The Pooh Papers
POOH HEIRS FIRE MAID OVER ONE WORD IN ARTICLE
American Reporter Staff
HOLLYWOOD, June 24, 2002 -- An heiress to the multimillion-dollar fortune generated by royalties from Winnie The Pooh has fired her family's longtime maid because the maid's husband, American Reporter Correspondent Joe Shea, refused to change a particular word in a quote, the well-known journalist revealed today.
Shea said he refused to a change a quote from Pooh heiress Patricia Slesinger that appeared June 18 in a 2,500-word story on a judge's ruling in Stephen Slesinger Inc.'s long-running lawsuit against the Walt Disney Co.
Slesinger, 50, told Shea she would never talk to him again and fire his wife if he did not change "disgusting" to "disappointing" in her description of the ruling. The word was not changed because it was the word she used, Shea said.
"Can you imagine how much the judge will hate me?" Slesinger asked, Shea said, shortly before he ended a telephone conversation with her. It was the second time that Slesinger had become enraged over the content of his stories, he said. The earlier article, a Feb. 25 story that discussed a letter from a Slesinger attorney to Judge Ernest M. Hiroshige had also provoked her wrath. It, too, was not changed.
Slesinger's anxiety about articles in The American Reporter has apparently been driven by two of her attorneys, Bertram Fields and Bonnie Eskenazi. According to Patricia Slesinger and other family members, the two lawyers have sharply criticized the Slesinger family for leaks to Shea about various developments in the case, which has gone from being an obscure, unpublicized lawsuit litigated mostly in secret to becoming a front page story since he started writing about it in 1999, Shea said.
"My wife was terribly shocked and saddened by the linkage of her job and my writing," Shea said. "Mireya has worked extremely hard for the Slesingers, without the benefit of health benefits or Social Security or unemployment, and the night before she was fired she worked until after 8 p.m. in the evening to provide meals for them. But the reward of all her hard work was to be fired for a single word in one of my stories, over which Mireya has absolutely no influence."
Mireya Shea worked for years to put her oldest son through medical school and is the principal source of support for both her son and her daughter, he said.
Shea declined to reveal the source of the alleged leaks.
The journalist was the founding editor and principal author of the 1983 edition of the Goldbook, a Beverly Hills-based travel publication for the very affluent, that is owned by Slesinger Communications Inc. and run by Patricia Slesinger. Shea worked as an independent contractor on the Goldbook from 1979 to the beginning of 2002. Slesinger's firing of his wife has also ended his long friendship with the Slesingers, he said. The couple was married in the Slesinger home, where Mireya Shea has worked since June 2000.
"It is unbelievable that someone would be so overcome with greed that they would discard a long-standing friendship and a hard-working employee over a single word, as though Judge Hiroshige would allow himself to be influenced by that kind of nonsense," Shea said.
Shea is the founder and editor-in-chief of the American Reporter, the first daily newspaper to start on the Internet, in 1995, and on behalf of the paper in 1997 was affirmed in a U.S. Supreme Court case after overturning the notorious 1996 Communications Decency Act. The paper is owned by some 300 journalists around the world, who earn equity and income from the resale of articles.
The June 18 article on the ruling, favoring the Slesinger position in most respects, scooped the entire world press. While it went unreported in many newspapers,the story won a trenchant front page headline - "Pooh Hits The Fan" - in the entertainment industry trade newspaper Variety.
Shea is the nephew of late New York State Supreme Court Justice William S. Shea, whose home shares the same family farm in Monroe, N.Y., and said he is amused by the idea of judges making up their mind based on what they read in the newspaper.
"That's apparently what their attorneys have been telling them," Shea said. The real source of their anger was they failed to get a more favorable ruling from Hiroshige, he said.
The Slesingers maintain that Pooh earns about 30 percent of Disney revenues from character sales and licensing, but the ruling, which addresses the error rate in previously reported royalties, concludes that Pooh earns about 12.5 percent of commingled royalties from multi-character and other uses of the property.
Ironically, it was just a few weeks ago that Disney's complaints to the owners of the New York Post resulted in the firing of reporter Nikki Finke for writing about things that Shea had already written about in The American Reporter.
"Patricia Slesinger has behaved exactly like Disney behaved in the Finke matter," Shea said. Finke, represented by well-known Hollywood lawyer Pierce O'Donnell, is suing Disney and the New York Post over her firing.
Shortly after his wife was fired, a Slesinger family member called and said the firing would be rescinded, Shea said, but his wife does not want to go back to work for them. She has not returned calls from the Slesingers since the firing on Wedneday, June 19, he said.