The National Enquirer
and its parent company American Media Incorporated is now underwriting a new foundation which will support struggling playwrights. Philanthropy is not a term one usually comes to mind when one mentions The National Enquirer
. The newspaper is paying out a huge settlement in a lawsuit filed by Playwright David Katz, who has Philip Seymour Hoffman's best friend.
Just after Hoffman's death, The Enquirer
ran a crazy -- and completely untrue -- story about how Katz and Hoffman were gay lovers for years who did drugs together all the time. The tabloid asserted that the duo had freebased cocaine together the night before Hoffman's death. The Enquirer
said it interviewed playwright Katz. This was news to the real David Katz, whose son found the story on the Internet and showed it to his dad. Katz told The New York Times
that he was deluged with calls after the story ran.
Katz filed a libel suit against The Enquirer
and its parent company within hours. The Enquirer
settled within 48 hours and pulled the story from its website. Under the terms of the settlement the tabloid had to take out a full page ad in The New York Times
apologizing and explaining how it had been duped by an imposter (apparently no one ran any kind of check on the source).
The tabloid reportedly has paid a whopping amount in damages, but the amount has not been disclosed.
Katz has taken the money and set up the American Playwriting Foundation, which will give out an annual prize of $45,000 for an unproduced play. It will be called the Relentless Award, in Mr. Hoffman's honor. The foundation has enough money to give out the award for years to come, said Katz's attorney. The selection committee for the award consists of Katz, Eric Bogosian, John Patrick Shanley and Jonathan Marc Sherman.
Katz said he wanted to use the money for something his friend would have approved of. He said, "We [Katz and Hoffman] had talked so often that it's a tragedy playwrights can't survive being playwrights -- about how nice it would be if you could make your rent and still have an occasional steak."
Katz told The Times
that the night of Hoffman's death he had texted Katz to come over to watch the Knicks game. Katz said Hoffman never did drugs in front of him and that invitation shows he was trying not to succumb to his addiction. Katz did not get his friend's text until too late in the evening and Hoffman overdosed on heroin.
We think this is a fantastic use of the settlement money and hope Mr. Katz's foundation finds some excellent new playwrights.