developed a very distinctive prose style. Those who have been subject to his letters would easily be able to recognise one from its tone alone (although the tell-tale letterhead of his firm, Lavely & Singer, does rather give the game away when it appears in a reader’s inbox).
First he likes to make sure he’s hit all of the necessary legal checkpoints – repeatedly using the language of the law, accusing people of “deliberate recklessness,” “obvious falsity,” and “malicious intent” in order to state his case. Then, in the spaces between, he likes to go a little off-piste.
Another thing he likes to do is show his personal affection for his clients. He has zero qualms about licking their arses from crack to coccyx. When word was going round in 2003 that Catherine Zeta-Jones had been linked to the fad-of-the-moment Atkins diet, he fired letters out to every media outlet making it stone cold clear that Ms Zeta-Jones had absolutely no connection to the diet and it would be extremely unwise for anyone to suggest otherwise.
Where most lawyers would feel content to leave it at that, Marty continued:
“… these publications are falsely representing to the average reader, including many young women who look up to my client and admire her beautiful appearance…”
Is it any wonder that the egos of Hollywood pay top dollar for such services?
Best of all though, like any truly great character, Marty has his own catchphrase. No matter how many pages of his signature brand of straight-talkin’ legalese he sends out, you can be sure that he will it sign off with the Singer Zinger:
“Govern yourself accordingly, and proceed at your peril”.
His reputation has been hard-earned and, when profiled, he is invariably described as a vicious canine. The phrases “guard dog”, “attack dog” and “pitbull” will inevitably be deployed – and Marty loves it. In fact, he enjoyed one LA Magazine piece which christened him Marty “Mad Dog” Singer so much that he copied and pasted the relevant section onto the ‘Profile’ page of his company website.
And how was this image forged? By working for some of the best and brightest in their darkest hours.
The Rogues’ Gallery
It’s a real shame that Marty Singer doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page, because the “Notable Cases” section would make for some seriously juicy reading. In lieu of this, we decided to compile our own.
Clients who have employed the services of Mad Dog Marty include:
Arnold Schwarzenegger – When allegations of adultery started emerging during Arnie’s first gubernatorial campaign, who was the man by his side, casting aspersions on the credibility of the women coming forward? Why, it was Martin D. Singer, Attorney-At-Law!
Rick Salomon – You’d have thought that if you’d made a video of you knobbing the heiress of the Hilton Hotel fortune and, somehow, that same video had happened to get uploaded to the internet and sold for profit, you’d quickly find yourself being sued into oblivion. Not Rick Salomon. He had the good sense to retain the services of Marty Singer – who, on his client’s behalf, started throwing around $10 million lawsuits like confetti.
Eddie Murphy – Singer has been called into action a number of times at the behest of Eddie Murphy, usually with lawsuits that concern his relationships with various trans sex workers. (The investigative journalist and author Mark Ebner wrote a fascinating account of Murphy and Singer’s dealings on his website, Hollywood, Interrupted, which is well worth a read if you have the time.)
Charlie Sheen – Remember when Charlie Sheen went doolally a few years back, got booted off Two And A Half Men, holed up with a harem of porn stars, and started ranting on and on about his tiger blood, his Adonis DNA and his #winning attitude? Guess who was representing him…
Ashton Kutcher – Remember when Ashton Kutcher then replaced Charlie Sheen on Two And A Half Men? Guess who represents him too…
Britney Spears – Jonathan Coad is the British lawyer-of-note when it comes to sex tape allegations (he famously represented Tulisa in her case, and Jasmine Lennard when naked pictures of her emerged). When you’re out in the States though, there’s no prizes for guessing who you want at the helm of your $20m lawsuit.
Kim Kardashian – If you ever speculated that Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage to Kris Humprhies was in any way some sort of publicity vehicle then the chances are that you popped up on Marty’s radar. Kim hired him to make sure that nobody got the mistaken impression that she was doing it for any sort of attention.
Singer’s most legendary success though was arguing a case for Entourage star Jeremy Piven. Piven found himself tied up in a contractual dispute in 2008 regarding his performance in a Broadway production of Speed-The-Plow. Piven had left the show rather abruptly, four months into a six-month contract. Singer argued to producers that Jeremy was perfectly entitled to pull out of the show in the middle of the run on health grounds – due to mercury poisoning from eating too much sushi.
This triumph alone was not enough for Singer though, and he has since doggedly stamped down on anyone who dares to make light of the toxic tuna incident.
The Village Voice tried to make a joke about it in a headline in 2010 when news broke that Will & Grace star Megan Mullally had also pulled out of a Broadway production: Megan Mullally Splits Broadway Show: Is She the New Jeremy Piven? In the body of the text, the writer also suggested that Ms Mullally ought to scatter a few empty tuna cans around her hotel room to defend herself from any breach of contract claims.
This joke had Marty saddling up immediately, dispatching a letter alleging defamation to his client. Even though Jeremy Piven did actually leave a Broadway show. And did actually blame it on his tuna consumption. And Marty Singer was an instrumental force in making that happen.
Dog Eat Mad Dog
Naturally though, you can’t expect to have a career as long and as illustrious as Singer’s without hitting a few potholes along the way. That’s just life. But the trouble with using tactics as aggressive as Singer’s is that if they ever do backfire, then they backfire badly.
A couple of years ago, Marty got himself in a spot of bother when he found himself facing the wrong end of a lawsuit.
It started when he signed on to represent Shereen Arazm (the host of Top Chef Canada and a restaurant owner), who wanted to take action against two of her business partners (Lonnie Moore and Mike Malin) for embezzling company funds. When the time came for Marty to launch one of his trademark attacks though, his virtuoso style led him onto some pretty dodgy ground.
You see, this particular case involved some rather scandalous stuff. The accusation surrounding Mike Malin was that he had been using this company cash to bankroll his sex life – and his sex life was somewhat unorthodox. The plaintiff claimed to have evidence that Malin had been meeting up with older men from Craigslist and using embezzled funds to pay them to participate in father/son uncle/nephew role-play sex fantasies.
This sort of thing is dynamite to someone like Singer, who wanted to make it clear to Malin that his client was not messing about. But this is how he phrased the draft lawsuit.
“I have deliberately left blank spaces portions of the Complaint dealing with your using company resources to arrange ____ liaisons with _________ _______ (photo enclosed) ________. When the complaint is filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, there will be no blanks in the pleading.”
Worded a little like a ransom, wouldn’t you say? Well, that was certainly the opinion of Malin, who immediately launched his own lawsuit in return accusing Singer of extortion. This opinion was backed up by an LA judge, who said:
“The allegations of sexual misconduct contained in the demand letter in this case are very tangential… the letter is best read as extortion as a matter of law [because] [i]t threatens to reveal the names of sexual partners.”
Eventually a Court of Appeal ruled that Singer’s allegations constituted “protected speech” and so he was cleared of any blackmail allegations but it was a fairly dicey moment for him.
The experience doesn’t appear to have clipped his wings much though, as he appears to be crashing about in a similarly dangerous fashion with his handling of the Cosby case.
Singer has served up a slew of letters to any of the outlets who wrote stories on the recent Entertainment Tonight interview in which model and presenter Janice Dickinson (one of the more high-profile women to allege that Bill Cosby drugged and assaulted her) spoke out about her experience.
BuzzFeed chose to publish their letter, if you’d like to see for yourself exactly what a Singer Zinger looks like.
He isn’t just using the trusty back channels to get his message across though this time. No. This time Marty Singer spoke out publicly, making a strikingly personal statement in defence of Bill Cosby.
“The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40 or even 50 years ago have escalated past the point of absurdity. These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.”
It is worth pointing out that Marty Singer is under absolutely no obligation to say things like that – either professionally or personally. Most attorneys would address the claims made against their client and state their intention to fight them. Others would maybe read a statement on behalf of their client, one that the client themselves had prepared. Very few – if any – would have the stones to stand up and stake their professional reputation to support such a controversial client by tackling these claims head on.
Marty wasn’t quoting Cosby when he used words like “fantastical,” “ridiculous,” and “illogical”. He was speaking as Marty Singer and, in doing so, has put himself squarely in the firing line. But then that’s what Cosby, and others, know they are getting when they hand over their $800 an hour.
It’s also worth making clear that Singer doesn’t take on criminal cases. He deals mainly with defamation – which is civil work – meaning that he doesn’t defend his clients in court for their any of their alleged transgressions or criminality; he just stops people from bad-mouthing their reputations. Which is what makes this intensely incendiary display of his all the more baffling
Often in the case of celebrities, what they’re trying to defend themselves against is an allegation of something embarrassing. An alleged dalliance with a hooker. A gay affair. A fringe fetish that the general public will find amusing or shocking. Some connection to a carb-free diet.
Ordinarily, Marty’s clients are trying to spare their blushes. This is not what Bill Cosby is trying to do.
And though we knew that all bets would be off when it came to digging up dirt against the accusers (some reporters are already telling us of the behind-the-scenes activity going on to try to find absolutely anything to make some of these accusers look legally or morally dubious) we didn’t think Marty was going to dive in with his teeth bared quite so viciously.
You’d have thought that a libel expert like Marty would have been more careful than to toss around such highly emotive and actionable words – especially after being so recently chastised – but this is where we find ourselves.
He knows the law better than we do, of course, but it seems to us that if he insists on applying his usual pitbull tactics to this particularly sensitive case, then he could well find himself on the wrong end of even more lawsuits.
We just wonder how much fight the old dog has left in him.