Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” earned respect from filmmaker James Cameron after it surpassed his blockbuster “Titanic,” while Conan O’Brien explains why he settled his joke stealing lawsuit, David Beckham gets banned from driving after using his mobile phone. Britney Spears lands a restraining order while R. Kelly says he can’t read or write in his lawsuit. Prince Harry baby causes BBC’s Danny Baker his job.
James Cameron Fine With Avengers Endgame
Filmmaker James Cameron has no bad blood with the Avengers, even though “Endgame” has eclipsed “Titanic’s” worldwide record and bumped the 1997 blockbuster to third place.
Cameron tweeted a note Wednesday to Marvel president Kevin Feige and its employees congratulating the company for its success. Cameron writes that an iceberg sank the real Titanic, but it took the Avengers to sink his “Titanic.” The accompanying image shows the Titanic crashing into a massive Avengers logo.
The studio, he says, has shown that the movie industry is alive and well and bigger than ever.
But “Avengers: Endgame” still has another Cameron film to conquer to get to the top. “Avatar” remains the highest-grossing film of all time with $2.8 billion worldwide, not accounting for inflation. “Avengers: Endgame” has earned $2.3 billion.
Conan O’Brien Settles
Conan O’Brien has agreed to settle a lawsuit with a writer who says the talk-show host stole jokes from his Twitter feed and blog for O’Brien’s monologue on “Conan.”
Attorneys for O’Brien and the writer, Robert Kaseberg, filed documents in San Diego federal court Thursday announcing the agreement. The terms were not disclosed.
The deal comes nearly four years after the rare joke-theft case was filed and about three weeks before the trial date.
O’Brien wrote a column in Variety explaining the settlement decision, insisting that neither he nor anyone on his staff ever heard of Kaseberg, his blog or his Twitter account, and no one stole any jokes. But O’Brien wrote that he wanted to forgo a “potentially farcical and expensive” trial.
Kaseberg’s attorneys didn’t immediately reply to a message seeking comment.
David Beckham Ban After Mobile Phone Drive
David Beckham has been banned from driving for six months for using a mobile phone while behind the wheel of his Bentley.
A prosecutor said a member of the public spotted the former Manchester United and England soccer star holding a phone while driving through central London on Nov. 21.
Beckham’s lawyer, Gerrard Tyrrell, said his client had “no recollection” of the incident but pleaded guilty.
Beckham already had six penalty points on his drivers’ license for speeding offenses. The six more District Judge Catherine Moore gave him Thursday for the cellphone put him at the 12 points needed to lose driving privileges.
Beckham attended the hearing at Bromley Magistrates Court wearing a dark grey suit and tie. He spoke to give his name, date of birth and address.
Royal Family Chimp Joke Ends BBC Career
A BBC radio broadcaster was fired Thursday for using a picture of a chimpanzee in a tweet about the royal baby born to Meghan the Duchess of Sussex and her husband Prince Harry.
Danny Baker, who had a weekly show on BBC Radio 5 Live, tweeted Thursday that he has been fired after posting an image of a couple holding hands with a chimpanzee dressed in clothes and the caption: “Royal baby leaves hospital.”
The tweet came on Wednesday, the same day Harry and Meghan posed for photos with their first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The tweet was seen as a racist reference to baby Archie’s heritage. His grandmother Doria Ragland is African American.
Baker, 61, said the posting had been meant as a gag, tweeting late Wednesday that it was “supposed to be (a) joke about royals vs circus animals in posh clothes but interpreted as about monkeys & race.” The post has since been deleted.
“Enormous mistake, for sure. Grotesque. Anyway, here’s to ya Archie, Sorry mate,” he tweeted.
BBC Radio 5 Live controller Jonathan Wall said in an email to staff that Baker had shown poor judgment.
“This was a serious error of judgment and goes against the values we as a station aim to embody. Danny’s a brilliant broadcaster but will no longer be presenting a weekly show with us,” Wall said.
On Thursday, Baker insisted he is not racist and attacked the BBC for its handling of the controversy. He said the call to fire him “was a masterclass of pompous faux-gravity.”
When Harry was first dating Meghan, his office released a scathing letter in which the prince complained about sexist and racist media coverage and online comments about Meghan, who at the time was starring in the TV show “Suits.”
The flap over Baker’s tweet came as Harry took a break from parental duties to travel to the Netherlands to promote the 2020 Invictus Games, an international competition he founded for injured service personnel and veterans.
Harry grinned and made funny faces for the cameras as he held up a tiny baby outfit given to him by Princess Margriet of the Netherlands.
Baby Archie was introduced to his great-grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Wednesday. Harry and Meghan posted an Instagram picture of the meeting, which also included Meghan’s mother, who is staying with the royal couple.
One of Britain’s leading contemporary artists, Yinka Shonibare, said Thursday the baby is a heartening symbol of Britain’s multicultural society.
“My parents’ generation unfortunately had a very difficult time in Britain, my parents are from Nigeria, and also the Windrush generation had a very hard time,” he said after receiving an award at Buckingham Palace.
“It’s good to know that finally we are treated as equals and everyone should be celebrated, so I think this is a natural progression for the next generation to be properly part of British society.”
George Clooney Wants More Wife Respect
George Clooney is hoping the media will be gentler to Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, after she gave birth to a baby boy.
“I think people should be a little kinder. She’s a young woman who just had a baby, you know?” Clooney told media outlets on Tuesday.
Clooney is a good friend of Meghan and Prince Harry. He and his lawyer wife Amal attended the royal wedding last year, and Amal was one of the guests at Meghan’s baby shower. Clooney has been outspoken in his defense of Meghan, a former actress and American, who has been the subject of harsh gossip in some publications.
At the premiere of his new Hulu series “Catch-22,” Clooney said the media scrutiny will likely intensify now that the baby, who was named Archie, has arrived. He conceded that some of that comes with the royal territory.
“If you’re a royal, that’s what you have to do,” he said. “It’s the other versions of it: Going to interview people’s parents, that kind of stuff. It starts to step into a really dark place.”
Besides celebrating upcoming May 17 debut of “Catch-22,” Clooney was also in a joyous mood because of the release of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been imprisoned in Myanmar. They were released early Tuesday after more than a year behind bars.
“My wife spent the last year, every day, with (Reuters chief counsel) Gail Gove and with (Reuters editor-in-chief) Stephen Adler, working, as hard as you could work, behind the scenes, to get these guys out,” he said.
“And last night, for my (58th) birthday, at my birthday dinner, those two men walked out,” Clooney continued. “And I have to tell you, I couldn’t be more proud of my wife. I couldn’t be more proud of Reuters and the way they stuck up for journalism.”
He added: “It’s a dangerous time to be a journalist. So, to win one, I’m very proud of my wife. And congratulations to everyone.”
NXIVM Leader Keith Raniere Trial
A woman testified on Wednesday that she became a “slave” under the control of a self-help guru who counted her calories, preached that women too often play victim and, ultimately, used her for unwanted sex.
The 32-year-old witness — referred to by only her first name to protect her privacy — told a jury at the trial of Keith Raniere that a female “master” in a secret sorority serving Raniere ordered her to “seduce” him. When she was summoned to meet with him in private, she felt she had no choice but to to strip for a nude photo and let him perform oral sex on her “on a big bed with dirty white sheets,” all behind her husband’s back, she said.
Afterward, Raniere told her, “Right now, you’re part of the inner circle.” From then on, he added, he would be her “grand master.”
Plans were made for the woman to be branded with Raniere’s initials like other slaves, she said. But before that could happen, the group splintered amid an FBI investigation that resulted in Raniere’s capture on a U.S. warrant in Mexico in 2018.
The account came on the second day of the federal sex-trafficking trial of Raniere, once the spiritual leader of a self-improvement organization based in upstate New York, called NXIVM, that’s been compared to a cult. The 58-year-old defendant has denied charges that he used the group to control and exploit women, insisting his sexual encounters with followers were consensual.
Five of Raniere’s co-defendants, including TV actress Allison Mack and wealthy heiress Clare Bronfman, have pleaded guilty. Mack, described in court papers as a “master” in the “master-slave” subgroup, could be called as a witness.
In two days of testimony, the first witness described herself as a lost soul from England who was introduced to NXIVM at age 18 by Bronfman, a fellow equestrian and deep-pocket benefactor of Rainere and his group.
She described hoping to overcome her fears in life by taking courses that earned her a position as a “coach” in NXIVM. Women who joined were expected to watch their weight and adhere to Raniere’s slogans like, “There are no ultimate victims, therefore I will not chose to be a victim,” she said.
In 2015, she was recruited for the secret society, agreeing to turn over nude photos and other embarrassing “collateral” that could be used against her if she disobeyed her masters, she said.
On cross-examination, the witness was confronted with private text chats — sprinkled with heart emoji — in which she told Raniere in the months leading up to his arrest how much she appreciated him. She also admitted she always was free to leave the NXIVM community if she got up the courage.
“Yeah, no one held me there,” she said.
But the still-married witness added that what she said to Raniere “and what I felt were different.” Her status as a slave meant she had to idolize Raniere and follow his commands, even if it meant submitting to having sex with him, she said.
“I think I felt shame and still do, honestly, about the whole thing,” she said. “I felt everything was lies and secrets and darkness.”
R. Kelly Illiteracy Claim
R. Kelly spent much of Wednesday in court, with his lawyer explaining to one judge that the singer didn’t respond to a lawsuit brought by one of his sexual abuse accusers because he is illiterate and with Kelly paying $62,000 in back child support during a second hearing.
At the first hearing, Judge Moira Johnson vacated a default judgment she made against Kelly after the singer failed to respond to a lawsuit brought by one of the four women he’s charged with sexually abusing. Johnson reinstated the lawsuit after one of Kelly’s attorneys explained that the singer was in jail when he was served with the lawsuit documents and that Kelly didn’t respond because he can’t read.
The second hearing, which pertained to child support, came weeks after the judge in that case ordered Kelly to jail after finding him in contempt of court for failing to pay $161,000 in back child support to his ex-wife, who is the mother of his three children. Kelly remained locked up for three days until he raised the back child support.
“He’s not a deadbeat dad,” Kelly’s attorney Lisa Damico told reporters after Wednesday’s hearing, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. “All he wants to do is do right by his kids.”
Kelly’s bookings for performances began drying up following the airing of a television documentary “Surviving R. Kelly.” That was weeks before his February arrest on charges accusing him of sexually abusing a woman and three girls over roughly a 10-year period starting in the late 1990s. But on Tuesday, one his attorneys told reporters that he was lining up performances for the Grammy award-winning R&B singer in Illinois and outside the state, and that he anticipated the judge approving requests to travel to make those appearances.
Kelly has pleaded not guilty to the sexual abuse charges and denied any wrongdoing.
Britney Spears Restraining Order
Britney Spears was granted a temporary restraining order Wednesday against a former confidante who she says has been harassing her family again.
A judge ordered 44-year-old Sam Lutfi, who has been in legal fights with the Spears family for a decade, to stay at least 200 yards from her, her parents and her two sons, who are 12 and 13.
The judge also ordered that he not contact or disparage anyone from the family.
The restraining order petition alleges Lutfi has been sending harassing and threatening texts to Spears’ family and disparaging them on social media.
“Mr. Lutfi’s actions have caused severe mental trauma at a time where Ms. Spears is recovering from stress related to her father’s health and her work,” the documents state. “Mr. Lutfi’s unjustified interference in her life … threaten Ms. Spears safety and well-being.”
In January, Spears put her career on indefinite hiatus and delayed the start of a Las Vegas residency so she could focus on her ailing father.
Lutfi said he had not made contact with Spears since 2009, when a previous restraining order against him was granted to Spears.
“We are disappointed at the outcome,” Lutfi’s attorney Marc Gans said in a statement about the restraining order. “I think it is overly broad and violates Mr. Lutfi’s constitutional rights.”
The order was granted until a May 28 court hearing on the matter.
“This is a temporary order, and we look forward to coming back,” Gains said.
Lutfi was a major presence in Spears’ life at the height of her fame, and had claimed he was her manager in the years leading up to a public meltdown in 2008.
Her troubles led to the establishment of a court-ordered conservatorship, which allowed her father, Jamie, and attorneys to run her affairs and remains in effect a decade later. A court hearing on the arrangement is scheduled for Friday, and a judge ruled late Wednesday that a lawyer for Britney’s mother and Jamie’s ex-wife Lynne Spears could be part of the proceeding. Lynne Spears has not previously been involved in her daughter’s conservatorship.
The restraining order granted Wednesday also alleged that Lutfi has sought to undermine the conservatorship.
Lutfi sued the Spears family in 2009, alleging Britney Spears had breached a contract with him, Jamie Spears had punched him and Lynne Spears had defamed him in a memoir.
A judge threw out the lawsuit in 2012, another judge later restored it on appeal, and it was settled in 2016.